Priest's Case Ends in Mistrial; Rape Trial's Jurors Deadlocked after Deliberating 20 Hours

By Gloria Negri
Boston Globe
October 8, 1993

After 20 hours of deliberations over three days, a Plymouth County jury yesterday said it was deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict on whether Rev. John R. Hanlon raped an altar boy 13 years ago.

Superior Court Judge Richard G. Stearns declared a mistrial and told the jury of seven men and five women he "didn't fault" them for not arriving at a verdict.

Outside the courtroom, jurors told reporters their deliberation were a tug of war that hinged on the credibility of Father Hanlon and his alleged victim..

"We looked at the testimony of both, and neither one of them was credible," juror Larry Drinkwater said.

Another juror said the panel deadlocked at nine for guilty, two for not guilty and one abstention.

Juror John Haney, who voted guilty, said the two holdouts - a Catholic and a non-Catholic - "felt as though they did not have enough hard-core evidence to erase their level of reasonable doubt."

Haney, an unemployed information systems executive from Marshfield, said the person who abstained did so as a protest because he believed the prosecution "just had not done their job well enough." His abstention came after it was clear that the jury was deadlocked.

Haney said the issue of religion surfaced only once during three days of deliberations, when jurors discussed whether it was feasible - as the prosecution contended - that Father Hanlon exercised control over the victim and his family.

"We recognized the fact that a pastor of a Roman Catholic church would be in a position to do that if he so desired," Haney said.

"Ironically we didn't even know what each other's religion was until late today while we were waiting for the judge to go into the court a final time," Haney said. The juror said that, having concluded they were deadlocked, jurors went around the table identifying their religions, and three of the 12 were non-Catholic.

Haney said that the piece of evidence that was pivotal to him was the testimony of one of the victim's brothers - a man who has served in the Army, married, had children and lived as "an extremely responsible member of society."

Haney said he believed the alleged victim. But he added that his feelings about Father Hanlon's guilt were cemented by the alleged victim's brother, whose testimony, Haney said, corroborated the alleged victim's testimony of abuse by the priest.

Plymouth District Attorney William C. O'Malley and Assistant District Attorney Geline Williams said they would retry the case, citing "new information" received after the prosecution had rested.

O'Malley would not divulge that information, or say whether another person had come forward to assert that he was sexually abused by Father Hanlon.

Outside the courtroom, defense attorney J. Albert Johnson said he and Father Hanlon were "disappointed" that the jury was unable to reach a verdict in the priest's favor. "We can only speculate that the jurors, or some of them, must have found reasonable doubt," Johnson said.

Johnson said he would file post-trial motions "which may prevent a new trial." Johnson said he "could not see a retrial in the foreseeable future"

because of the publicity surrounding the priest's case. He said he felt that as a priest, Father Hanlon was "held to a higher standard." The prosecution said it would push for a speedy retrial.

Father Hanlon was released on personal recognizance and drove away from the courthouse with relatives. The 65-year-old priest is on leave as pastor of St. Paul's Church in Hingham.

William Swofford, a member of the parish, who said he spoke for other St. Paul's parishioners, said: "All of us who support Father Hanlon are steadfast in that, and will never waver from our support of him. "

The family of the alleged victim, who is now 27 and married, hurriedly left the courthouse. O'Malley said he had asked them not to talk to reporters because of the pending retrial.

Father Hanlon was accused of two charges of rape of a child by force and two counts of assault with intent to commit rape of a child under 16. The indictments stemmed from complaints of the 27-year-old man who said he was raped and sexually molested by Father Hanlon in 1980, 1981 and 1982 during visits to Father Hanlon's vacation homes in Scituate and Vermont.

The man's two younger brothers, one now 25 and the other 22, also testified to alleged sexual assaults by Father Hanlon when they were adolescents. But Father Hanlon was not charged in those instances.

Father Hanlon has known the family of the men since his assignment to St. Mary's Church, Plymouth, as pastor - the time when the alleged offenses took place.

In his testimony, Father Hanlon denied the charges against him while he acknowledged he had taken two of the brothers, on separate occasions, to a nude beach in Vermont. He said he had taken a number of other adolescent boys to the same beach at other times and that swimming in the nude, or "skinny dipping,"

was something he had done since childhood and later at the L Street Bathhouse in South Boston, where it is commonly practiced. He also ackowledged that he exercised in the nude while his young guests were visiting him, but that he did it in another room, out of their presence.

Speaking in defense of the priest, Johnson characterized Father Hanlon's accuser as "a perpetual liar" and put witnesses on the stand who said that the accuser had a reputation as a liar.

Johnson alleged the man's family was "in collusion" to get money from the Catholic church by the charges. Under cross-examination, the father of the alleged victim admitted he had told co-workers he was going to sue the church and make some money.

Johnson had also introduced about 50 character witnesses who attested to Father Hanlon's "reputation for truth and veracity."


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