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  Franciscan Brother Pleads Guilty to Sex Assaults

Associated Press State & Local Wire
May 26, 2004

A member of a Roman Catholic religious order has been sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to charges that he sexually assaulted eight altar boys at a Boston church in the 1960s and 1970s.

Franciscan brother Fidelis DeBerardinis, 76, entered his plea in Suffolk Superior Court on Tuesday after a judge last week ruled that he was competent to stand trial.

Several defense witnesses testified at a competency hearing that DeBerardinis was not competent to stand trial. But Judge Peter Lauriat agreed with a prosecution expert who testified that he was capable of understanding the judicial process.

"The strong evidence developed by our office and the Boston Police Department allowed us to hold this man accountable for the physical and emotional harm he inflicted on children to whom he served as an authority figure," Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said. "Our hope is that this result brings some comfort to the victims as they continue their healing process."

DeBerardinis' lawyer, Timothy O'Neill, did not immediately return a message left at his office after business hours Wednesday.

DeBerardinis assaulted the boys, ages 8 to 13, inside Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in East Boston at various locations on church property between 1968 and 1973, prosecutors said.

DeBerardinis left the parish in 1973, and went on to serve in other posts in the United States, Canada, South America and Jerusalem.

He was living in a home for retired Franciscans in Clearwater Beach, Fla. before his arrest in August 2002 while visiting his sister in Lowell.

DeBerardinis pleaded guilty to 10 counts of unnatural and lascivious acts with a child under 16 and seven counts of indecent assult and battery on a child under 14.

He was also sentenced to 10 years of probation following his prison sentence during which time he can have no unsupervised contact with anyone under age 16, must get sex offender treatment, register as a sex offender and provide authorities with a DNA sample.

DeBerardinis was first indicted in the summer of 2002, but five charges of rape of a child and four charges of assault with attempt to rape a child were dismissed because neither law applied to assaults on boys when the crimes allegedly occurred. Ten additional counts were thrown out because the grand jury hadn't been told whether the boys, in every case, had consented to the sexual conduct, as required by law at the time.

Prosecutors indicted DeBerardinis on the revised charges, which they were able to do because the clock stops running on the statute of limitations when the suspect is out of state.

DeBerardinis, who has been a Franciscan for more than 40 years, is not a priest and was never under the supervision of the Boston Archdiocese. He was assigned to the Boston church and was under the supervision of his order.

 
 

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