Judge Suggests Evidence Favors in Woburn Assault Case

By Paul Langner
Boston Globe
June 21, 1994

The Middlesex Superior Court judge presiding over the sex-abuse trial of a former Woburn priest indicated yesterday that he was seriously considering ordering a not guilty finding in the case.

Judge Robert A. Barton said at the end of the prosecution's case yesterday that he did not think the evidence of indecent assault against Rev. Paul Manning was enough "to persuade a reasonable jury that such an assault took place."

But Barton told Eileen Donoghue, one of Father Manning's two attorneys, "Have your witnesses ready tomorrow morning, just in case."

Father Manning, 53, a former priest at St. Charles Borromeo parish, is accused of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy whom, testimony showed, he had taken under his wing.

But the boy's parents have refused to let him testify. The only witness to the alleged assault was Rev. Paul Sughrue, the pastor at St. Charles Borromeo, who said that on the evening of last Sept. 5 he heard what he called "pain-filled screams" coming from Father Manning's third-floor quarters.

Father Sughrue testified that he went upstairs and through an open doorway saw the bare legs of Father Manning "braided" with those of the boy and both bodies in rhythmical motion on a recliner chair.

Further evidence yesterday showed that chemists found semen on the chair's armrest, but could not link the stains to Father Manning.

Barton's surprising hint came at the end of three days of testimony, as the prosecution rested its case.

Defense attorneys routinely ask the trial judge for a required finding of not guilty after the prosecution concludes its case. But such motions are rarely granted.

Nevertheless, the possibility of a directed acquittal caused great excitement among Father Manning's supporters, who have been thronging the courtroom.


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