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Child-Rape Case Against Ex-Priest Is Before the Jury

By Jonathan Finer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 4, 2005; Page A03

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 3 -- On the final day of testimony in the trial of defrocked priest Paul R. Shanley, attorneys for both sides focused closing arguments Thursday on the validity of his lone accuser's account of sexual abuse forgotten for decades and then remembered.

The case, which includes two counts of child rape and two counts of indecent assault and battery, was left to a 12-member jury, which deliberated for half an hour before adjourning until Friday morning.

Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Neel threw out a third count of child rape earlier this week for lack of evidence.

Defense attorney Frank Mondano said the accuser, a 27-year-old firefighter who has asked not to be identified, was manipulated by personal-injury lawyers bent on pursuing a civil suit against Shanley.

"The core facts in this case are just not true," Mondano said.

But prosecutor Lynn Rooney argued that the alleged victim had already settled the civil case for $500,000 and had no reason to lie. His testimony, which included graphic descriptions of abuse allegedly suffered between 1983 and 1986, was too authentic to have been fabricated, she said.

"The emotions were raw. They were real. They were reflective of the pain he experienced," Rooney told jurors as images of the accuser as a child appeared on a projection screen.

Few priests implicated in the clergy scandal that emerged in Boston three years ago have stood trial because the statute of limitations on most accusations expired. But Shanley, who was once revered for his ministry to disadvantaged youths, left Massachusetts in the early 1990s, stopping the countdown.

The case against Shanley began with four accusers, each of whom relied on "repressed" or "recovered" memories. Each also alleged he was molested at St. Jean's Parish in Newton, a suburb west of Boston. But in the months leading up to the trial, three of the accusers were dropped by the prosecution.

The remaining accuser testified that he began to recall being abused when allegations against the priest appeared in the Boston media in early 2002. He described being called out of Sunday school classes to be molested by Shanley in a church bathroom, pews and confessionals.

On Friday, Mondano called his only witness, Elizabeth Loftus, a memory expert from the University of California at Irvine.

"I don't believe there is any credible scientific evidence for the idea that years of brutalization can be massively repressed," she said. A prosecution expert witness had earlier testified about the validity of such a phenomenon.

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