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  N.H. Joins Priest Probe

By Tom Mashberg and Robin Washington
Boston Herald
February 28, 2002

New Hampshire law enforcement officials are investigating whether they can prosecute pedophile priests from Massachusetts for bringing young victims across state lines to molest them as far back as the 1970s, a Granite State official said yesterday.

"We are aware of cases where that is alleged to have happened, and our investigators are looking at them," N. William Delker, chief of the criminal justice bureau of the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office, said yesterday.

"We are evaluating these on a case-by-case basis," he said, noting that any statute of limitations on sexual abuse might be frozen if the molestation was committed inside New Hampshire but the priest returned to a residence in Massachsusetts. "We see this as a very active opportunity for prosecution."

Under New Hampshire law, molestation crimes committed in the 1970s and early 1980s would be too old to prosecute. But like most states, including Massachusetts, New Hampshire's statute of limitations freezes if the perpetrator leaves the state and lives continuously elsewhere. That legal exception to the statute provides an opening to prosecute older crimes, officials say.

Several lawyers and alleged victims of pedophile priests have told the Herald in recent days that children were often driven from Massachusetts to New Hampshire and abused. Among those facing such allegations are the Revs. Ernest E. Tourigney, Edward T. Kelley, Paul R. Shanley, Bernard E. Lane and Ronald H. Paquin - all of whom have settled lawsuits and been removed from parish work amid accusations of pedophilia.

In most of those cases, as well as the cases of dozens of other accused Bay State priests, the statute of limitations on criminal abuse charges has expired. As a result, many plaintiffs in the unfolding molestation scandal enveloping the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston have expressed dismay they cannot pursue criminal cases.

Now, lawyers and some victims say, the fact that so many crimes are alleged to have occurred across state lines offers them a renewed hope that serial abusers can be brought to the bar of justice.

"We know there are a lot of children who were brought up to New Hampshire," said Jeffrey A. Newman, an attorney representing at least three victims who say they were molested in New Hampshire. "If New Hampshire authorities can prosecute their abusers, it will send a very important message: that priests who have admitted to doing this to kids cannot escape justice for their crimes by just waiting out the statute."

One victim who told her story to New Hampshire prosecutors by telephone just yesterday is Jeanne Cratty, 33, of Hanson, an affordable-housing advocate who says she was molested in Hampton Beach, N.H., by her parish priest at least twice during the late 1970s.

In a civil suit filed this week in Norfolk County Superior Court, Cratty alleges that the former Rev. Thomas D. Donnelly Jr., 67, now of Quincy and formerly of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Weymouth, drove her to a cottage in New Hampshire at least twice when she was between the ages of 8 and 12, where he abused and digitally raped her.

At the urging of Newman, her lawyer, she has contacted an assistant New Hampshire attorney general and reported the allegations.

"We spoke for an hour and he was extremely thorough," she said. "I told him I'm absolutely ready to testify openly in a criminal case."

Donnelly said he left the priesthood 20 years ago and he is completely shocked by the allegation.

"There is absolutely nothing to it, it's totally, absolutely false," he said last night. "It came absolutely out of the blue. Just think of how you'd feel if someone said 25 years ago you did something to them."

Newman has at least two other adult clients who want to lodge criminal complaints in New Hampshire against Bay State priests for abuse allegedly suffered in the 1970s. And in interviews yesterday, three other lawyers representing plaintiffs - Roderick MacLeish Jr., Robert A. Sherman and Mitchell Garabedian - said they have all settled suits involving current or former priests who committed abuse in New Hampshire.

MacLeish, who has settled nearly 50 lawsuits against priests, alleged that Camp Fatima, a facility run by the Diocese of Manchester, N.H., at a lake in the Barnstead area, was used for sex with boys by at least half a dozen clergymen.

"Just take a look at the roster of pedophile priests: Tourigney, Kelley, Shanley, Lane, Paquin," MacLeish said. "They'd bring up what they would refer to as 'waiters.' "

MacLeish said boys would be taken to the camp and then to a nearby private home that had been provided to the priests by an unsuspecting couple. There, the boys were often given alcohol and used for trysts, the attorney said.

One man who was a teen at St. Mary's in Lynn in the 1970s, and who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Herald he remembered the Rev. Edward T. Kelley, a suspended priest and the subject of several child molestation accusations, making frequent visits to the camp. "He used to go up there every summer," the accuser said.

Reached yesterday, officials at Camp Fatima and the Manchester Diocese declined to comment. But Manchester Diocese officials have recently given the state the names of 14 priests who are the subject of "credible allegations of sexual misconduct," Delker told the Herald.

In another New Hampshire aspect of the case, depositions in the case of serial pedophile Christopher J. Reardon of Middleton indicate Reardon brought victims to the Barnstead, N.H., home of the Rev. Jon A. Martin, now on leave from the church for "sexual issues."

Also, Joe Parker of Haverhill, who claims Paquin molested him in the early 1970s, said the priest once took him to an ordination in Connecticut. "That meant an overnight hotel stay," he said.

The interstate aspects of the pedophilia scandal is prompting lawyers to say the Catholic Church should face federal criminal charges. "If there's any, any interstate transportation of young men, that would create federal jurisdiction," said Joseph E. diGenova, the former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. Citing federal and state obstruction of justice laws, he added: "The issue here would be whether or not (the church's) knowledge was so extensive that it became complicit."

One federal statute used in the Oklahoma bombing case, known as "misprision of felony," holds criminally responsible anyone who has knowledge of a felony but fails to report it to authorities.

The church could fall under that provision, diGenova said, because it knew of hundreds of child molestation allegations but failed to inform law enforcement on the overwhelming majority of them.

Dan Shea, a Houston attorney who is advising an alleged Worcester Diocese victim of a priest, called for a "full-scale federal and state criminal investigation."

"Now that it has appeared to have crossed state lines, the FBI needs to get involved, as well as respective U.S. attorneys," he said.

 
 

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