Priest Enters Plea of Not Guilty
Solicitation Case Involves Girl, 12
By Kathy McCabe
February 18, 2005
CHELSEA -- A Roman Catholic priest yesterday was ordered to have no unsupervised visits with minors after pleading not guilty to charges that he solicited sex from a 12-year-old girl and her mother while dining last month at a Chelsea restaurant.
The Rev. Jerome F. Gillespie, 55, was released on personal recognizance by Judge Paul Buckley following his arraignment in Chelsea District Court. Gillespie was charged with one count each of enticement of a child under age 16, soliciting sex for a fee, accosting a person of the opposite sex, and assault.
The charges stem from a Jan. 25 incident at Floramo's, a Chelsea restaurant, where Gillespie is alleged to have offered to pay the girl and her mother for oral sex, according to a Chelsea police report.
Gillespie, a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston for 23 years, appeared calm throughout his brief court appearance. He sat accompanied by about a dozen parishioners from St. John the Evangelist Church in Swampscott, where he resigned as pastor Jan. 28.
In a quiet voice, he answered "not guilty," to the charges. He is due back in court April 4 for a pretrial conference.
Gillespie declined to comment after the arraignment.
A Chelsea police report says Gillespie told police he may have said "inappropriate things" to the mother and daughter sitting behind him and a friend at Floramo's. But he said he had so much to drink, "he does not remember what he had said," the report says.
His lawyer, Timothy F. O'Neill of Boston, said the charges are inappropriate. "We have an overinflation of charges here," O'Neill said in an interview after the hearing. "This is an isolated incident, one clearly that relates to alcohol."
O'Neill said the most serious charge, enticement of a child under age 16, will be explained later in court. "This happened in a public place."
"He's a wonderful priest, " said Elizabeth DePasquale, 71, who attended the arraignment. "If, in a moment of weakness, he did something wrong, I'm willing to forgive him. I think a lot of people are."
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