Former Priest Charged in Abuse of Boy Is Denied Bond

By Wanda J. DeMarzo
Miami Herald [Florida]
January 27, 2006

A former priest accused of sexually abusing a young boy nearly a decade ago was denied bond at a hearing this morning.

The Rev. Neil Doherty, 62, is charged with two counts of sexual battery on a child, two counts of indecent assault and one count of lewd or lascivious molestation.

There is no bond on the sexual battery charges.

Jeffrey Herman, the Miami-based attorney for the alleged victim, plans to hold a press conference at 2 p.m. at the Broward County Main Jail, 555 S.E. First Ave. in Fort Lauderdale. Herman represents five men who claim Doherty molested them while he was a priest.

The Broward Sheriff's Office on Thursday arrested Doherty, who had served parishes in South Florida for three decades.

Doherty is the first Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Miami to be charged with sexual battery on a child younger than 12.

Alleged victims of Doherty have been coming forward ever since the Catholic church's sex abuse scandal erupted in Boston in 2002.

Over the course of their investigation, BSO detectives found a total of four victims -- three boys and one adult male -- who all told chillingly similar stories, according to the sheriff's office.

One victim said he first met Father Doherty at St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Fort Lauderdale in 1973 when he was 27 years old. During that meeting, Doherty steered the conversation towards sex, BSO said. After several more meetings, Doherty brought the victim to a private home, gave him alcohol and marijuana, and then sexually assaulted him, according to the sheriff's office.

Another victim, a young boy, told investigators he first met Doherty when he was about seven years old. He said Doherty would hold "private confessions" with him nearly every day. The victim said that several times, Doherty gave him soda that made him pass out. While the boy was unconscious, Doherty would sexually assault him. The attacks on this victim went on for several years, ending in March 2000, BSO said.

Investigators interviewed two more victims who told similar stories. Each said they went to Doherty for counseling, were given drugs, passed out, and were sexually assaulted, BSO said.

A civil suit filed against the archdiocese in September, which seeks $25 million in damages, offers evidence that church leaders were aware of earlier sex-abuse allegations against Doherty, yet apparently did nothing to protect children from him.


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