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February 07, 2005

Jury finds defrocked priest guilty of repeatedly molesting parishioner

February 7, 2005 [Associated Press]
By Denise Lavoie

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The witness broke down as he told the jury how Father Paul Shanley pulled him out of catechism class and raped him repeatedly, starting when he was 6. "He told me nobody would ever believe me if I told anybody," he said.

On Monday, a jury believed him.

Shanley was convicted of raping and fondling him over a six-year period in the 1980s. The 74-year-old defrocked priest could get life in prison at sentencing Feb. 15. His bail was revoked and he was immediately led off to jail.

Shanley was the most notorious figure in the sex scandal that rocked the Boston Archdiocese, and his conviction on all four charges gives prosecutors an important victory in their effort to bring pedophile priests to justice for decades of abuse at parishes around the country.

His accuser, now a 27-year-old firefighter from suburban Boston, put his head down and sobbed as the verdicts were announced after a trial that turned on the reliability of what he claimed were recently recovered memories of the long-ago abuse. Shanley showed no emotion.

Frank Mondano, Shanley's lawyer, said he will appeal. "It appears that the absence of a case is not an impediment to securing a conviction," he said.

The accuser was one of at least two dozen men who claimed they had been molested by Shanley, who was a parish priest in Newton, a suburb about 10 miles west of Boston. The archdiocese's own personnel records showed that church officials knew Shanley publicly advocated sex between men and boys, yet continued to transfer him from parish to parish.

During the trial, the accuser testified in graphic detail that Shanley raped and groped him in the church bathroom, the rectory, the confessional and the pews.

The defense called just one witness -- a psychologist who said that so-called recovered memories can be false, even if the accuser ardently believes they are true. Shanley's lawyer argued that the man who accused Shanley was either mistaken or concocted the story with the help of personal injury lawyers to cash in on a multimillion-dollar settlement resulting from the sex scandal.

But the jury believed that memories can be repressed, one juror said.

"We agreed after discussion that you can experience something up to a point, and then not think about it and have plenty of other things in your life that are more important," Victoria Blier said.

Prosecutors said the accuser had no financial motivation in accusing Shanley of rape in the criminal case because he received his $500,000 settlement with the archdiocese nearly a year ago. They also cited his three days on stand, during which he sobbed and begged the judge not to force him to continue testifying

"The emotions were raw. They were real," prosecutor Lynn Rooney said in closing arguments.

Blier said both the settlement and the emotion were key.

"I think that people believed that the core of what the victim claimed was true, and I think a pervasive sentiment was he had already gotten a half-million dollar settlement," she said. "He knew that pursuing the criminal case was going to lay a painful life bare."

After Shanley was led out of the courtroom, his niece, Teresa Shanley, said: "There are no winners today. There are only losers. We're no closer to finding out the truth about this scandal or finding out what happened."

Rodney Ford, whose son Greg was one of three accusers dropped from the case, called the verdict "a relief for my son, and all the other victims."

"The validation that all the victims of Paul Shanley must feel today must be unbelievable," Ford said.

In a statement, the archdiocese said: "It is important for the Archdiocese of Boston, in this moment, to again apologize for the crimes and harm perpetrated against children by priests who held the trust and esteem of families and the community."

Shanley, once a long-haired, jeans-wearing "street priest" who worked with Boston's troubled youth, sat stoically for most of the trial, listening to his accuser's testimony with the help of a hearing aid.

Shanley is one of the few priests prosecutors have been able to bring charges against. Most priests accused of wrongdoing escaped prosecution because the statute of limitations ran out long ago. But shortly after leaving the Newton parish in 1989, Shanley left the state, effectively stopping the clock.

He was arrested in California at the height of the scandal in May 2002, and brought back to Massachusetts in handcuffs -- charged with raping four boys from the Newton parish. All four claimed they repressed memories of the abuse, then recovered them when the scandal broke.

But the case ran into numerous problems. In July, prosecutors dropped two of the accusers in what they said was a move to strengthen their case. Then, on the day jury selection began, they dropped a third accuser because they were unable to find him after a traumatic experience on the witness stand at a pretrial hearing last fall.

The clergy abuse scandal in Boston began in early 2002 when Cardinal Bernard Law acknowledged he shuffled a pedophile priest from parish to parish despite evidence priest had molested children. That priest, John Geoghan, was convicted of assault and was later killed in prison.

The scandal intensified later in 2002 when the church released Shanley's 800-page personnel file. Despite church teachings, he argued that homosexuality was OK, and pushed for gay rights. He called himself a "sexual expert" and advertised his counseling services in the alternative press.

Ultimately the state attorney general's office concluded that about 1,000 children in the Boston Archdiocese had been molested by more than 240 priests since the 1940s

Posted by Nancy at 11:18 PM | Comments (0)

Former priest convicted of abuse

February 7, 2005 [Associated Press]

A man who testified he was a sex-abuse victim of defrocked priest Paul Shanley broke down Monday in a Cambridge, Mass., courtroom after the former priest was convicted of child rape and indecent assault.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Defrocked priest Paul Shanley was convicted Monday of repeatedly raping and fondling a boy at his Roman Catholic church during the 1980s.

The conviction on all four charges gives prosecutors an important victory in their effort to bring pedophile priests to justice.

Shanley, 74, was the most notorious figure in a sex scandal that rocked the Boston Archdiocese.

He could get life in prison for two counts each of child rape and indecent assault and battery on a child when he is sentenced Feb. 15. His bail was revoked and he was led off to jail.

The victim, now 27, put his head down and sobbed as the verdicts were announced after a trial that turned on the reliability of what the man claimed were recovered memories of the long-ago abuse. Shanley showed no emotion.

At the trial, the accuser broke down on the stand as he testified in graphic detail that Shanley pulled him out of Sunday morning catechism classes and molested him in the bathroom, the rectory, the confessional and the pews starting when he was 6 and continuing for six years.

“He told me nobody would ever believe me if I told anybody,” he testified.

The accuser said he repressed his memories of the abuse but that they came flooding back three years ago, triggered by news coverage of the scandal that began in Boston and soon engulfed the church worldwide.

The defense called just one witness — a psychologist who said that so-called recovered memories can be false, even if the accuser ardently believes they are true. A lawyer for Shanley argued that the accuser was either mistaken or concocted the story with the help of personal injury lawyers.

The accuser, a firefighter in suburban Boston, was one of at least two dozen men who claimed they had been molested by Shanley.

Posted by Nancy at 01:27 PM | Comments (0)

Dad stymies perv mom

February 7, 2005 [New York Daily News]
By Lauren LaCapra - Daily News Writer

A Hicksville dad has been granted an order of protection against his ex-wife, a convicted sex offender, to keep her away from their two children.

Kathy Tuifel, 46, pleaded guilty on Aug. 11 to one count of second-degree rape and two counts of second-degree sexual abuse. The victim was a blind 11-year-old boy she was tutoring as a teacher's aide at Hicksville Middle School.

She is currently serving six months in jail, which will be followed by 10 years' probation.

After learning that Tuifel filed a petition to relax the conditions of her probation - which could allow her to come in close proximity to her children, 13 and 15 - her ex-husband, Robert Tuifel, moved to make sure she would not be allowed to gain custody or visitation when she is released from jail next Monday.

"I want her to get the help she needs," Robert Tuifel said Friday. "She is sick, that is obvious, but I don't think my kids should be gambled with. You shouldn't play Russian roulette with anyone's lives - especially kids."

He said Kathy Tuifel calls their children twice a week and writes, but the kids haven't seen her since she's been jailed and "they don't want her coming home."

The court, which granted the order of protection Friday, will decide on Kathy Tuifel's petition tomorrow.

"The war is not over; we won one battle," said Laura Ahearn, Robert Tuifel's lawyer.

In family court Friday, Child Protective Services also assailed Tuifel for alleged neglect of her own children. In addition, the children said that Tuifel threw food at them and caused them physical harm, claims which are still being investigated by Child Protective Services.

"She's really mentally disturbed and very dangerous to her children," Ahearn said. "She's a mother, but she's also a pedophile."

In November of 2001, the first incident between Tuifel and the victim occurred, when she touched the sixth-grader's genitals in her home, prosecutors said. About a week later, a similar incident occurred in her van as the two idled near a Hicksville park.

After Tuifel and the victim had sexual intercourse in her basement in March 2002, the boy told school officials and Tuifel was arrested, prosecutors said.

Tuifel, now a registered sex offender, could have been sentenced to five to 25 years on each count had she been convicted at trial, but the prosecution accepted a plea deal to spare the victim having to testify.

Posted by Nancy at 04:44 AM | Comments (0)

Ex-Congressman Sex Offender Told to Move Out of House

February 7, 2005 [Associated Press]

CHICAGO -- A former congressman who resigned after being convicted of having sex with an underage campaign worker has been ordered to leave his Chicago home because it is near an elementary school.

Police gave Mel Reynolds 30 days to move out of the house because of a state law that prohibits convicted sex offenders from living within 500 feet of a dense concentration of children, police department spokesman Dave Bayless said.

Reynolds, 53, has lived at the home on the city's South Side since 2001, according to public records.

Authorities discovered that Reynolds was living near the Salem Christian Academy when he checked in with police as part of a mandatory annual visit. New computer software identified the problem last month after comparing his address to nearby schools, day-care centers and playgrounds, Bayless said.

Telephone directories did not list a number for Reynolds, and he could not be reached for comment Sunday.

The Chicago Democrat resigned in 1995 after being convicted of sexual misconduct with a 16-year-old campaign worker. In 1997, he was convicted of fraudulently obtaining bank loans and diverting money intended for voter-registration drives into his campaign fund. He was sentenced to five years in prison in that case.

Reynolds served a total of 2 1/2 years in prison before President Clinton commuted his prison term in 2001.

Reynolds made a bid for the congressional seat held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in 2004 but lost in the primary.

Posted by Nancy at 04:40 AM | Comments (0)

Victims of Child Abuse Receive Support

February 7, 2005 [The Intelligencer - Wheeling News-Register] By Lynn Davis

WHEELING - Young victims of physical or sexual abuse and their families have the support of Wheeling-based Harmony House, an advocacy center that works to reduce the trauma associated with child victimization. In turn, Harmony House seeks the support of the community it serves.

Commonly in cases of abuse, a child has to tell his story over and over to law enforcement officers, protective services workers, prosecutors and other lawyers. Director Leslie Vassilaros explained that Harmony House prevents this revictimization by conducting "forensic interviews" with the child.
"A forensic interview is a structured conversation with the child alleged to have been the victim of sexual abuse or extreme physical abuse," she said. "It is done in a legally sound, child-appropriate manner."

She meets with the child in a comfortable room at Harmony House's office at Ohio Valley Medical Center. The interviews are videotaped and transmitted via a closed circuit system to another room, where representatives of law enforcement, child protective services and the prosecuting attorney observe. This practice reduces the number of times the child will have to recount his or her story.

"The goal is to get information that substantiates or refutes the allegation of abuse," Vassilaros said. "Often, the information we gather can be used in court, but the overall purpose is to look at the well-being of the child."

She said Harmony House is an unbiased "neutral" participant in the proceedings, trying only to get to the truth of the allegations. After interviewing a child, she can determine whether the child needs other medical or psychological assistance and make appropriate referrals. The center provides specialized case tracking, to ensure that no child "falls through the cracks" of the process, as well as a number of community and professional education programs.

The facility also features a child-friendly waiting room, where other family members can enjoy games and toys while waiting for an interview to be completed.

Vassilaros said child victimization is not uncommon. In Ohio County each year, there are 300-400 referrals to Child Protective Services. That agency, in turn, involves law enforcement and Harmony House in appropriate cases. In just over a year of operation, Vassilaros said, Harmony House has served 127 children and 91 adults. Three criminal convictions have resulted and several more are pending.

She explained that the non-offending family members also may be considered victims of the abuser. Not all abusers are family members, she added, having dealt with cases where older children assaulted younger ones.

Harmony House is "funded through a lot of prayers," Vassilaros laughed, explaining that it has received some federal and private grants, but that the U.S. Congress recently cut the appropriation to some of the programs that have provided funding in the past. "We don't know what effect that will have on us. We need our community to step up and see what we're doing here."

She credited the Chambers Foundation, the Junior League, the Sands Trust Fund, area churches and local donors for helping Harmony House get established. "OVMC has been a godsend, providing this space for free," she said. Other community partners include the Badd Bonz Customz motorcycle shop, Ohio University Eastern and Belmont Technical College, which has provided child development interns.

"Our funding was shaky because we were new and we don't charge for our services. Now with some of the funding cut by the Congress, we're looking for people to help. We know our services are working, and we don't want to lose what we've achieved so far for the sake of the children."

Badd Bonz will sponsor a bike run this spring to help raise funds, and OUE students have helped with fund-raising and with parties for the children served by the agency.

"We have the space and the equipment we need, and we're doing the service. We just need operating funds to continue. We have to speak for the children," Vassilaros said.

Posted by Nancy at 12:20 AM | Comments (0)

Minister proposes inquiry into clerical child abuse

February 7, 2005 [Evening Echo News]

IRELAND - Justice Minister Michael McDowell is set to bring proposals before the Cabinet this month for a public inquiry into clerical child sex abuse in Dublin.

Reports this morning said the inquiry would focus on 59 priests who are believed to have abused children and how the Archdiocese of Dublin handled any complaints made against them.

The reports also said the inquiry would be the first set up under the Government's new plans to replace tribunals with fast-track commissions of investigation.

Much of the body's work will reportedly be carried out in private, but some parts could be held in public, including the questioning of senior clerics.

Posted by Nancy at 12:17 AM | Comments (0)

Courts 'add to child abuse ordeal'

February 7, 2005 [The Guardian} United Kingdom
By Clare Dyer, legal correspondent

Child victims of sex abuse are traumatised all over again by the court system, according to a study of child witnesses published today.

Children giving evidence in court are routinely accused of lying and suffer distress, including breaking down in tears, while those enduring the long wait for their cases to come to court resort to self-harm, suicide attempts, bedwetting and truancy.

The NSPCC, which commissioned the research with Victim Support, is launching a campaign today to raise £3.2m to help child witnesses through the trauma of giving evidence.

The television personality Noel Edmonds, chairman of the Caring for Children in Court Appeal, said: "It cannot be right in a modern society that children who have suffered so much are treated in this way. We are failing our children if courts don't make the best possible attempts to hear their evidence."

Joyce Plotnikoff and Richard Woolfson interviewed 50 children and young people between seven and 17 who gave evidence in court, 32 in sex offence cases. The children felt intimidated in court and some said appearing as a witness had been as traumatic as the original abuse.

Half did not understand the words or phrases being used in court, just under half said they had been accused of lying, and more than half said they had been very upset, distressed or angry. A fifth of those said they had cried, felt sick or sweated.

One child said: "The defence wasn't nice. He was horrible. He said I was a liar. No one warned me beforehand that he'd say that. I don't feel I got to say everything I wanted to."

The parent of a 14-year-old witness told the researchers the case was not about getting to the truth but about skills, money and technique.

Mr Edmonds said: "This new research is as explosive as it is depressing. Children said they were shouted at, accused of lying, and were confused and upset by the long words used by lawyers, often when they were the victims of serious crimes."

The NSPCC also said children were having to wait unacceptably long periods of time before the cases reached court - on average almost a year - despite longstanding government policy to give priority to child abuse cases.

The charity is calling for more pre-trial support, lawyers and judges to ensure that children understand what they are being asked, an end to aggressive questioning, and monitoring of delays.

The NSPCC lawyer Barbara Esam said: "Suffering child abuse and then having to speak publicly about the experience is an ordeal for a young witness. The NSPCC believes all children must receive pre-trial support to reduce their trauma and help them give the best possible evidence."

The charity is fundraising to ensure its young witness services, which help children and their families with giving evidence, can continue.

Posted by Nancy at 12:09 AM | Comments (0)

Jailed for huge child porn hoard

February 7, 2005

A paedophile who hoarded Britain's biggest collection of child abuse images has been jailed for two-and-a-half years

Father-of-five John Harrison had more than a million images of children being abused.

The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit say it is the biggest personal collection of child porn ever seized in Britain.

They included sickening photos of babies being sexually tortured and raped by adults.

But Harrison, 53, escaped a much heavier sentence because he was charged under an old law so the maximum sentence he could receive was just three years.

Passing sentence at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester, Judge John Burke QC told Harrison he would have liked to have given him 10 years - the maximum sentence under the new law.

Harrison, from Manchester, has had his full address protected by the court for fear of reprisal by vigilantes.

He was put on the sex offenders' register for life, disqualified from working with children for life and banned from using the internet for life.

Unemployed Harrison, who repaired computers as a hobby, was arrested in October 2003 as part of Operation Twins, a global investigation of an organised paedophile group - The Shadowz Brotherhood.

Harrison pleaded guilty to 32 specimen counts of making an indecent image and to conspiracy to distribute indecent images through his role as an administrator of the bulletin board. The offences were committed between 1998 and 2003. But because his earliest offence pre-dated new sex abuse laws aimed to protect children, he was prosecuted under the old Protection of Children Act 1978, where the maximum sentence is three years. The new Sexual Offences Act 2000 carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Posted by Nancy at 12:02 AM | Comments (0)

Cumberland Co. is trying to prevent child abuse

February 7, 2005 [News 14 Carolina Staff]

Cumberland County is taking an active step towards preventing child abuse.

The county's Board of Social Services will form a group to study ways to protect kids at risk for deadly abuse.

It will look into how military abuse statistics compare with similar communities nationwide.

The group's first meeting will be next month.

The N.C. Child Advocacy Institute reported in September, children from Cumberland County, died of homicides at a rate of 4.6 per 100,000 compared with the statewide average of 2.2.

The rate is higher for military families five per 100,000

Posted by Nancy at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)