Father Talbot Admits Guilt in Sex Assaults

By Nancy Meersman
Union Leader (Manchester NH)
December 17, 2002

Talbot's reluctant guilty plea in Hillsborough County Superior Court to five felony sexual assault counts involving a single victim could put the 66-year-old resident of 509 Lincoln St. in prison for a decade or more.

His lawyer is asking for no jail time, or less time than the prosecutor's recommended sentence of 10 to 20 years, but the punishment ultimately will be up to the judge when sentencing takes place in about six weeks.

Judge Robert J. Lynn explained that under the plea agreement he cannot sentence Talbot to more than the capped sentence recommended by the prosecutor — 10 to 20 years. But he could give him less, and he could "agree with your recommendation that there should be no time."

But he cautioned Talbot that once the sentence is imposed he won't be able to back out.

If Talbot had gone to trial and been convicted he faced a minimum of 17 1/2 years and a maximum of 35 years on the five counts.

But Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Paul McDonough told the court that his office would have had to prepare about 500 indictments to present to a grand jury — one for each of the assaults alleged to have taken place against just one victim.

The victim, Cody Goodwin, now 24, collapsed in relief after hearing that the priest had finally admitted to what he had done.

"I'm relieved in a great way," he said. "It's been a very rocky road, but I was not just doing this for myself, and I hope now other people will find the strength to come forward and do what I did because it's the only way we will get these people off the street and in prison where they belong."

Talbot has spent the last several weeks on suicide watch in the Catholic Medical Center psychiatric ward, where he was admitted after he reportedly tried to buy a gun to take care of a "rat problem." The gun dealer refused to sell him a firearm, The Union Leader was told.

Talbot was suspended from his priestly duties in October 2000, just a month before the Manchester Diocese reached a confidential settlement with Cody Goodwin for $200,000. Goodwin has a lawsuit pending against Talbot and is trying to have his agreement with the church rescinded by the court.

Judge Lynn ordered that Talbot remain in a locked ward at the hospital until he is sentenced. He noted that bail is not an option in convictions for sex felonies.

Talbot made it plain yesterday that he did not want to plead guilty, but he wanted to go through a trial even less. He told the judge, "I'm too sick to go through all that. I can't do it. I'm very, very sick."

His remarks prompted Lynn to question Talbot several times whether he really did commit the crimes, or was just entering a plea bargain for convenience or because he wanted to end the legal ordeal.

"It's a very, very serious matter for you .[yen].[yen]. It's not too late to change your mind," Lynn said.

"Are you pleading guilty because you are in fact guilty?" Lynn asked.

"Yes," Talbot replied.

Goodwin, who is suing Talbot in civil court, alleged the priest sexually assaulted him from the time he was eight until he was 16 and strong enough to fight off the assaults.

Goodwin's aunt, who was Talbot's housekeeper, asked him to do chores for the priest and to stay overnight to keep him company. Shortly after the overnights began, the abuse did, he says.

He told his mother and aunt he didn't want to go back to the priest's house, but they strongly encouraged him to, the prosecutor said.

The betrayal of trust by the priest caused him to abuse alcohol and drugs to deaden the emotional pain and humiliation, Goodwin says. He had excelled in school before the assaults started, but once they did, he says he became an emotional wreck, he stopped learning and was labeled "learning disabled" in school.

Goodwin is not the only person to accuse Talbot of having preyed on them as children.

A Concord man, who hasn't identified himself, and Robert Plourde of Manchester, both allege in civil lawsuits that Talbot molested them in the 1960s at the Youth Development Center, which was then called the New Hampshire Industrial School.

Dennis Horion, 50, alleges Talbot sexually abused him when he was about 7 to 12 years old. He said he was "floored" to learn of Talbot's guilty plea yesterday.

"I hope that this helps to bring some justice to all of us," he said.

Horion, who is Talbot's second cousin, was part of a $5 million group civil settlement that 62 abuse victims reached with the Manchester diocese last month.

"He's old. He's a child molester and he's going to a jail where he was the chaplain. This is a virtual death sentence for him," Horion said.

Talbot's lawyer, James Connor, said at the plea hearing that his client has bipolar disorder, a serious psychological illness once called manic-depression characterized by mood swings of extreme highs and lows.

"He begins every day with 12 pills," Connor said, and his drug bills run $15,000 a month.

Talbot said he has taken lithium for about 40 years and it has destroyed his kidney, leaving him with only 13 to 15 percent of normal function. He said he also had diabetes and heart problems.

McDonough said Talbot admitted to improper touching to Manchester police investigators and told them:

"I wish I'd never brought the boy here but I was very lonely at the time. I'm not a bad guy. I just got swallowed up by loneliness."

McDonough said the case was resolved due to the high-level professional investigation by Juvenile Detective James Flanagan.

"The victim in this case needed to bump into an investigator who was going to do a thorough and complete investigation," he said.

The Manchester Diocese, asked for a comment on the priest's guilty pleas, issued the following statement:

"Bishop John McCormack and the Diocese of Manchester continue to be deeply concerned over the harm of any victim of sexual abuse by a priest. In this situation, when the diocese learned of the abuse, it reached out to assist the victim and permanently removed the priest from all ministry.

"With Father Talbot's admissions today, we hope that the victim can begin to put more of the pain of his past behind him and Father Talbot can achieve some reconciliation with the Lord."

(Union Leader staff reporter Kathryn Marchocki contributed to this report.)

CORRECTION-DATE: December 19, 2002


(HEAD: Father Talbot admits guilt in sex assaults STORY By NANCY MEERSMAN RAN 20021217) — A Page One story on Tuesday should have said that the Rev. Francis Talbot's drug bills run $1,500 a month.


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