Last Robichaud Charges Dropped

Concord Monitor
August 7, 2003

LACONIA - The last criminal charges have been dropped against a Roman Catholic priest accused of molesting two boys in separate cases in the 1980s, and a civil suit also has been settled, ending all cases involving him.

The Belknap County attorney's office dropped two felony rape charges in the last case this week against the Rev. George Robichaud because of issues over the age of the accuser. Two misdemeanor counts charging improper sexual touching were dropped in the case in May because the statute of limitations had expired.

In the first case, a jury was unable to reach a verdict in April, and then the county attorney's office dropped the case in the middle of the second trial because of the age issue.

Robichaud was the first priest to face criminal charges in New Hampshire since the church scandal broke in 2001.

In addition, a civil suit charging sexual molestation has been settled with the Diocese of Manchester for an undisclosed amount of money.

Robichaud's lawyer said Robichaud had no comment but was "pleased that the matters are resolved."

Robichaud, 60, of Sanbornton, was placed on administrative leave by the diocese in April after accepting his resignation as pastor of St. Cecilia Parish in Wolfeboro and St. Joan of Arc Parish in Alton.

The diocese, in a statement yesterday, said now that all criminal and civil cases against Robichaud are over, it will begin its own investigation into accusations of sexual abuse of a minor. If the accusations prove true, Robichaud could be removed from the ministry, the diocese said.

Meanwhile, he will remain on administrative leave, it said.

Robichaud's first trial ended in April when the jury deadlocked over the accuser's age. The accuser, now a 33-year-old state trooper, testified in Belknap County Superior Court that he was certain he was 15 at the time of the alleged assaults, not 16, the age of consent.

During the second trial last month, the accuser concluded he was 16, and the state dropped the charges.

"Though the event occurred, the statute in effect at the time does not allow for prosecution," County Attorney Lauren Noether said.

Robichaud had acknowledged having inappropriate sexual contact with the youth, but denied raping him.

The same age issue was involved in the second case involving a different teenage boy from St. Joseph Church in Laconia in 1982. Robichaud was pastor of St. Anthony's Church in Swanzey at the time.

The civil suit charged Robichaud molested Keith Murray, 36, of Concord, as many as 30 times between 1982 and 1984, often after giving beers to the then-15-year-old boy.

The settlement this spring was one of about 86 cases involving charges of sexual abuse by priests that lawyer Peter Hutchins negotiated with the diocese for about $7.5 million, Hutchins said. Robichaud's case was in a group of others, and thus did not become public until now.

Murray dropped an individual civil suit against Robichaud as part of the settlement, Hutchins said.


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