|Rape Trial Nears End
By Bob Gardinier
Albany Times Union
February 8, 2011
PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- Closing arguments and jury deliberations are scheduled to begin on Wednesday in the trial of a Catholic priest in the Albany diocese charged with raping two altar boys more than 20 years ago.
One of the final witnesses Monday was Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan, who testified that she got a call in January 2008 from Michael Costello, a lawyer with the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese, alerting her that the diocese was investigating possible criminal abuse of young boys by Gary Mercure when he served at Our Lady of the Annunciation Church in Queensbury. Mercure, referred to as Father Gary by trial witnesses, served at that church from 1982 to 1991, when he transferred to St. Mary's Church and St. Mary-St. Alphonsus Regional Catholic School, both in Glens Falls.
When Hogan received the call, Mercure, 62, was serving at Sacred Heart and St. William parishes in Troy. He was suspended from the ministry that same month. Mercure, who also served as a priest at St. Mary's in Clinton Heights and Our Lady of the Assumption in Latham, is free without bail.
Hogan testified that one of the alleged victims' parents contacted her and gave her bloodied underwear they had found hidden inside their son's bedroom wall by the boy when he was 10 or 11.
The now-34-year-old man testified last week that Mercure abused him often and raped him in the back seat of his car when the priest drove him to a lake in Vermont to swim. The man said Mercure told him to tell his parents if they asked that he got hurt falling on the rocks.
About the time Hogan began her investigation, the story was reported in the press and five more victims, including a pair of brothers, came forward. But the statute of limitations on the alleged crimes had run out in New York, so Hogan said she could not bring charges in any of the cases.
"If law enforcement has not been notified earlier, the five-year statute time clock starts running when the victims turn 18," Hogan told the jury of 10 women and six men. "The time ran out when they were all 23." The victims were in their early to mid-30s when they came forward with their claims.
Despite the statute limitations in New York, Hogan said she contacted officials in other states in which victims said they were allegedly abused by the priest. Hogan said victims reported abuse in Vermont, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia.
Two men who are the subject of the trial allege they were abused in 1986 and 1989 in separate incidents at Brodie Mountain and in the parking lot of an Appalachian Trial head, both in Berkshire County.
Massachusetts law allows charges to be brought for those incidents.
Defense attorney Michael O. Jennings pushed Hogan on why she continued her investigation even though she knew she could not bring charges in New York.
Hogan said she believed she had a responsibility to the public to follow through with the probe.
Jennings has been suggesting to the jury that the victims have been influenced to embellish or invent their abuse by the activities of groups like SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
A DNA expert also testified Monday that blood and other substances found on the underwear could not be matched to Mercure.
Throughout the trial, Jennings has objected to Judge John Agostini allowing testimony, which has dominated the trial, involving the allegations in New York.
When jurors begin deliberations Wednesday, they will be considering three counts of rape of a child with force, a lesser charge of rape of a child without force and one count of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14.
First Assistant District Attorney Paul Caccaviello and Jennings will give their closing arguments Wednesday morning.
Reach Gardinier at 454-5696 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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