Priest Acquitted in Late 1980s Child Rape Case

The Associated Press, carried in Telegram & Gazette [Brockton MA]
March 23, 2005

BROCKTON, Mass. A 76-year-old priest was acquitted Wednesday of allegations he repatedly raped a young parishioner in the late 1980s in a church office.

The Rev. John P. Lyons closed his eyes and bowed his head as the verdict was read in Brockton Superior Court, where jurors began deliberating Tuesday after one day of testimony. He could have faced up to life in prison.

About two dozen parishioners from his church, St. Rose of Lima Church in Rochester, cheered the verdict while the accuser's family wailed, The Patriot Ledger of Quincy reported.

The accuser's mother cried out, "I can't believe you would do this to my son." She and other relatives were ordered out of the courtroom.

"I'm delighted," Lyons said after the verdict, declining to comment further.

The accuser, a former parishioner at St. Rose of Lima, testified that Lyons molested him from 1987 until 1989. Now 26, he was 8 years to 10 years old when the alleged abuse occurred.

The accuser testified that the abuse started slowly and escalated to sex acts as he met with Lyons in a church office for private religious classes on Saturdays.

But Lyons' attorney, William Cintolo, said his client's old appointment books show that meetings with the student occurred only on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Cintolo also questioned why the man did not come forward with his allegations until 2002, when allegations of sexual abuse by priests swamped the Boston Archdiocese.

The alleged victim said the memories of abuse began returning during a drive with his sister in June 2002. He said he broke down in tears when Lyons was mentioned in their conversation.

"I always had a feeling something was wrong," the man said.

Lyons, who lives in Plymouth, was charged with a single count of child rape.

He still faces a lesser charge of possession of a firearm without a state firearms identification card, which stemmed from the rape investigation but will be considered separately, said Bridget Norton Middleton, spokeswoman for Plymouth District Attorney Tim Cruz. No trial date has been set on that charge, which carries no mandatory minimum sentence and could result in probation.


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