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Priest, 66, Enters Guilty Plea

Dec 18, 2002 | AP

A suspended Roman Catholic priest has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a boy who helped him do chores from the time he was 8.

Prosecutors said they had been prepared to seek about 500 felony indictments against Francis Talbot and recommended a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison.

Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Robert Lynn will sentence Talbot, 66, in about six weeks. If he had gone to trial and been convicted, each of the five felony assaults he admitted carries a sentence of 31/2 to seven years.

The victim, Cody Goodwin, now 24, hailed Talbot's decision Monday.

"I'm relieved in a great way," he said. "It's been a very rocky road, but I was not just doing this for myself, and I hope now other people will find the strength to come forward and do what I did, because it's the only way we will get these people off the street and in prison where they belong."

Talbot's lawyer is asking for no jail time.

Talbot has spent the last several weeks on suicide watch in the Catholic Medical Center psychiatric ward, The Union Leader reported yesterday. Lynn ordered Talbot kept there until he is sentenced.

The Manchester resident was suspended as a priest in October 2000, a month before the Diocese of Manchester reached a confidential settlement with Goodwin for $200,000. Goodwin is suing and trying to have the agreement rescinded.

Talbot made it clear that he did not want to plead guilty, but he wanted to go through a trial even less.

"I'm too sick to go through all that," he told Lynn. "I can't do it. I'm very, very sick."

"Are you pleading guilty because you are in fact guilty?" Lynn asked.

"Yes," Talbot replied.

Goodwin accuses Talbot of sexually assaulting him from the time he was 8 until he was 16 and strong enough to fight off the assaults.

He says his aunt, who was Talbot's housekeeper, had asked him to do chores for the priest and to stay overnight to keep him company. He says the assaults began soon afterward.

He told his mother and aunt he didn't want to go back to Talbot's house, but they strongly encouraged him to, Assistant County Attorney Paul McDonough said.

Goodwin says the betrayal of trust caused him to abuse alcohol and drugs to deaden the emotional pain and humiliation. A good student before the assaults, he soon was labeled learning disabled.

In civil lawsuits, a Concord man who has not identified himself in court papers and Robert Plourde of Manchester also accuse Talbot of sexually assaulting them. They say the assaults occurred during the 1960s at the Youth Development Center, then called the New Hampshire Industrial School.

Dennis Horion, 50, alleges that Talbot sexually abused him when he was about 7 to 12 years old.

"I hope that this helps to bring some justice to all of us," he said Monday.

Horion, who is Talbot's second cousin, was part of a $5 million settlement between 62 abuse victims and the diocese last month.

"He's old. He's a child molester, and he's going to a jail where he was the chaplain. This is a virtual death sentence for him," Horion said.

Talbot's lawyer, James Connor, said his client has bipolar disorder, a mental illness characterized by mood swings.

Talbot said he has taken lithium for about 40 years and it has largely destroyed his kidneys. He said he also had diabetes and heart problems.

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