Former Dover Priest Maguire Seeks to Bar Victims

By Brad Morin
Foster's Daily Democrat [Dover NH]
April 17, 2003

Dover - Numerous men are willing to testify that Rev. Joseph T. Maguire molested them as children, but it is uncertain whether a jury will hear all of their stories.

Maguire's defense attorney wants a judge to prohibit testimony from eight men who claim the 72-year-old suspended Catholic priest sexually abused or solicited them in the 1970s.

Maguire faces criminal charges that involve two victims - both former altar boys at St. Joseph's Church in Dover. But prosecutors are seeking to bolster their testimony with the eight other alleged victims.

Defense attorney Christopher Carter filed a legal motion Monday in Strafford County Superior Court, arguing that this "highly inflammatory" testimony would make it impossible for Maguire to receive a fair trial.

A judge will weigh the arguments at a hearing June 11 in Strafford County Superior Court. Maguire is scheduled to stand trial in October on 34 sex offenses, ranging from fondling to oral sex and anal intercourse. The incidents allegedly took place from 1977 to 1981 while the victims were under the age of 13.

The eight other witnesses also encountered Maguire during the 1970s when he served in Dover, Hudson and Somersworth. Even though many of the witnesses did not know each other, prosecutors say several could describe Maguire's "unconventional" sex practices, which included the use of a hand-held vibrating massager. Most of the boys were 9 to 12 years old when they were allegedly victimized, according to court records.

New Hampshire courts do not usually allow juries to hear evidence of prior crimes or "bad acts" that can be used to portray a defendant's character. To be admitted at trial, the value of the evidence must outweigh the prejudice it would create.

Prosecutors claim in court documents that they are not trying to show Maguire's propensity to sexually abuse children, but to show that the two victims did not fabricate their stories. They also want to demonstrate that Maguire had sexual intent when he touched his alleged victims.

In his legal motion, Carter argued that the prosecution "bends over backwards" to get the evidence admitted. He claims the allegations, some of which are more than 30 years old, cannot be verified and are irrelevant to the actual criminal charges that Maguire faces.

"By attempting to inject the uncharged allegations into this case, the state seeks to conduct nine trials at once," Carter wrote in his legal motion. The attorney could not be reached to comment for this story.

Senior Assistant Attorney General William Delker, who is assisting Deputy Strafford County Attorney Peter Odom in the prosecution of Maguire, said their position was supported the in court pleadings and he would not make further public statements about the issue.

Peter Hutchins, an attorney in Manchester, represented 62 alleged victims of clergy abuse who received a $5 million settlement from the Diocese of Manchester last year. Hutchins said his clients include several of Maguire's victims and they are eager to see him punished.

Hutchins said even if all of the witnesses are not allowed to testify, they will still limit the ability for Maguire to defend himself.

"By listing these other victims as witnesses, the prosecution is essentially preventing the defense from calling character witnesses to say Maguire was a wonderful man who would never harm a child," Hutchins said.

"The second he or a friend tries to convince a jury he is a great guy and could never have done these terrible things, the door has been opened and the evidence of other conduct comes in."

Some of the alleged victims were interviewed during a 1986 investigation by the Dover Police Department. Maguire confessed to a police detective that he had molested a boy in Hudson, was referred to psychiatric treatment by church officials, and went on to molest other children at St. Joseph's.

Dover police consulted with the attorney general's office and agreed the statute of limitations had expired. No criminal charges were filed but police informed then-Bishop Odore Gendron of their findings and Maguire's permission for ministry was revoked. Maguire had since moved to Massachusetts and also spent time in Ireland.

The attorney general's office took another look at Maguire's case last year, and spoke with additional victims, during a statewide investigation of clergy sexual abuse in the Diocese of Manchester. A Strafford County grand jury determined Maguire was eligible for prosecution because he was "continually absent" from New Hampshire after 1981, which freezes the statute of limitations.

Maguire was arrested Feb. 25 at his home in Dennis, Mass., and has been jailed on $50,000 cash or corporate surety bail.


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