Trial of Ipswich priest McCormick in sexual abuse case to begin today

By Julie Manganis
Salem News
November 04, 2014

IPSWICH — The trial of a Roman Catholic priest who ran a summer camp for disadvantaged boys in Ipswich decades ago is expected to get underway with opening statements Wednesday morning in Lawrence Superior Court. 

Jury selection began Tuesday in the trial of the Rev. Richard J. McCormick, 73, a high-ranking member of the Salesian Society of Don Bosco of North America, the order that ran the summer camp at what was then known as the Sacred Heart retreat in the late 1970s and 1980s. The site is now the headquarters of New England Biolabs. 

The trial is the first of two that involve allegations brought by men who recalled being sexually abused at the camp by McCormick when they were boys. 

In the trial now underway, McCormick is charged with five counts of child rape, involving a boy who attended the camp from the age of 9 to 12, prosecutors allege. 

McCormick’s lawyer, Stephen Neyman, said his client denies abusing the boy, suggesting that the accuser has identified the wrong culprit for his abuse. 

But prosecutors say that the victim was able to positively identify the man he knew as “Father Dick” decades later when he found a photo of him online, prosecutor Kate MacDougall said during arguments on several pretrial motions Tuesday, prior to the start of jury selection. 

Neyman had argued against letting jurors know how McCormick was identified, suggesting that jurors might conclude that McCormick’s image was on the Internet because of abuse allegations. 

“You just don’t see priests up on the Internet day to day unless something’s wrong,” Neyman said. 

In fact, McCormick’s name and image had been circulated online as a result of civil lawsuits alleging abuse — something that jurors will not be told about because it could potentially bias the jury against McCormick.

But Judge Mary Lou Rup concluded that while jurors could not be told about other allegations against McCormick, they will be allowed to hear testimony from the alleged victim about finding his image online. 

McCormick has been free on $1,000 bail in the case. While awaiting trial, he has been living at Vianney Renewal Center, a facility near St. Louis, Missouri, for priests who have been accused of sexual abuse. During the trial, he’s staying at a Boston-area hotel with a fellow member of his religious order, who has accompanied him to court.

McCormick, who held a rank comparable to that of a bishop in the order, was eventually removed from active ministry in 2008 amid civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual abuse while he was director of the Goshen, New York, Junior Seminary in the 1970s. Those suits were later settled by the Salesians in 2009.  

McCormick is also facing a single count of rape of a child in connection with a second alleged victim from the camp. That trial will take place at a future date, and jurors will not be told about the other pending case.  

Jurors are being instructed not to discuss or conduct independent research into the case or read news reports about it. 

None of the more than 50 potential jurors in the case Tuesday morning indicated during questioning by Rup that they had heard anything about the case.

The trial is expected to continue into Monday.




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