Priest's Trial Could Serve As Test Case on Old Abuse Charges

Associated Press, carried in The Kansas City Star [St. Louis MO]
August 29, 2005

ST. LOUIS - A trial of a Roman Catholic priest accused of sodomizing a teenage boy in the 1970s began Monday in a case that could test how well sexual abuse charges hold up decades after the alleged crime.

Rev. Thomas Graham, 71, faces one count of sodomy against a teenage boy at the rectory of St. Louis' Old Cathedral in the late 1970s.

Graham is being tried in St. Louis court. The St. Louis Archdiocese said it investigated the allegation in 1994 but could not substantiate it based on the information it had.

Graham has maintained the charge is untrue, the archdiocese said, but he was removed from active ministry when charged in November 2002. He has been living in a monitored residence.

Many Missouri prosecutors think the case could show the effectiveness of a sodomy charge decades after an alleged sex abuse crime. Standard child molestation laws require charges to be filed relatively quickly.

The case has led to pleadings all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court on whether the statute of limitations bars a charge filed so late. The state Supreme Court upheld an appeals court decision that it does not.

The archdiocese noted Graham will not appear in clerical clothing, due to a directive that clergy not wear such attire in criminal cases involving allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. The archdiocese said it will not comment further during Graham's trial.


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