Jury Convicts Hargadon of Molesting 2 Boys in 1974
Priest's Victims: Abuse Followed Drug, Alcohol Use

By Peter Smith
Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)
April 20, 2004

A Grayson Circuit Court jury yesterday convicted the Rev. James Hargadon, a Roman Catholic priest from Louisville, on charges of sexually molesting two boys in 1974.

After deliberating further, the jury of five men and seven women last night recommended that Hargadon be sentenced to eight years in prison on each count, to be served concurrently.

Judge Robert Miller set a June 1 sentencing date.

Hargadon, 76, faced up to 20 years on each of the two counts.

Earlier in the evening, after the jury had reached its verdict, Hargadon showed no emotion as the jurors were polled to confirm the conviction.

Lawrence Thompson of Louisville and John Kaelin, of Waxahachie, Texas, testified that Hargadon had befriended them while they were students at St. Polycarp School in Pleasure Ridge Park, where Hargadon was pastor.

They testified that Hargadon plied them with alcohol and marijuana at a cabin at Rough River and later performed oral sex on them. The cabin was in Grayson County.

Hargadon's lawyer asserted that the priest's accusers are motivated by money, saying they kept silent about their allegations for nearly 30 years until joining a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Louisville.

But both men testified that they did not speak up at the time because priests were held in such high esteem and they feared they would not be believed. They also said they felt humiliated.

The Rev. Gary Davis, who lived with Hargadon at St. Polycarp rectory at the time, said he never witnessed or heard about any such incidents.

The victims said yesterday that after a day of drinking and smoking marijuana during a camping trip at Hargadon's family cabin, they each awoke in the middle of the night to find Hargadon performing oral sex on them.

"I was scared to death," said Kaelin, 43.

Both said they took off in a canoe with a fifth of whiskey the next morning to get away from Hargadon until the end of day.

"We were talking about how mad we were," said Thompson, 44. "We thought about killing him."

David Lambertus, Hargadon's lawyer, challenged the timing of the allegations.

Lambertus said the boys could not have known Hargadon in the summer of 1974. Davis testified that Hargadon arrived in September that year to replace a priest who had died of a heart attack.

Lambertus also told the jury that the accusers never brought the allegations to anyone until 2002, when the prospect of sharing in the lawsuits against the archdiocese arose.

"This case is about money," he said.

But in testimony, Kaelin called that notion "a crock. ... It's not about money. ... It's about closure to being abused and not being able to speak about it."

Kaelin and Thompson were altar boys in their early teens in 1974 and also worked in the St. Polycarp rectory garden.

During the sentencing phase , Lambertus asked the jury to consider Hargadon's advanced age. But prosecutor Kenton Smith told the jury that Hargadon "has had 30 years of freedom to which he was not entitled."

The proceedings went into the night after Judge Robert Miller said he wanted to try to wrap up the trial in one day because he has a crowded docket in three counties.

Kaelin and Thompson were among 243 plaintiffs who filed lawsuits accusing the archdiocese of covering up sexual-abuse cases involving dozens of priests, teachers and others involved with the church. The archdiocese settled the lawsuits for $25.7million last summer.

Hargadon was one of eight priests removed from public ministry by Archbishop Thomas Kelly in 2002, the same year t he Grayson County charges arose .

Hargadon also faces a criminal trial in Jefferson County, where he is charged with sodomizing Todd D. Robertson in 1976. Robertson was 14 at the time.

The Jefferson Circuit Court trial is scheduled for June 8.

A Louisville native, Hargadon was ordained in 1955 and served in several assignments, including as pastor of three parishes: St. Polycarp in Louisville, St. Edward in Jeffersontown and St. Francis Xavier in Mount Washington.

He retired in 1998, but continued to perform part-time parish duties until 2002.

Hargadon is the third priest in the Archdiocese of Louisville to be convicted since 2002 on sex-abuse charges. The others are Louis Miller and Daniel Clark.


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