Rape Charge Dropped Priest Faces Assault Trial

By Richard Bourie
The Union-News
May 5, 1992

Prosecutors have dropped charges of rape and indecent assault and battery brought against the Rev. Julian Pagacz by a 16-year-old girl, but they intend to bring the priest to trial Friday on a charge of indecently assaulting a 17-year-old girl. The decision to drop two of the charges came after prosecutors learned Friday the 16-year-old girl, who is from Poland, would invoke her right not to testify, according to Assistant Northwestern District Attorney David Angier, who is handling the case.

Trial set Friday

The remaining charge against Pagacz is scheduled for trial Friday in Northampton District Court.

Pagacz, 50, of 127 King St., the pastor of St. Valentine's Polish National Catholic Church on King Street and part-time pastor of Holy Mother of the Rosary, a Polish National parish in Chicopee, was arrested and arraigned on the charges Feb. 13.

Within two days of Pagacz's arraignment, the 16- and 17-year-old girls went to the priest's lawyer and recanted their accusations, according to the lawyer.

A hearing scheduled for yesterday in District Court to determine whether Pagacz' case could be presented to a grand jury was canceled after the rape charge and indecent assault and battery charge were dropped.

"In all fairness to Father Pagacz, there's no rape case," Northwestern District Attorney Judd Carhart said yesterday.

Pagacz was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Pagacz is one of three area priests facing charges in sexual abuse cases.

The Rev. Richard R. Lavigne, a Roman Catholic priest, has been charged with two counts of rape and 10 of indecent assault and battery on five minors, and has temporarily been relieved of his duties at a Shelburne Falls parish.

Charges of rape, indecent assault and battery and assault with intent to rape have been brought against the Rev. Gary A. LaMontagne, 37, former associate pastor of St. Mary's Church in Westfield.

16-year-old recanted

Prosecution and defense attorneys said the 16-year-old girl, who had recanted her allegations under oath in a closed court hearing, could have been subject to a charge of perjury if she renewed the allegations on the witness stand, or be charged with making a false police report if she stuck with the recantation.

The decision to drop the charges does not mean Carhart's office cannot prosecute the charge at a later date.

Though he would not say whether the 16-year-old might be offered immunity from perjury charges, Angier said the case is not closed.

"We're going to see what happens Friday and then consider our options," he said.

State law requires that criminal cases be brought to trial within one year of arraignment.

Originally, the girl told police Pagacz had raped her 10 or more times between December 1989 and last Jan. 3, according to pretrial motions filed by Pagacz' attorneys, Charles Maguire and Charles Stephenson.

Maguire said he was pleased with Carhart's decision to drop two of the charges against his client, but would not comment further.

In addition, Pagacz is alleged to have committed indecent assault and battery on the girl and a 17-year-old friend of hers in April 1991 after causing them to drink alcohol unwillingly, according to the motions.

He also took them to a motel that night, according to the motions.

The 17-year-old also recanted her allegation, but has since retracted the recantation.

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