Priest Declares His Innocence in 30-Year-Old Molest Case
By Eric Convey
October 2, 2002
NEW BEDFORD -- A priest charged with sexually molesting a young girl more than 30 years ago resolutely proclaimed his innocence yesterday after returning from Bolivia to face the charges.
"Not guilty," the Rev. Donald J. Bowen said in a clear, slow voice after the grand jury indictment was read in Bristol County Superior Court.
The 64-year-old faces one count of indecent assualt and battery on a child under 14 and one count of committing an unnatural and lascivious act.
Prosecutors allege Bowen befriended a Norton family while serving as a priest in the 1960s and engaged in sexual activity with a girl in the family over a six-year period, beginning when she was 9 years old.
"Having established a relationship with the family of the victim, he established a sexual relationship with the young victim," Assistant District Attorney Walter Shea said.
The statute of limitations does not apply because Bowen has been out of the country for 30 years serving with a missionary society that focuses on Central America.
Under state law, the statute freezes when a defendant leaves Massachusetts.
Bowen was released yesterday on personal recognizance after his lawyer, Peter Muse, argued that bail was unnecessary because the priest had traveled so far precisely so he could appear in court.
Neither Muse nor Bowen, wearing khakis, a windbreaker, sunglasses and a hat pulled over his forehead, would answer questions leaving court.
Bowen was indicted last week about the same time the Bristol County DA's office released the names of almost two dozen priests listed in church files as potential abusers.
Shea said after the arraignment that based on the publication of those names, "we have had a number of calls, and we're investigating every call that we get."
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