Lawyers Spar over Reason for Abuse Suit's Dismissal
One attorney cites technicality, another says evidence lacking

By Dennis Tatz
Patriot Ledger
April 28, 2006

The reason for the dismissal of a civil suit alleging a Weymouth priest sexually abused a young deaf girl years ago is being disputed by lawyers in the case.

The Boston Archdiocese recently decided that the charges against the Rev. Charles J. Murphy lacked merit and he could return to St. Francis Xavier Church in Weymouth.

The Rev. Murphy was 70 when he was placed on administrative leave in August 2004 following allegations that he had molested a girl during his stint as director of counseling at the Boston School for the Deaf in Randolph.

Some former students at the school filed lawsuits naming the Rev. Murphy, another priest and 13 nuns for physically and sexually abusing them or being in positions to stop the abuse between 1946 and 1977.

Boston lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, who represented the plaintiffs, said rulings last year from Suffolk Superior Judge Margot Botsford regarding statute of limitations about physical abuse and the inadmissibility of certain witness testimony in one of the cases convinced him that he could no longer go forward with the lawsuits, including that of a former Rockland woman against the Rev. Murphy.

"The bottom line is that because of an adverse technical ruling there was no trial on the merits (in the Rev. Murphy case)," Garabedian said. "The judge's ruling was indicative of what she would rule in the remaining 17 cases."

But the Rev. Murphy's attorney, Timothy P. O'Neill of Boston, said yesterday that the judge's rulings had nothing to do with sexual abuse charges facing his client and he was ready for the scheduled December trial.

O'Neill said Garabedian's comments about how the Rev. Murphy's case ended misrepresented the facts.

"He (Garabedian) withdrew because he simply did not have the evidence to establish his claim," O'Neill said. "He didn't want to go through with the expense (of a trial). It wasn't a technicality. Nothing Judge Botsford ruled prevented him from going ahead."

Garabedian, who represented about 250 alleged victims in the archdiocese's clergy sex abuse scandal, said his 43-year-old client, who now lives in Maine, was upset that her case was dismissed.

"In each and every one of these cases, the victim has pain that is deep," he said.

Garabedian said O'Neill knew in late October following a pretrial conference that the suit against the Rev. Murphy would not be proceeding because of Judge Botsford's earlier rulings.

Ordained in 1960, the Rev. Murphy began working at the Boston School for the Deaf in the early 1970s.

The 95-year-old school, which was run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, closed in 1994 for financial reasons. The property was later sold for $4.5 million to the Boston Higashi School, which cares for autistic children.

Dennis Tatz may be reached at


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