Priest Gets Life for Raping Altar Boy

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA)
August 13, 1996

A state judge Monday sentenced a Catholic priest to life in prison without parole for raping an altar boy, despite the priest's protest that "I am

innocent of these trumped-up charges."

The sentence for the Rev. Robert Melancon was automatic, given his conviction June 18 on charges of aggravated rape involving an altar boy in Houma's Annunziata Parish in the late 1980s.

The young man and his family sat in the back of the small courtroom as Melancon, 60, dressed in an orange prison jump suit, shuffled into court in leg irons, his hands chained at his waist.

Nearby sat Melancon's two brothers, a sister and a niece.

Given the chance to make a statement, Melancon protested his innocence. "I know that, the Lord knows that, the victim knows that," he said.

He said he prays for his accusers and the court in hopes that they ultimately will receive more compassion than they showed to him.

"He's still in denial," the young man's mother said after the sentencing.

Melancon's attorneys will appeal the priest's conviction.

They will argue chiefly that the trial should have been moved out of Houma and that the court should not have permitted testimony from a 34-year-old Thibodaux man with whom Melancon admitted having a sexual relationship in the 1970s and early 1980s, before Melancon moved to Annunziata and encountered the altar boy who figured in the aggravated rape charge.

The man told the jury that their relationship began when he was 13, when Melancon recruited him as an altar boy in a parish in Thibodaux.

That man and his wife also attended Melancon's sentencing.

After Melancon's conviction in June, a spokesman for Houma-Thibodaux Bishop Michael Jarrell said the diocese will re-examine its 1993 decision to settle the man's complaint against Melancon with a payment of $30,000 for psychiatric counseling. Melancon had told the bishop the man's complaint was untrue.

The man said Monday he exhausted the money on counseling in a year and a half and has been back in counseling recently, given the stress of reliving his relationship with Melancon at the June trial.

He said, however, that the diocese has not yet responded to his request for additional help.


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