Ex-Priest Is Sentenced to 12 to 15 Years for Sex Abuse in Massachusetts

New York Times/February 15, 2005

Boston -- Defrocked priest Paul Shanley, a central figure in the Boston Archdiocese clergy sex abuse scandal, was sentenced Tuesday to 12 to 15 years in prison for raping a boy repeatedly in the 1980s.

"It is difficult to imagine a more egregious misuse of trust and authority," Judge Stephen Neel said in imposing the term. But he turned aside a prosecutor's request for a life sentence.

Shanley, 74, once known for a being a hip "street priest" who reached out to troubled children and homosexuals, was convicted last week of two counts each of child rape and indecent assault and battery on a child.

He will eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of his sentence. He was also sentenced to 10 years' probation.

The case hinged on the reliability of the accuser's memories of the abuse, which he said he recovered three years ago as the clergy sex abuse scandal unfolded in the media.

Prosecutor Lynn Rooney had recommended a life sentence, saying Shanley used his position of authority to gain the trust of the boys he then molested.

"He used his collar and he used his worshipped status in that community," Rooney said. "There has been no remorse shown on the part of this defendant. There has been no acceptance of responsibility."

His lawyer, Frank Mondano, did not make a specific sentencing recommendation but asked Neel to allow Shanley to serve his sentence in a county house of correction rather than at a state prison.

He also said the prosecution's case was built on "vilification, half truths and lies." He has said he plans to appeal.

Shanley's accuser, now a 27-year-old firefighter in suburban Boston, said the former priest would pull him from Sunday morning catechism classes at St. Jean's parish in Newton and rape and fondle him. The abuse began in 1983, when he was 6 years old, and continued for six years, he said.

Rooney read a written statement by Shanley's accuser.

"I want him to die in prison," he said. "I hope it is slow and painful."

His wife addressed Shanley in court Tuesday, saying "no words can ever explain my disgust for you. You are a coward. You hid behind God." "You robbed my little boy of his innocence," the accuser's father told Shanley. "You destroyed his understanding of good and bad and right and wrong."

Some inmate advocates say whatever prison term Shanley gets could amount to a death sentence.

Another key figure in the scandal in Massachusetts, former priest John Geoghan, was beaten and strangled behind bars in 2003, a year after being convicted of molesting a 10-year-old boy. A fellow prisoner later told investigators he killed Geoghan "to save the children."

"He's so high-profile that that puts a big target on his back," said James Pingeon, a lawyer at Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, a group that provides civil legal services to inmates. "We feel concerned. Obviously, he's a vulnerable person because of his notoriety and his age."

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