Pagacz Accepts Bargain

By Richard Bourie
The Union-News
May 8, 1992

The Rev. Julian Pagacz, pastor of St. Valentine's Polish National Catholic Church, accepted a plea bargain yesterday and had a charge of indecent assault and battery continued for one year without a finding. The Northwestern District Attorney's office offered Pagacz a deal "he could not refuse," Pagacz's attorney said.

Prosecutors recommended the charge be continued without a finding for a year, after Pagacz submitted to facts sufficient for a finding of guilty on a charge that he indecently touched a 17-year-old girl.

A submission is not an admission of guilt, but a concession by the defendant the prosecution has enough evidence to obtain a conviction were the case to go to trial. Pagacz had been scheduled to go to trial on the charge today.

Northampton District Court Judge Alvertus J. Morse adopted the recommendation to continue the case without a finding, which means the charge will be dropped after one year if Pagacz violates no law.

Morse also ordered Pagacz to stay away from the 17-year-old girl and pay $330 in court costs and fees.

Pagacz, 50, of 127 King St., is also a part-time pastor of Holy Mother of the Rosary, another Polish National church in Chicopee.

Paul James, a spokesman for the church's Eastern Diocese headquarters in Manchester, N.H., said Pagacz will remain in his posts but that an internal investigation begun by Bishop Thomas Gnat when the charges were brought will continue.

David Angier, the assistant Northwestern district attorney who prosecuted the case, said Pagacz took the 17-year-old girl and one of her friends to a house he owns on Rocky Hill Road one evening last September.

The priest provided the girls with alcohol and assaulted the 17-year-old when the other girl left the room where they were watching television, Angier said.

Angier recommended sex offender counseling for Pagacz, and his attorney told the judge that Pagacz could benefit from such counseling, but Morse left it to the probation department to determine what counseling Pagacz needs.

Attorney Charles Maguire, who represented Pagacz, cited three reasons why his client accepted the plea bargain.

It offered a certain outcome, it left Pagacz without a criminal record, and it put the case to rest, he said.

"It stopped the bleeding," Maguire said after the disposition.

Pagacz and his wife agreed.

"It was a deal and we had to give up something," Father Pagacz said. "We did it because we wanted to stop the publicity, to stop the pressure on those two young people and to get life back to normal."

Pagacz was initially charged with rape and indecent assault and battery on another girl, a 16-year-old, but prosecutors dropped those charges last Friday after the girl declined to testify.

Both girls recanted the allegations two days after Pagacz's arraignment Feb. 13. The 17-year-old later retracted the recantation.

Angier said the 17-year-old girl was "under an extreme amount of pressure from people she respected," people who believed Pagacz was innocent. She was terrified of participating in the trial set for today, Angier said, but was still ready to testify.

Pagacz and his wife acknowledged the pressure that fell on the girls from their teen-aged friends and from older members of the Polish community.

The Pagaczs also said resolution of the case would relieve the effect on their two daughters, ages 19 and 15.

"They had hidden anxieties," Helen Pagacz said. "They never showed it but this was hard on them." They are schoolmates, she said, of the alleged victims.

The couple credited their daughters, parishioners and Maguire with helping them get through the crisis brought on by the charges.

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