Minimum Security: Priest Fears He'll Be Next

By Tom Mashberg
Boston Herald
September 15, 2003

He's heard the taunts daily since Aug. 24, when the other inmates at MCI-Concord learned of the prison murder of John J. Geoghan.

"You're next!" they yell. "You're next!"

For the Rev. Kelvin E. Iguabita, a former Haverhill priest serving 12 to 14 years for raping a 15-year-old girl in 2000, life inside a maximum security lockup has become a daily battle for life and limb.

"I am very fearful - I must be careful every minute of the day," the 34-year-old Colombian-born priest said in a telephone interview at the Randolph offices of his attorney, Martin K. Leppo.

"There are people in here who want to make a name for themselves by killing me," he said.

Iguabita is one of four priests in Bay State prisons who have faced intense safety-oriented focus since Geoghan was gruesomely slaughtered, allegedly by Joseph L. Druce at the maximum security Souza-Baranowski prison in Shirley on Aug. 23.

The others are John J. Hanlon, 75, serving life at the Bay State Correctional Center in Norfolk; Ronald H. Paquin, 62, serving 12 to 15 years at Concord; and James R. Porter, 69, serving 18 to 20 years at the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater. All are convicted of molesting children.

But Iguabita is the only one choosing to remain in "general population," meaning he mixes daily in the yard and the mess hall with killers and rapists who view convicted child abusers as fair game. And the 5-foot-6, 130-pound Iguabita said it doesn't help that he's a Roman Catholic priest.

"It is in their collective consciousness that a priest is a child abuser," he said. "When I saw what happened to Geoghan, I sensed I would be next. I'm afraid it will happen before I have a chance to prove my innocence."

On Sept. 4, Iguabita filed a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. Leppo said Essex County investigators withheld exculpatory material from the defense during his trial in June - an allegation prosecutors deny. Iguabita was found guilty June 27 on four of five counts of sexual assault.

Iguabita insists the crimes did not occur. He said he has elected to remain in the general population at Concord, rather than live in its protective-custody unit, because "I don't want anyone to think I'm running for my life - that would make me look guilty and I am not."

Iguabita said he has had a target on him since entering Concord - due in part, he said, to certain prison guards who made sure to circulate newspaper clippings of his trial to "high status" inmates.

"A group of three or four or five guys are always after me," he said. "I have been nose to nose with them and all I can do is move away. I recite Psalm 91 a lot."

It reads "God commands the angels to guard you in all your ways."

Iguabita said two days after Geoghan's murder, a prison guard captain came to his cell around midnight and had him whisked off to the Concord infirmary unit. Paquin was already there, he said.

"I was told there was concern for me 'from the very top,' " he said.


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