Suspended Middleton priest pleads guilty in rape of altar boy

Foster's Online/December 1, 2004
By John Quinn

Middleton -- A 63-year-old Lakeshore Drive resident and suspended Roman Catholic priest may spend the rest of his life in prison after pleading guilty to four counts of raping an altar boy in the 1980s.

Robert V. Gale of 100 Lakeshore Drive changed his plea to guilty on Tuesday after maintaining his innocence since 2002, when he was charged with felony child rape for repeatedly sexually assaulting a child in the rectory of his parish, St. Jude's in Waltham, Mass between 1980 and 1985. The child was 10 years old when the assaults began.

Judge Charles Grabau accepted Gale's plea in Middlesex Superior Court in Cambridge, Mass on Tuesday.

Gale, who was ordained as a priest in 1968, was scheduled to be sentenced at 11 a.m. today, according to Emily LaGrassa, press secretary for the Middlesex District Attorney's Office.

On Aug. 27, 2002, Gale was arrested by Middleton police on charges of being a fugitive from justice once a Middlesex County grand jury returned indictments. He was released and has been free on $100,000 personal recognizance with the conditions that Gale have no contact with minors and he report to probation twice weekly.

LaGrassa said Gale has faithfully commuted from Middleton to Cambridge to appear at all previous hearings.

"We don't have any indication he wouldn't show up (for sentencing)," LaGrassa said. She added the judge made it clear his behavior would affect the sentencing.

LaGrassa said Gale changed his plea before the jury could be selected on Tuesday. She added the trial was to occur afterwards and was expected to last two to four days.

She said the prosecution and the defense will make sentence recommendations today and the 34-year-old victim, whose identity has not been released per Massachusetts law, will also have an opportunity to speak.

LaGrassa said child rape is a felony and each count could yield a life sentence.

The investigation began when the accuser told a friend about the alleged assaults in 1995. He contacted law enforcement in 2002 at age 32.

Prosecutors were able to charge Gale because the 15-year statute of limitations expires when the suspect lives out of state and Gale has only lived in New Hampshire for the past several years.

Gale is not currently assigned to a parish.

Authorities previously said Gale was assigned to St. Jude's until 1987, where he supervised altar boys. He molested the boy about twice a month during the four-year period, including raping him in the pastor's suite, behind an unused altar, in the basement and in his car, according to court documents. Complaints from Waltham parishioners forced the archdiocese to remove Gale, according to past reports.

Gale's alleged molestation of boys dates back to the mid-1960s when Gale was still in the seminary.

According to past reports, as early as 1968, Gale allegedly molested at least one boy at Our Lady of Lourdes in Jamaica Plain, Mass., before being moved by the archdiocese at the request of parishioners to Quincy in the early 1970s.

About 25 years ago, parents said Gale allegedly molested some of the parish's altar boys at St. Joseph's Church in Quincy, Mass., where he stayed for less than three years, according to past reports.

One of Gale's alleged victims in Quincy complained to his parents of being sexually abused in 1979, which included Gale allegedly taking the boy to New Hampshire to rape him. The victim received an $80,000 settlement from the archdiocese in 1995 and part of the case was turned over to New Hampshire, according to past reports.

After St. Jude's in Waltham, Gale was later assigned to The Infant Jesus Parish in Brookline, Mass., where he remained until 1991. He was removed from parish ministry, but was allowed to stay at St. Monica's Parish in South Boston, Mass., until 1998.

According to past reports, Gale allegedly attempted to seduce a 17-year-old boy at St. Monica's, which caused the teen to abandoned thoughts of entering the priesthood and lose faith in the church and Cardinal Bernard P. Law.

Several other alleged victims also received a settlement from the archdiocese and some have filed civil suits against Gale this year. The Boston Archdiocese has paid more than $90 million to more than 550 alleged victims of clergy abuse.

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