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  Boyd Not Charged
Sheriff's Department Finds No Sign of Wrongdoing by Priest

By Stephen J. Lee
Grand Forks Herald
August 6, 2003

Despite finding nude photos of young men on Internet Web pages apparently set up by the Rev. Rick Boyd, officials of the Clearwater County Sheriff's Department in Bagley, Minn., said Tuesday they do not plan to file charges against the priest.

The announcement effectively ends a three-week preliminary investigation by the sheriff's department, which was aided by the Polk County Sheriff's Department in Crookston and a Twin Cities-based state computer crime task force, said Clearwater County Undersheriff Lyle Colligan.

Boyd resigned July 17 as pastor of St. Mary's in Fosston, Minn., and St. Joseph's in Bagley, amid a quick crescendo of concerns by a few parishioners over his behavior toward young people and his 1984 conviction for possessing child pornography.

The concerns led to preliminary investigations both by the Catholic Diocese of Crookston and by law enforcement, led by Clearwater County.

Boyd's critics admitted they had no hard evidence of any actual wrongdoing by the priest, but said he seemed to be seeking close relationships with at least two younger teenaged boys. Boyd told the Herald he's "a computer geek," who spends time on the Internet every day, e-mailing friends and family and pursuing his main interest, the weather. He's never used pornography since his 1984 conviction, he said.

"No one has come forward with any information of any victims," Colligan said. No evidence of criminal activity by Boyd was found on two computers obtained by his department, although what was found was disturbing, Colligan said.

Vacation photos

Neal Illies, a Clearwater County Sheriff's deputy trained in computer crime, spent "many, many hours," searching the Internet and Web sites with connections to Boyd, Illies said Tuesday.

Using an Internet search engine, such as Google.com, the name "Father Rick Boyd," turns up several weather-accented entries.

But Illies said he also found Web pages where Boyd apparently posted photos of himself on vacation in Puerto Rico, wearing underwear or swimming trunks, next to photos of nude young men.

One such Web page is easily found, Illies said. The Web page includes a photo of Boyd - sitting in a room, cigar in one hand, wearing white cotton briefs and a shirt and socks - next to a photo of a nude young man showering.

Above the photos is the title: "Puerto Rico ... Here are some pictures of me from my recent vacation."

Illies explained that the Web page is on a type of Internet search engine, similar to Yahoo.com, which people can use to post their own Web pages for anyone to access.

Illies said he found similar Web pages featuring Boyd, some using the address "frrick," the name that Boyd uses frequently on his weather-related Web sites and Web pages.

Boyd has acknowledged to the Herald and to parish members that he vacations in Puerto Rico and that he has posted vacation photos of himself on the Internet.

But Illies said there is not any way of easily proving that Boyd actually did such postings, because of the nature of the Internet.

"I can't say for positive that he set it up," Illies said. "But I don't know why someone else would set up a Web site the way it's set up."

Moreover, even if Boyd did set up the Web pages, there is nothing illegal about such Internet postings, Colligan said, because there is no indication the young men are under 18. "It's behavior I consider pretty abnormal for a priest, but it's not up to me to decide that," Colligan said.

Church concerns

But such decisions are up to the church, said Tim Arneson, of Shevlin, Minn., one of the handful of parishioners raising concerns about Boyd. He and others did not want to unfairly accuse the priest, but they felt that church officials have not taken their concerns seriously, he said.

But critics say Boyd's 1984 child pornography conviction, his apparent continued use of pornography - even if legal - and his too-close relationships with young boys are strong warning signals at the very least.

However, several parishioners say that most people in the two churches supported Boyd and thought he was a good priest.

The Crookston diocese's top two officials, Bishop Victor Balke or Monsignor Roger Grundhaus, could not be reached late Tuesday.

But both have said in the past that no one ever claimed Boyd victimized them and that he underwent counseling successfully 19 years ago. Since then, he's been a good priest, they say.

The diocese has tried to respond responsibly to the concerns voiced by Arneson and others, including using the independent, lay-dominated Sexual Misconduct Policy Review Board, Grundhaus said. If it was learned that Boyd still used pornography, he would be required to undergo more counseling, Grundhaus said recently.

Balke has declined to comment to the news media on the matter, except for telling KVLY-TV in Fargo that he did not think it was helpful for him to respond publicly to his critics.

Boyd continues to live at the chancery in Crookston, saying Mass at a nearby nursing home, Grundhaus said. His next assignment won't be in a parish, he said.

 
 

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