Priest Gets 10 to 20 Years for Manchester Boy's Abuse

By Nancy Meersman
Union Leader
March 5, 2003

The Rev. Francis Talbot, a suspended Roman Catholic priest in failing health, was sentenced to prison yesterday for 10 to 20 years for sexually abusing a Manchester boy for eight years.

After studying the pre-sentencing report for about two hours, Talbot quibbled about its contents while the judge repeatedly instructed him just to point out any errors in it.

Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Lynn said he had thought about the sentence a lot and had considered Talbot’s poor health and the prosecutor’s recommendation. He concluded the prison term was appropriate.

“I really don’t think you do get it: that you are not the victim here,” the judge said.

“. . . I do think you are sorry, but in part it’s because you were caught and you are ashamed by the situation you are in.”

Talbot, 66, will be 76 at his earliest parole. If he violates any provisions of his sentence or parole, he could have another 10-20 years in suspended sentences tacked on. He is not to have contact with anyone under 18 and he must undergo counseling in prison.

After the sentencing hearing, the victim, Cody Goodwin, said he could not be more pleased that Talbot is going to prison. He said it was worth all the emotional turmoil and anguish to go through with the prosecution.

Goodwin approached the Attorney General’s Office early last year after he learned it was looking into the church’s handling of sex abuse against children by priests.

The Attorney General’s Office, which made its 9,000-page investigative file public Monday, concluded the Manchester Diocese endangered countless children and for decades deceived the public about priests’ sexual misconduct.

“I’m on an extreme high . . . It’s a rightfully deserved sentence,” said Goodwin, now 24. “I know for the next 10 years he will never be able to come in contact with another child.”

Stunned and blinking, Talbot was escorted from the courtroom by bailiffs to begin serving his sentence immediately.

Talbot has been locked up for the past several weeks in a psychiatric ward at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, being treated for multiple medical and psychological ailments.

He pleaded guilty in a plea bargain Dec. 16 to five felony sexual assault counts.

If the case had gone to trial, Assistant County Attorney Paul McDonough said Talbot could have faced up to 500 counts for the hundreds of assaults he inflicted on his victim during an eight-year span.

When Goodwin was as young as eight, relatives sent him to Talbot’s home at 509 Lincoln St. to help with chores and keep the priest company after his mother’s death. Soon the boy was staying overnight and soon the sexual assaults started.

“I was not strong enough to get away,” said Goodwin, reading into the record a statement describing the physical and psychological torment the priest had inflicted on him.

“From the time I was eight until I was sixteen, oral sex, showering with him, even making me sleep in the same bed as him at night. I just could not seem to sleep with his naked body burned into my mind. As a kid, it was not an easy thing to deal with.”

He said Talbot told him the abuse was Goodwin’s fault and Talbot would kill himself if the boy ever told. Indeed, Talbot told Goodwin, he would just bring shame upon himself by speaking out because no one would believe him.

Goodwin said he feared people would suspect if he refused to go to the priest’s house. “I would come up with ways that I could avoid the visit,” Goodwin said. “My favorite tactic was to put a nail through my foot and say I stepped on it while playing.

“I would also slam my finger in doors, or I would put my toothbrush down my throat to make myself vomit.”

He said his behavior grew so disruptive that his teachers padlocked him into a basement closet at school. That brought an end to learning for the once bright and eager student.

Eventually, he said he became a loner and attempted suicide many times as an escape from his pain. He also tried to dull the nightmarish memories with drugs and alcohol.

“My childhood was stolen from me, my teenage years full of confusion and solitude,” Goodwin said. “This man stole my life. I cannot stand to think that anyone would even think twice about not punishing him somehow.”

McDonough said Goodwin’s travails could be a case study of what victims endure. He asked the judge to consider Talbot’s egocentric view of the case and his lack of comprehension of the harm he had done.

Talbot’s lawyer, James Connor, asked the judge to give Talbot home confinement and require him to wear an electronic bracelet. Talbot, he said, has “the worst physical and mental problems I’ve ever seen.”

Connor said Talbot was treated for a bi-polar disorder and severe depression for years. Lithium severely damaged his kidneys, and he soon may need dialysis, which could cost the state up to $100,000 a year on top of the $26,000 a year it costs to keep a prisoner. In addition, Connor said, Talbot’s medicines and treatment cost $2,000 a month.

He said the priest suffers from congestive heart failure, diabetes, renal insufficiency and hypertension. “He takes nearly 40 medications a day.”

The sentencing got off to a late start because Talbot, who is shaky and unsteady on his feet, tumbled on a courthouse staircase. A rescue crew cleaned up blood from the stairs and put a patch on Talbot’s left temple. He was told to get his injury sutured.


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