Judge Rules Accused Priest Can Stand Trial

By Dave Wedge
Boston Herald
March 4, 2008

An accused pedophile priest whose case has been delayed more than 30 times is one step closer to finally facing trial as a Worcester judge shot down the retired holy man's bid to be declared incompetent.

The Rev. John Szantyr, who is accused of molesting two Worcester altar boys in the 1980s, had been declared incompetent by a previous judge but yesterday Worcester District Court Judge David Ricciardone ruled that the former priest may be fit to stand trial. Ricciardone made the ruling after hearing Friday from a doctor hired by prosecutors who said the 76-year-old Szantyr is competent.

"(The victims) suffered and all they want is their day in court and they deserve that," said attorney Wendy Murphy, a victims' advocate who has worked on the case.

While pushing the oft-delayed case one step closer to trial, Ricciardone's ruling stops short of declaring Szantyr competent. The judge will make a final determination next month after hearing from doctors hired by Szantyr's attorney, Ed Ryan.

"I fully expect at the end of the hearing, after all the witnesses are heard, that they will find him incompetent," Ryan said.

The case has been repeatedly delayed as prosecutors, defense attorneys and victims debate whether Szantyr is fit to stand trial. Ryan says Szantyr has debilitating Parkinson's disease while victims argue the priest has been spotted walking normally just hours after appearing in court in a wheelchair.

Victims were further outraged after a September Herald report that found church officials had reprimanded Szantyr for presiding over religious services in violation of an order stripping him of pastoral authority.


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