Father Fraud: Victims Violated Again by Judge's Ruling

Patriot Ledger
May 17, 2008

QUINCY — The victims weren't asking for much just a chance to be heard; a brief moment to tell the truth in a court of law. But Worcester District Court Judge David Ricciardone gave them a slap in the face instead.

John Szantyr, an ex-priest charged with sexually violating two boys more than 20 years ago, will not be brought to justice because Ricciardone has effectively allowed Szantyr to walk away scot-free under a laughable ruling that the guy is not competent to stand trial.

We're talking about a man who was recently examined by Dr. Malcolm Rogers, an experienced competency evaluator who told the court in February 2008 that Szantyr understands the charges against him and can assist his counsel in his defense.

Ricciardone rejected Dr. Rogers' opinion even though it is routinely deemed sufficient proof of a defendant's competency in courtrooms across Massachusetts.

Ricciardone, instead, sided with the nonexpert opinions of Szantyr's brother and an ex-nurse's aide named Constance Plank who had no experience with competency evaluations and only limited contact with Szantyr right before the court hearing, in January 2008.

During Plank's testimony, she couldn't even recall the name of the company she worked for, but like Szantyr's brother she was certain the defendant was unable to care for himself.

Ricciardone refused to allow five prosecution witnesses to testify that they had recently seen Szantyr functioning without difficulty in various social and professional situations.

You'd think a judge with a duty to protect the integrity of our legal system would have been a bit more skeptical of the incompetence claims given that Szantyr pulled a shameless stunt by showing up in court in a wheelchair he apparently didn't need in September 2006.

While Szantyr sat slouched over looking like a pathetic, crippled old man, his attorney, Ed Ryan, told the court Szantyr could not feed, bathe or dress himself. The case was put off for six months. One victim became so upset during his ride home from court that day, he had to pull over at a rest area on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Moments later, a car drove into the very same rest area and guess who got out and walked yes walked to the refreshment area? That's right the "incompetent" Mr. Szantyr. The victim's quick-thinking friend took photographs of Szantyr going about his business without any signs of infirmity and no wheelchair in sight!

The prosecutor had these photos in hand when he learned a few months later that Szantyr obtained an unrestricted driver's license from the state of Connecticut after the wheelchair-in-court routine. Szantyr was also reportedly making money performing involved religious services in private homes.

With all this evidence of Szantyr's competence, the victims felt certain the case would soon be back on track for trial.

Szantyr's victims have been waiting a very long time for justice. Not only the two men involved in the Worcester cases, but a group of others whose claims could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has expired. They've been coming to court since charges were filed against Szantyr in 2003, hoping and waiting for the legal system to do something, anything to a man who destroyed lives and abused the sacred trust of many faithful families.

The victims have begged the prosecutor to file an appeal so that a court outside of Worcester can make things right. District Attorney Joe Early has yet to make a decision, but does he really have a choice? Either he files an appeal or he adds insult to injury by telling the victims that what happened to them isn't worth the resources necessary to pursue an appeal.

So I'm betting an appeal will be filed and here's a good policy argument Early can make to the appellate court:

If John Szantyr's skillful ability to manipulate the justice system is proof of incompetence, OJ Simpson shouldn't have been prosecuted he should have been lobotomized.


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