Former Delray Priests to Dispute Report Accusing Them of Stealing

By Nancy L. Othón
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
December 19, 2007,0,7465692.story

Defense attorneys for two priests accused of stealing money from St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church plan to attack the analyses by the accounting firm that examined the church's financial records, according to court documents released Tuesday.

The trial strategy was revealed in a motion to disqualify Circuit Judge Sandra McSorley, who is married to attorney Joseph McSorley. A year ago, McSorley disclosed to attorneys involved in the grand theft case against the Rev. John Skehan and the Rev. Francis Guinan that her husband has in the past retained Michaelson and Co. as expert witnesses in litigation matters.

Michaelson and Co. is the accounting firm hired by the Diocese of Palm Beach and will be providing testimony on the issue of the alleged theft, according to the motion filed last week.

Skehan, 80, and Guinan, 65, both stated in affidavits that they feared they would not receive a fair and impartial trial from McSorley.

Experts retained by the defense have reviewed financial records and have concluded that the methodology and conclusions reached by Michaelson and Co. are "flawed and are subject to attack," according to the motion.

"Consequently, the credibility and opinions of the expert witnesses for the state will be a major issue in this trial and a feature of both defendants' defenses," wrote Scott Richardson, Skehan's attorney. "Both defendants, having been advised of the above by their respective counsel, are genuinely concerned about this Honorable Court's complete fairness to them."

Skehan is accused of stealing about $370,000 from the Delray Beach church during five years ending in September 2006, while Guinan is charged with taking about $488,000 from the parish. Skehan had been accused of stealing $1.5 million, but prosecutors are limited by a five-year statute of limitations.

Both men were in court Tuesday afternoon for a pretrial hearing, but McSorley made no mention of the motion for disqualification. In a written order signed Tuesday, however, she denied the motion, finding it legally insufficient and untimely.

Richardson declined to comment on his motion and McSorley's order. Neither David Roth, Guinan's attorney, nor prosecutor Preston Mighdoll could be reached for comment, despite attempts by phone.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Feb. 20, though Roth indicated in court Tuesday that there may be issues that could lead to a motion for a continuance.

Nancy Othón can be reached at or 561-228-5502.


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