Coakley Criticized for Not Prosecuting Geoghan Earlier

By Brad Puffer
November 23, 2009 (with video)

[This transcript with screenshots was made by from the NECN video. See also the NECN text version of this report.]

Anchor Chet Curtis: Attorney General Martha Coakley is being forced to answer questions about actions she took years ago. The issue: Why she didn't prosecute a now convicted pedophile priest the first time she was presented with accusations against him. NECN's Brad Puffer reports:

As Middlesex District Attorney, Martha Coakley won widespread attention and praise for being the first to prosecute accused pedophile priest John Geoghan. But according to the Boston Globe [see Coakley Made Deal in 1995 Priest Case, by Michael Rezendes, Boston Globe (11/23/09)], Coakley investigated several complaints seven years earlier. An investigation that ended with a probation deal, no formal charges, and no criminal record.

Martha Coakley: "I defy anybody to criticize me for my time as a child abuse prosecutor. Toughest job I've ever had. We had nine hundred cases a year. We would agonize over: Do we have enough evidence? Is this child willing to testify?"

On the campaign trail in Springfield, the Senate candidate says she was personally involved in the interviews of three boys. And despite disturbing allegations including inappropriate comments and behavior, she insists those boys did not describe anything that rose to the level of indecent assault.

"Had this been ten years ago, another D.A.'s office, another part of the country, that case wouldn't have gone any where. But we recognized that we needed to do the extent of what we could, which was get him on probation."

But some advocates say Coakley lost an important opportunity to publicly expose Geoghan, perhaps leading other victims to come forward.

Anne Barrett Doyle: "When you have the choice of doing a closed door deal with a potential child molester or getting it out in the open, even in a case you might lose, always choose to go public."

Anne Barrett Doyle is co-chair of Bishop She says only after civil suits gained media attention did more victims come forward.

Anne Barrett Doyle: "Those 100 plus other Geoghan victims would have gotten relief sooner, and who knows maybe the whole lid would have blown off the Boston Archdiocese even sooner."

And despite widespread allegations that came later, both against Geoghan and other priests, Coakley isn't backing down.

Martha Coakley: "I believe we took exactly the right course and the strongest course we could have, and as I said, if there are others who didn't do the right thing it was not the Middlesex D.A.'s office, it wasn't our handling of that case, it was others, like the Archdiocese, who should have revealed those records earlier."

... records later released showing the extent of allegations against Geoghan. In Springfield, Massachusetts, Brad Puffer, NECN.


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