Ex-Priest Sentence: at Least 44 Years

By Brian Dekoning
Union Leader (Manchester NH)
May 4, 2004

DOVER — A former New Hampshire priest said to have six months to live was sentenced to at least 44 years in prison yesterday for sexually abusing three altar boys in Dover.

Strafford County Superior Court Judge Peter Fauver said he sought to set a deterrent in giving Joseph T. Maguire, 73, a harsh sentence despite doctors' claims that heart and kidney ailments will kill Maguire by October.

Fauver called Maguire a "wolf in sheep's clothing" who used his status as a faith healer and parish leader to prey on altar boys he was supposed to protect. Fauver said he wanted the sentence to be a "perpetual reminder to people of the cloth" that penalties in sexual abuse cases will be "extreme."

"I'm not sure where you're going in your next life, sir, but your track record here isn't going to help you," Fauver told Maguire.

Maguire was convicted on 36 felony counts of abusing boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 30 to 60 years.

N. William Delker, senior assistant attorney general with the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office, said yesterday Maguire's serial abuse began with a 9-year-old altar boy at his first assignment at Somersworth's Holy Rosary Church in 1973 and included "no less than 10 boys" over a 30-year period.

"(Maguire) is a sexual predator of the first order," Delker said. "There is no other way to describe his prolific abuse of preteen boys."

Maguire has chosen not to seek treatment for heart and kidney ailments and is a hospice patient at Strafford County's Riverside Rest Home. He was rolled into court yesterday in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank strapped to the back and was dressed in a hospital gown.

Maguire spoke in a barely audible whisper yesterday to apologize to his victims and their families.

"I'm heartbroken for them," Maguire said. "I know they're all such good people and I hurt them deeply and I ask for their forgiveness."

Delker said the crimes Maguire was convicted of, including anal and oral sex acts with boys from 9 to 15 years old, were "only a small part" of Maguire's abuse.

Some parents of boys Maguire allegedly abused complained to church officials over the years, but he was not indicted until February 2003. Maguire was interviewed by Dover police in 1986 after an anonymous letter said the priest had molested and taken nude photos of boys, but prosecutors did not pursue charges because of statute of limitations issues, Delker said.

Fauver called Maguire's abuse "probably one of the more profound, extreme acts of abuse I've heard of or read of or one that's ever come before me in this courtroom."

During the hearing, some of Maguire's victims and their families spoke. One victim spoke by video statement and thanked New Hampshire prosecutors for "doing what the Catholic church should have but did not do."

The victim also forgave Maguire, but said he hoped Maguire would spend the rest of his life in prison for abusing him and his brother.

"In the winter of your life and through the murky haze of payoffs that you and the Catholic church have made, I hope that you also accept responsibility," the victim said.

A father of two victims said he had looked for Maguire "with a killing hate" and that Maguire had taken his family's innocence and part of their lives.

"He was an evil man and the church officials who sent him (to Dover) were evil men," the father said.

A mother of two other victims stood with her husband at a podium in the courtroom and fought back tears as she repeatedly asked Maguire why he had abused her sons. She said one of her sons had tried to kill himself because of Maguire's abuse.

Maguire sentence carries a maximum of 88 years in jail with additional suspended sentences of up to six years. His public defender, Linda Slamon, did not object to sentencing recommendations.

The most Rev. Mark Guillemette, a Manchester diocese official and diocese attorney Gordon MacDonald attended the hearing but declined to comment.

Diane Murphy Quinlan, a diocese spokesman, said the diocese's focus is now on helping survivors of sexual abuse and promoting a safe environment so abuse does not occur again. She declined to comment on whether superiors who allegedly ignored abuse complaints against Maguire were still with the diocese.

When asked about pursuing a civil suit against the Catholic Church, one victim said after the hearing that he had already received a settlement in December.


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