Texas Throws out Priest's Conviction in Child Sex Case

By Bronislaus B. Kush
Telegram & Gazette
October 22, 2008

An appeals court in Texas has thrown out the conviction of the Rev. Thomas H. Teczar, a Roman Catholic priest formerly from Worcester who was found guilty last year of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy from Ranger, Texas, in 1990.

The three-member Court of Appeals for the 11th District in Eastland County last Thursday found that state District Judge Steven Herod had committed errors during Rev. Teczar's court proceedings and ordered a new trial.

The priest had waived his right to a jury trial and was found guilty by Judge Herod of three counts of aggravated assault of a child and one count of indecency with a child.

Rev. Teczar — who moved south in the 1980s after Worcester Bishop Timothy J. Harrington barred him from clerical duties when allegations surfaced that he had molested at least two local boys — was given a 25-year prison sentence.

Officials said Rev. Teczar will remain incarcerated until a decision is made about a second trial.

Meanwhile, advocates for victims of sexual abuse by priests expressed shock and anger about the appeals court decision.

"Our hearts ache for Teczar's brave victims who found the courage to come forward, expose this predator and protect children, and must now feel terribly betrayed by the judicial system and fearful of kids' safety," said David Clohessy, director of the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Mr. Clohessy said he feared that Rev. Teczar might be freed on technicalities and added the appeals court decision should not cast doubt on the priest's guilt, "which has been clearly established."

SNAP officials urged Texas judicial authorities to promptly re-try the cleric.

In making his case for an appeal, Rev. Teczar said that he was denied his 14th Amendment due process rights because one of the prosecuting attorneys had represented the alleged victim in a suit for damages against the Fort Worth Diocese.

That lawyer was brought into the case as a "special prosecutor."

Rev. Teczar also questioned the court's decision to allow David Lewcon to testify as an expert witness on behalf of the prosecution.

Mr. Lewcon alleged he had been abused by the cleric while the priest was assigned to St. Mary Church in Uxbridge in the 1970s. He sued the Worcester Diocese and later reached an undisclosed, out-of-court settlement.

The appeals court dismissed Rev. Teczar's arguments regarding the prosecuting attorney, noting there was nothing in the record showing that she had a financial interest in the outcome.

The court noted that the prosecutor did not actively participate in the case, letting other members of the team examine witnesses and take part in bench conferences. The board added that the civil suit involving the lawyer was settled two years before the criminal case commenced.

However, the court found that Mr. Lewcon was not an expert witness, based on qualifications drawn up in previous state court rulings. It added that Mr. Lewcon's testimony on the behavior of sexual predators and their victims amounted to generalizations from his personal experience.

The court also found that the judge had erred in allowing into evidence unsubstantiated charges that the priest had molested other children.

The court decision was written by John T. Boyd, the senior justice.

Rev. Teczar was ordained by Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan in 1967 and served as a priest for the Diocese of Worcester until he was kicked out in 1986 after allegations of sexual misconduct were made in at least three Central Massachusetts parishes.

Sexual abuse allegations were also raised against the priest in Texas in 1993, five years after he began his ministerial duties with the Fort Worth Diocese.

He was convicted of abusing the 11-year-old during his assignment at St. Rita's Church in Ranger, Texas.

The boy, who lived across the street from the church, testified that he was enticed into having sex with threats and promises.

According to trial testimony, the boy was given marijuana and alcohol and was allowed to smoke cigarettes and to drive the priest's Mercedes. The boy also went on boating trips with Rev. Teczar and went flying with the priest in a single-engine plane.

A second man was involved in some of the sexual encounters. That person was later convicted of molesting teenage boys, including the boy in the Teczar case.



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