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Hostage suspect sued in 2002, saying priest raped him

  • Story Highlights
  • Alleged hostage-taker sued church in 2002
  • Leeland Eisenberg suit also named retired Cardinal Bernard Law
  • Suit says priest took advantage of homeless, alcoholic young man
  • Eisenberg allegedly held 5 hostage at Clinton campaign office
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ROCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) -- The man who held hostages Friday at a New Hampshire campaign office of Sen. Hillary Clinton alleged in a 2002 lawsuit that he was raped by a parish priest.

Leeland Eisenberg, shown in this booking photo, complained to police that he couldn't get mental health care.

On Friday, 46-year-old Leeland Eisenberg walked into the office with what he said was a bomb strapped to his chest. It turned out to be road flares held with duct tape, police said.

Five people inside the office, including a small child, were eventually released unharmed by the time the incident ended more than five hours later.

Before Eisenberg, of Somersworth, New Hampshire, surrendered to police, he complained about his inability to get mental health treatment. Video Watch the suspect kneel in the street »

Eisenberg filed the lawsuit in September 2002 against the Boston Archdiocese, naming then-Archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law as a defendant.

Law resigned that year amid public outrage after court documents showed he moved priests from parish to parish without disclosing sexual-abuse allegations against them.

According to the lawsuit, Eisenberg was about 21, homeless and living in abandoned cars in a junkyard in Ayer, Massachusetts, when he went to the Roman Catholic Parish of St. Catherine of Alexandria in Westford, looking for housing and support. Video Watch a report on the lawsuit »

He told the senior priest at the parish about his homelessness, "the loss of his mother and the abuse he suffered at the hands of his violent, alcoholic father," the lawsuit says.

A legal source involved with the case told CNN that Eisenberg also was addicted to alcohol and drugs.

Eisenberg was hired as a painter and given room and board until he could be on his own. According to the lawsuit, a priest at the parish would show Eisenberg pornographic materials, then molest him.

One night, after Eisenberg got drunk at a club, the priest picked him up in a car. On the ride home, Eisenberg passed out, and when he awakened, he found himself being raped in the driveway of the parish, the lawsuit says.

The document says that one week after the alleged incident, Eisenberg tried to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge in Ayer. Afterward, he went to a psychiatric facility for observation and treatment.

The disposition of the lawsuit was not immediately available.

St. Catherine's current pastor, the Rev. Peter Quinn, told CNN he has been in the parish only about two years, and didn't know Eisenberg.

The Rev. Daniel Cronin, now retired, was pastor in 2002 but is not the target of the lawsuit. He didn't recall Eisenberg by name and didn't recognize him on TV news reports, said Quinn, who spoke to Cronin by telephone Saturday morning.

Cronin did remember that a young man came to the parish, was hired to paint and stayed about three weeks.

Clinton, who was in Washington at the time of the hostage incident, traveled to New Hampshire on Friday night to meet with the hostages and their families. At a news conference afterward, she said her campaign had no previous contact with Eisenberg.

"It appears that he is someone who was in need of help and sought attention in absolutely the wrong way," she said.

During the standoff, Eisenberg had three conversations with CNN staffers in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Georgia, during which he said he had mental health problems and could not get the help he needed. He also said he wanted to speak with Clinton. Photo See photos of the hostage situation »

While negotiating with police, Eisenberg also asked to speak with Clinton, but Rochester Police Chief David Dubois said the request was denied.

"As a tactical standpoint, that would not have been wise for us to do that" because it would have reduced negotiators' bargaining leverage, he said.


Eisenberg faces state charges of four counts of kidnapping, one count of criminal threatening and one count of false use of an explosive device, Rochester police Capt. Paul Callaghan told CNN. Authorities have said he also could face federal charges. He was being held in a local jail. Clinton resumed her campaign schedule in Iowa on Saturday.

The first tests of presidential candidates in the 2008 campaign are the Iowa caucuses on January 3 and the New Hampshire primary on January 8. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Jason Caroll and Susan Chun contributed to this report.

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