Priest Set for Trial in Sex Abuse Case

St. Albans Messenger
March 9, 2007

St. Albans City — A Catholic priest from Richford accused of sexually abusing a 19-year-old male will go to trial in Vermont District Court this spring.The trial of Father Stephen Nichols, 46, was supposed to take place in February, but attorneys on both sides of the case indicated during a short hearing Thursday that they needed more preparation time.

Cindy Maguire, assistant attorney general, and Mark Kaplan, Nichols' lawyer, yesterday told Judge Ben Joseph via telephone they would be ready to pick a jury on May 8.

The trial would begin immediately and last about three days. Maguire and Kaplan are still taking depositions from witnesses.

Nichols' final status conference hearing is set for mid-April. He was not in court yesterday.

Nichols pleaded not guilty last June to one county of felony lewd and lascivious conduct. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and $300 in fines.

The charges stem from an alleged incident in April 2005, when Nichols allegedly took the young man then 18 to a Quebec pool hall and, the victim claims, then molested him in Richford, while the St. Johnsbury teen was drunk, according to court records.

Nichols was parish priest at St. Elizabeth Church in Lyndonville and Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Danville when the allegation surfaced in April 2005.

He has been on leave from his priestly duties since April 2006, almost a year.

Nichols' arraignment in St. Albans last September caused a media circus. Neither he nor Kaplan commented on the case at the time.

However, Bishop Salvatore Matano — who was at the arraignment with two other priests — called the case "a matter for the courts to decide."

"I pray for a resolution and for the parties on both sides," the bishop said.

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), later encouraged "others who may have been wounded by Fr. Nichols to come forward, get help, and protect others."

To date, no other alleged victims have surfaced.


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