Retired Priest Doesn't Want His Job Mentioned at Sex Trial

Associated Press State & Local Wire
April 25, 2003

A retired Roman Catholic priest from Massachusetts accused of soliciting sex over the Internet wants to keep jurors from knowing his former job, saying it will prejudice them against him.

"Mention of the defendant's prior occupation as a priest and status as a retired priest is likely to make it impossible for the defendant to have any ability to obtain a fair trial in this case," Frederick Guthrie's lawyer wrote in a motion.

The trial of Guthrie, 66, of Newbury, Mass., is scheduled for June 2 in Hillsborough County Superior Court. He faces two counts of misuse of computer services, allegedly to try to "seduce, solicit, lure or entice a person believed by him to be a 15-year-old male."

Each charge is a felony, punishable by up to 3 1/2 to seven years in prison.

Guthrie was arrested Nov. 6, 2001, at an ice cream stand in Nashua, where he had arranged to meet an undercover detective who was posing online as a 15-year-old boy.

His lawyer, Paul Twomey, filed several motions last month arguing that Guthrie's status as a retired Roman Catholic priest from the Archdiocese of Boston would bias jurors against him. He said Guthrie's status has no relevance to the charges.

Twomey wants a judge to order witnesses to avoid mentioning Guthrie's job during testimony. He also wants to be able to question potential jurors to ensure that they aren't aware of Guthrie's status.

But if Guthrie's status as a priest is allowed as evidence, Twomey wants to question prospective jurors about any biases that might arise from it.

Roger Chadwick, assistant Hillsborough County attorney, said Guthrie's role as priest is relevant to the case. One of the charges alleges that he was exploiting his role as a priest in his correspondence online, purporting to act as a counselor to help the "boy" cope with confusion over his sexuality, Chadwick said.

Guthrie allegedly corresponded online with a Nashua police detective for about 10 days before his arrest, court records said. The charges allege that Guthrie had asked the "boy" to meet him and then go to a hotel room to engage in sexual acts.

Guthrie was released on bail after his arrest in 2001, and the archdiocese removed him from the ministry pending an investigation, a spokesman said. Officials had been unaware of any previous accusations against Guthrie, an archdiocesan official said.

Guthrie formerly served as pastor at St. Ann's Parish in Gloucester, Mass., but he had been on health leave since July 1 after undergoing a heart operation. Previously, he had been pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Salem, Mass., for 10 years.


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