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Priest Found Guilty Of Molestation

Jan 18, 2002 | CNN.COM The jury of eight men and four women deliberated for seven hours over two days before reaching the verdict against John Geoghan. He could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Geoghan, 66, still faces two other criminal cases and dozens of civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual abuse of children. More than 130 people have accused him of sexual abuse during his 30-year career in six parishes. Geoghan was defrocked in 1998.

The Catholic Church has already paid out $10 million dollars stemming from 50 civil suits filed in connection with Geoghan. Eighty-four more suits are pending.

Friday's verdict only pertains to one case in which he was charged with indecent assault and battery against a 10-year-old boy. The boy, now a college student, testified Wednesday that Geoghan reached under his swimming suit and grabbed his buttocks while the two were in a pool at the Waltham Boys and Girls Club in 1991.

The gray-haired Geoghan stood expressionless as the verdict was read, and then sat down and removed an American flag pin from the lapel of his navy blue suit before he was led away.

The case went to the jury Thursday after a psychiatrist testified that the defendant admitted to having sexual fantasies about children.

"We discussed his ability to control his sexual fantasies and his sexual feelings about women and boys," testified Dr. Edward Messner, a Boston-based psychiatrist who said he treated Geoghan between December 1994 and July 1996.

Also during Thursday's proceedings, jurors in Middlesex County Superior Court heard from Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes, who serves the archdiocese of New Orleans but formerly oversaw the Boston area.

In 1991, Hughes testified, he forbade Geoghan to go to the swimming club after a friend of the boy's family complained to the church. Hughes said he made that decision based on a report that Geoghan had been proselytizing at the pool there and had conversations that could be interpreted as "prurient."

The mother of the young man also testified Thursday, saying her son told her on their walk home from the pool that day in 1991 that the priest had "touched me on the butt."

At home, she said, the son asked his mother why Geoghan did what he did. "I told him, 'I don't know,'" the mother testified.

Geoghan, she said, was a familiar figure in the neighborhood, often taking children out for ice cream and bowling.

"He used to come to the projects a lot," the mother testified.

Lawyer claimed differing accounts
In closing arguments, defense attorney Geoffrey Packard said there were too many differences between the youth's account of what happened and that of his mother for the story to be believed.

He also suggested the two were motivated by greed, citing a civil lawsuit filed by the family against the Boston archdiocese. They're "suing the Boston archdiocese, but not for money," Packard said sarcastically.

Prosecutor Lynn Rooney argued that the differences in the mother and son's accounts were only slight and said the variations underscored the truthfulness of their basic claim.

"It was wrong," she said. "It was a crime. It was indecent. He knew it and he told his mother."

Boston Cardinal Bernard Law apologized last week for appointing the man parishioners knew as "Father Jack," but he defended his decision.

"However much I regret having assigned him, John Geoghan was never assigned by me to a parish without psychiatric or medical assessments indicating that such assignments were appropriate," Law said.

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