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Abuse Case Against Priest Goes To Jury

Jan 17, 2002 | UPI

A jury began deliberating Thursday in a case against a former Roman Catholic priest who allegedly molested some 130 children over three decades.

John Geoghan, 66, also faces two other criminal trials and 80 civil suits stemming from allegations of child sex abuse.

The trial in Middlesex Superior Court involves claims by a 20-year-old college student who alleged Geoghan inappropriately "squeezed" his buttocks a decade ago in a swimming pool.

The prosecution wrapped up its presentation Thursday morning with a psychiatrist, Dr. Edward Messner, who testified that Geoghan admitted having sexual impulses toward young boys. The defense called no witnesses.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Geoffrey Packard told the jury of 10 men and five women that the prosecution presented no evidence that Geoghan molested the boy, other than the boy's own statement of being touched.

Packard also suggested that no one would attempt to assault a child is such a public place as a swimming pool.

"Could there possibly be a more public place?" he said.

Packard again suggested the student and his mother brought the criminal complaint to improve their chances of getting more money out of the archdiocese in a settlement.

Packard said the boy is suing the Archdiocese of Boston even though no evidence was introduced to show that the youngster suffered any negative effects while growing up.

In her closing, Lynn Rooney, assistant district attorney, rejected the idea that money was the motive for the suit.

"If this was all about the money, don't you think there might have been a better story?" Rooney asked the jury. "Don't you think it might have been a little more egregious than a hand on a bare bottom in a pool? I suggest they could have come up with something a little better than that if they wanted money."

Geoghan was charged in the case as a result of the alleged incident in 1991 at the Boys and Girls Club in Waltham, Mass. The jury was not allowed to know of any of the other alleged child sex abuse charges filed against Geoghan, who was removed as a priest in 1998.

On the stand Wednesday, the man alleged Geoghan inappropriately touched him while the witness, then 10, was practicing diving at the deep end of the pool.

"I felt a hand going up the back of my leg," he testified, "and my butt was squeezed."

He said that he "got really nervous" and "I got away as fast as possible," going over to his mother to tell her what happened.

Packard, however, contended that Geoghan did not molest the boy, but was simply helping to boost him up as he was getting out of the pool.

The identities of the student and his mother were not made public.

Packard, in his opening statement on Wednesday, suggested to the jury that money was the motive for the case.

"I submit to you ladies and gentlemen that that's what this case is about," Packard said.

The mother, however, vehemently denied a money motive.

"We didn't ask for money," she testified. "We just asked for closure."

If convicted in this case, Geoghan could be sentenced to as much as 10 years in prison. The Archdiocese of Boston has already settled 50 civil suits for more than $10 million.

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