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Sentencing Hearing Begins For Defrocked Priest John Geoghan

Aired February 21, 2002 - 10:10   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We are also awaiting the start of sentencing -- of a hearing in suburban Boston. Defrocked Catholic priest John Geoghan faces prison for last month's conviction that he molested a 10-year-old boy. We're going to go in now and listen to some testimony as the judge has to make the decision about sentencing of John Geoghan. Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) say, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), to the court.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The emotional effects that I felt was watching the pain and confusion in my son's eyes. Knowing that someone he trusted as a friend, a man of God, could harm him in such an abusive way. The questions of how and why surface quite frequently. Thanking the Lord God that my son wasn't physically hurt, like so many others, still doesn't remove the pain from his heart and soul.

The scars from his emotional awareness of how this man could smile, knowing his crime and sin in God's eyes. My life brought new questions in my walk through faith, but asking how can I forgive what he did to my son and so many other children, by asking -- always cautious of who to trust and who to believe in. But through it all, it brought my son and I much closer as a family by only trusting each other.

I would like to read three verses from the Bible from the Book of Ephesians.

Verse 3: But among you, there must not be even a hint of sexual immortality (sic) or any kind of impurity or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.

Verse 5: For of this you can be sure, no immoral, impure or greedy person, such a man is an idelator has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Verse 6: Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things, God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient.

I would like also for him to be removed from civilization, where he would he never hurt another child. Where he can live -- have the solitude to think about what he has done to my son, and I would also like a formal apology from him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Court will (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the impact statement filed with probation (ph).

JUDGE: You may proceed.

LYNN ROONEY, PROSECUTOR: Your honor, this defendant, quite simply, is a danger to the public. He represents a danger to all the young boys in this commonwealth. The Commonwealth is urging the court to accept its sentencing recommendation that he be sentencing to no less than 9 years, no more than 10 years at MCI Cedar Junction. The reasons for this, your honor, are many.

Most recently, this month, this February, the defendant was examined at Bridgewater State Hospital. That report states that this defendant has no cognitive structures or emotional constraints available to him to deter him from further sexual conduct with male children.

He has no ability to control his behavior. This defendant expresses no interest in sex offender treatment. He would be -- quote -- "terribly offended if ordered to do so by this court." This defendant sees no risk if he were to reoffend. That report, in itself, your honor, would be enough for this court to impose a lengthy sentence, but there is far more.

With respect to this offense, the offense for which he stands convicted, I will not tell the court that is the most egregious crime, it certainly is not. But it is a crime, and it is no less wrong because it was the touching of the buttocks of a young boy.

This court cannot sentence this defendant in a vacuum. We cannot only look only at the crime, we have to also look at the defendant. And when one looks at this particular defendant, you see that he is a danger. He is a public safety risk. The Commonwealth has submitted a memorandum and within the memorandum, we have detailed numerous, substantiated allegations against this defendant.

I would submit to the court that you can properly consider that information pursuant to the case of Commonwealth versus Goodwin. But, if this court should decide you do not wish to do that, if you do not wish to look at the substantiated allegations, you still have a mountain of evidence to support a lengthy sentence.

I point the court to the defendant's own admissions. He has admitted, on many occasions, that in the 1960s, he sexually abused four boys. That that abuse went on for a period of two and a half years. He would visit the home of these four boys, and he would fondle their genitals under the covers, while he was wishing them good night. He has admitted to this.

If the court looks at this in the light most favorable to this defendant, and we count the minimum amount of times he committed these acts, we come up with 90 indecent assault and batteries on children under 14, and that is the absolute minimum.

Again, we look at another set of his admissions of the 1970s. He has admitted, repeatedly, that he sexually molested three young boys, over a period of three years. Would he go into their home, convince the parents to allow him into their bedroom while wishing them good night, and he would fondle their genitals under the covers. He has admitted that he fantasized about an anal and oral sex with those young boys.

Again, at a minimum, in the light most favorable to this defendant, if you count the minimum amount of times, we are looking at 108 indecent assault and batteries on children under 14. Just looking at the defendant's admissions. At a minimum, we are up to 198 offenses on children under the age of 14.

That would be enough to warrant a significant period of incarceration. But there is far more. The court has available to it many diagnoses of the defendant. Four times, he has been diagnosed as a pedophile. It has been indicated that his first sexual arousal around young children began in 1962.

He admitted that it was continuing as of November, 1995. In April, 1989, he's diagnosed as a homosexual pedophile, minimizing the extent of his behavior. In November, 1989, he is diagnosed of having atypical pedophilia. He is described as a high risk taker with an immature and impulsive nature. In February of 1995, again he is diagnosed as a pedophile who is attracted to males, who is afraid to admit the extent of his problems. He is reported to have a long- standing and continuing problem with sexual attraction to prepubescent males. He has a long history of pedophilic behavior, and his recognition of the problem and his insight into it is limited.

The court needs to look at whether or not this defendant has any rehabilitative potential, and I submit to the court that there is absolutely none. He has a history of failed treatment. He is in complete and utter denial about what he has done to the victim in this case. When he was asked about this conviction, he stated, "I am absolutely not guilty."

He described the victim in this case as "a skilled actor." And when asked of his mother, he indicated that he didn't know her from "a hole in the wall." He is now trying to describe his past admissions, his past repeated admissions, as fleeting. As all of his prior misconduct, as a one-time incident. He simply lies when it is convenient to him. He makes excuses after excuses for his behavior. He blames it on the children because they come from dysfunctional families. He blames it on the children because of their need for affection. He blames the children, calling them "severely disturbed."

He then turns to the staff of the St. Luke Institute, where he was in for an evaluation, and he calls them unqualified. He indicates that he did not want to go inpatient there because the staff flaunted their own homosexuality. He stated the reason they diagnosed him as pedophile was simply because they wanted the money. If they diagnosed him as pedophile, he would then go there for treatment, and they would make money off their diagnosis.

He has repeatedly proclaimed his unwillingness to participate in any type of a treatment process. He has stated he was forced by the Archdiocese for an evaluation, forced to see a psychiatrist. When speaking of Dr. Mester, he stated, "He is not my psychiatrist, the Archdiocese forced me to go there."

When asked whether or not he needed help at this most recent stay at Bridgewater Hospital, he stated, "The only help I need is to get out of this joint." He doesn't want treatment. He won't participate in treatment. And all of the clinicians agree, that unless he accepts his guilt, he cannot successfully be treated.

This defendant is a danger and a public safety risk. He possesses all of the characteristics that point a high risk of reoffense. All of his victims are male. They were all prepubescent. They were all unrelated to him. This defendant is unmarried. His first admitted offense occurred when he was age 25.

KAGAN: We've been listening in to the sentencing hearing for John Geoghan. He's the defrocked Catholic priest, who was convicted last month of a descent -- indecent assault and battery on a 10-year- old boy, a boy who is now a grown man and in college. He could receive up to 10 years in prison.

With more on this, here's Leon. We do want to say, we will go back for the actual sentencing to this courtroom.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. In the meantime, though, we want to bring in a defense attorney, Daniel Small, who has been watching this case. Daniel Small, I believe, is in Boston with us today. And he's been -- thank you very much for your time today. I want to, first of all, ask you about, what is it that the judge is looking at possibly doing here in this case?

DANIEL SMALL, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Leon, the judge has complete discretion from 0 to 10 years. Massachusetts has no mandatory guidelines. The prosecutor, as you just saw, has recommended, basically, the stiffest sentence they can recommend. And the judge has a lot to consider. On the one hand, the judge is only supposed to consider this defendant, this case, this crime. On the other hand, this is an extraordinary, unique case and there is a great deal for the judge to consider in reality.

HARRIS: Well, because, in fact, the judge has -- does the judge have to keep in mind, as well, that there are tons, I should say -- hundreds of other cases involved here. I believe there are some 130 different people, who are alleging that this former priest, here, basically abused them as children and each of these cases could possibly come to court?

SMALL: Well, you're right. There are -- there is an avalanche of cases against this priest and -- this case really began an avalanche that has now brought down a number of priests and really shaken the roots of the Catholic Church here. Still, the judge is supposed to look at this case and this offense, but he also has it look at what it means, the message that it sends out on these other cases, the precedent that it sets on all of these other cases. So, there's a lot to consider here.

HARRIS: Yes. And one of the things that's being considered is the fact that this man violated the trust of some people and that is going to that's -- it's got to be an aggravating element, here, when you consider the charges that he may face. Considering that, what's the likelihood that he'll actually spend the rest of his life in prison or in a hospital somewhere?

SMALL: Well, in this case, he can't spend the rest of his life, on this one case. The limit by law is 10 years.

HARRIS: Of course it is. You're right in about this one case. But there are other cases that are pending.

SMALL: Of course. And the interesting thing is, a second offense under this law, is a life sentence. So there's a lot to consider. But, you're absolutely right. It's a case full of contradictions. On the one hand, you have a defendant who has no prior criminal convictions and "a lifetime of service," -- quote- unquote -- "to the community."

On the other hand, it is that service that put him in this extraordinary position of power and influence, which he used to commit terrible crimes. And so the judge has to look at that and has to look at this whole series of contradictions that create a very difficult case.

HARRIS: All right. Daniel Small, stay right there. Folks, you stay there, if you're watching at home. We'll go back to this case once the sentence is actually handed down in that courtroom there. And we'll have that for you live, right here.

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