Secrecy in Priest Case Angers Defense

By Jessie Milligan
Albuquerque Tribune (New Mexico)
January 5, 1999

Defense attorney Ray Twohig is protesting the shroud of secrecy a judge has dropped over the sex charges against his client, Roman Catholic priest the Rev. Robert Malloy.

"This is a police state," Twohig fumed Monday as he described a court order that partially sealed the search warrant listing evidence seized, and completely made secret an affidavit describing the reasons for the arrest.

Twohig on Thursday and on Monday filed motions with the New Mexico Supreme Court asking that court documents be immediately unsealed.

The sealed court documents raise a long-debated question: Does secrecy ensure a more fair court proceeding, or does it only inflame the public imagination, sparking more prejudice and hampering justice?

Twohig says the secrecy hurts his ability to defend his client; the judge says it ensures a fair trial.

Malloy, 41, a priest at Queen of Heaven church and an Albuquerque police chaplain, was arrested Dec. 17 on suspicion of promoting prostitution and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He was jailed, then released on $12,000 bond.

Neither Malloy nor his attorney has been told the names of victims or witnesses who are accusing the priest. And, Twohig complains, a partially released list of items seized -- "a dossier on homosexuality," "torn sex questions" -- makes the case more sensational than if all information was made public.

Twohig contends Malloy is a priest who has never violated his vow of celibacy, and who had books on satanism and human sexuality because he taught those subjects in church classes. Photos seized came from school outings, Twohig said. The "torn sex questions," Twohig said, were written by students who were allowed to submit anonymous questions that Malloy would answer.

Twohig also said Malloy is not a pedophile, a sensitive subject in Northern New Mexico's Archdiocese of Santa Fe, where allegations involving sexual abuse by about 170 priests were made earlier this decade.

"This is not another case of a pedophile priest from out of state who was foisted on New Mexicans," Twohig said. Twohig said Malloy is an Albuquerque native.

State District Judge James Blackmer in Bernalillo County placed a seal on all court documents on the day of Malloy's arrest, then two weeks later partially unsealed a portion of the search warrant, saying it should be made available to the defense.

In a written court order, Blackmer defended the secrecy surrounding the case, saying media publicity and "substantial" numbers of people expressing their outrage in the media have created the possibility that "highly opinionated persons may obstruct justice" or "intimidate or interfere with witnesses."

Blackmer wrote that the secrecy is necessary to ensure the defendant a fair trial, and to protect the privacy of witnesses and victims.

District Attorney Jeff Romero said it is within the discretion of the court to seal information, and it is done to provide safety for the victims as well as make sure the statements of witnesses are not tainted by public opinion.

The judge said Twohig can have access to the court documents by Jan. 15, but, even then, the judge does not want to release the names of victims and witnesses.

Malloy is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Jan. 16.

Blackmer said the full text of the information should not be released to the attorney or the public until after a grand jury meets in February to weigh charges against Malloy and after he is arraigned in District Court, a date for which has not been set.


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