Commonwealth v. Iguabita

Mass. Appeals Court Case Summaries
Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly
June 18, 2007

Child rape - Prior acts

Where a jury convicted the defendant, a Roman Catholic priest, of rape of a child under 16, indecent assault and battery and unnatural and lascivious acts upon a child under 16, the convictions should be affirmed, as the trial judge did not commit error by admitting into evidence the testimony of two women describing the defendant's sexual conduct with them in a church rectory.

"... [W]e agree with the trial judge that both women's testimony was admissible because their evidence demonstrated a similar modus operandi by the defendant with the two women as with the victim. The women sought out the defendant for spiritual guidance and comfort, as did the victim. He encouraged them to come to the rectory where he made sexual advances to them.

"Further, the evidence was probative of other issues that were raised during the trial, such as whether the victim's claims were based on fantasy, whether the defendant had the opportunity to commit the alleged sexual acts, and whether the rectory was such a public place that the incidents, if they had occurred as described by the victim, would have been discovered by a casual visitor.

"The defendant argues, however, that the testimony of R.R. and M.H. was so prejudicial as to outweigh its probative value. While jurors may have looked with disfavor upon the defendant engaging in the conduct that the two women described, any prejudicial impact of the evidence was limited in part by the judge's limiting instructions, given both at the time of each woman's testimony and in his final instructions.

"We also note that the jurors acquitted the defendant of the charge of assault with intent to rape. Such acquittal tends to confirm that the jurors appropriately considered the evidence as it related to each offense, and did not use the women's testimony to impute guilt.

"Therefore, we hold that the judge did not commit error in admitting R.R. 's and M.H. 's testimony, as its probative value outweighed the prejudicial impact. "

We go on to affirm an order denying the defendant's motion for a new trial.

Commonwealth v. Iguabita (Lawyers Weekly No. 11-133-07) (16 pages) (Smith, J.) (Appeals Court) Cases tried before Welch, J.; motion for a new trial heard by him. Thomas J. Gleason for the defendant; Catherine Langevin Semel for the commonwealth (Docket No. 06-P-960) (June 7, 2007).


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