Opening Statements Delivered in Molestation Trial of Priest
By Joel P Engardio
June 17, 1994
Jurors heard opening statements yesterday in the trial of Rev. Paul Manning, a Roman Catholic priest from Woburn accused of sexually molesting an 11-year-old altar boy last fall.
But the boy will not testify because he and his parents do not want to participate in the trial, said Jill Reilly, a spokeswoman for the district attorney.
Testimony begins this morning in Middlesex Superior Court. Among the prosecution's witnesses will be Rev. Paul S. Sughrue, pastor at St. Charles Parish, who allegedly saw Father Manning molest the boy Sept. 5 in the church rectory.
Prosecutor Martha Coakley told jurors Father Sughrue heard five "sharp, painful screams" from Father Manning's study. When he went to investigate, he saw "four pair of naked legs from the thigh to the ankle . . . intertwined, intermingled and moving in a rythmic motion," she said.
Defense attorney Eileen Donoghue said the noises Father Sughrue heard were only "horseplay" and "rough-housing" between the Father Manning, 53, and the boy.
"The boy came upstairs and poked at (Father Manning) like any 11-year-old would do," Donoghue said. "They rough-housed around, the boy screamed and yelled, and that was it. There was no sexual contact."
Donoghue also told jurors that Father Sughrue could not have seen anything since he never went into Father Manning's third-floor study, but stopped on the stairs and looked up toward the door.
The jury visited the rectory yesterday and examined the stairs and study.
Coakley said semen stains were found on a chair in Father Manning's study during a police search one month after the alleged incident.
Donoghue said forensic studies cannot determine the age of the stains or to whom they belonged. But Coakley said the chair had always been in Father Manning's study since he arrived at St. Charles in June 1992.
The defense portrayed Father Manning as a priest revered for his work.
"Manning's method of ministering brought them closer to the church," Donoghue said. "He ministered the whole person, not just the religious person."
Donoghue also said the boy spent a lot of time at the rectory because "his family is poor" and lived in a "drug house."
Coakley, however, disagreed.
"This is about real people and a real crime," she said. "There was no horesplay that day."
About 50 supporters of Father Manning packed the courtroom, including Carol Villineau, who has known Father Manning the entire 27 years he has been a priest.
Villineau, of Lowell, said both her sons - now ages 23 and 26 - were altar boys for Father Manning.
"He kept the kids off the streets. He took them out to eat, to the beaches; and the girls, too," Villineau said. "He's not just a see-you-at-Sunday-Mass kind of priest."
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