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  AG Reilly: 'We Mean Business' in Church Probe

By Tom Mashberg and Maggie Mulvihill
Boston Herald
March 2, 2002

The Boston Archdiocese agreed yesterday to a two-week deadline for delivering 50 years' worth of records on pedophile priests to prosecutors, including the names of abuse victims and any squirreled-away personnel or legal files, Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly announced.

The church also agreed to free all victims from the terms of any confidentiality agreements signed as part of a lawsuit against a priest.

The deal, hammered out yesterday morning among Reilly, five district attorneys and three lawyers for Bernard Cardinal Law, comes after a month of increasing frustration by state prosecutors. They say the church has dawdled in providing data crucial to prosecuting perpetrator priests, and to exposing the breadth of its sex-abuse scandal.

"The purpose behind the meeting was to impress upon the archdiocese the seriousness and the uniqueness of the present situation," Reilly said. "We mean business here. We expect compliance."

After learning of the agreement, Stephen A. Lewis of Lynn, who said he was molested at age 11 by the Rev. Edward T. Kelley, went public. "Maybe now this despicable man will suffer the same freight train crashing through his mind that I have all these years," said Lewis, who agreed to a confidential settlement in 1995. Kelley has refused to comment.

The Rogers Law Firm, which represents Law and the church, was still reviewing the Reilly agreement last night, officials said. In a statement, a church spokeswoman, Donna M. Morrissey, said: "We have agreed to provide additional information, which has been requested, to the Attorney General's Office over the next two weeks."

In recent weeks, the church has given prosecutors from six counties the names of around 90 priests who have faced "substantive" allegations of abuse across 50 years.

According to county officials, Middlesex DA Martha Coakley has received 24 names, Essex County DA Kevin M. Burke has received 17; Norfolk DA William R. Keating has received 18; Suffolk County, now under DA Daniel F. Conley, has received 25; and Plymouth County DA Timothy J. Cruz has received 6. Worcester County DA John J. Conte, who was not present yesterday, also received names.

But the DA's have been dissatisifed with the information because it is vague as to dates and locations and excludes the names of victims. The Herald has reported that at least two counties, Norfolk and Plymouth, have issued grand jury subpoenas to the archdiocese to speed up the investigative process.

With their patience ebbing, the prosecutors and Reilly joined up during the week to pressure the archdiocese and its legal counsel.

In a letter dated Thursday, the six officials told attorney Wilson D. Rogers Jr.: "Time is of the essence. We are concerned not only with the Massachusetts statute of limitations on criminal prosecutions, but also the need to assure the public a comprehensive investigation of allegations of abuse of children will be conducted by our offices in a timely manner."

According to Reilly and the prosecutors, the church agreed to release virtually the same amount of information that would result from subpoenas, with two exceptions: medical and psychiatric records of victims; and names of victims who have sought confidentiality.

Aware of the desire of some victims to remain anonymous, the prosecutors will accept instead the names of victims' lawyers, so as to contact the lawyers to determine if the victims care to press charges.

Reilly named Geline W. Williams, director of the state District Attorneys Association, as head of a task force to coordinate the expected mountain of new information. Burke said the task force would create a database to determine which jurisdiction should handle a particular investigation.

Reilly said "no threats" were made during the 90-minute session with church lawyers, but left open the possibility of more grand jury action.

'We are hopeful the archdiocese will honor the informal information-sharing process . . . and thus avoid forcing other counties to initiate discovery" via subpoenas, Reilly's letter said.

Carmen L. Durso, an attorney for victims of pedophile priests, lauded Reilly.

"He is doing exactly what he should do," Durso said. "He is trying to bring order to chaos."

 
 

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