A Roman Catholic priest went on trial Monday on charges of molesting a 15-year-old altar boy.
The Rev. George Robichaud, 58, of Sanbornton, was the first priest to face criminal charges in the state since the church abuse scandal erupted a year and a half ago.
Jury selection began in Belknap County Superior Court on Monday. Opening statements were expected today.
The Diocese of Manchester placed Robichaud on leave from St. Ceciliaâ€™s in Wolfeboro and St. Joan of Arc in Alton a year ago, after he was accused of assaulting the boy in 1985.
A Belknap County grand jury indicted him on charges of rape and attempted rape. He faces 7Â½ to 15 years in prison on the rape charge under sentencing provisions in effect in 1985. The same crime today carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years.
Robichaud has pleaded innocent. In January, he was indicted on two more counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and two counts of sexual assault involving a 15-year-old boy from St. Josephâ€™s in Laconia in 1982. Those charges will be tried separately.
In the current case, the alleged assaults occurred at Robichaudâ€™s vacation home in Sanbornton, according to court records.
The victim, identified in court papers as A.B., told authorities Robichaud befriended him in 1984, when the priest was pastor of St. Anthonyâ€™s in Swanzey.
A.B., who had family problems at the time, said Robichaud became a father figure to him. He said the priest hugged him, kissed him and rubbed against him as the two watched television or ate dinner in the rectory, according to court records.
Later that year, Robichaud took the boy to a convent in Italy and fondled him, according to court records. In the spring of 1985, Robichaud is alleged to have taken the boy to his cottage on Lake Winnisquam, fondled him and tried to have anal sex with him. The charges resulted from the last incident.
Authorities say Robichaud apologized to A.B., now a 33-year-old police officer, in a conversation secretly recorded by police last year. The priest said he was confused about his sexuality at the time and had “crossed the line,” according to pretrial testimony by Deputy Sheriff Denise Miller.