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Geoghan Found Guilty of Molesting Boy

Aired January 18, 2002 - 14:10   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.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Okay, let's go quickly to Cambridge, Massachusetts. That verdict is being read in that case of John Geoghan.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...14 years of age. Members of the jury, you will harken (ph) verdict as recorded by the court. The jurors, upon their rope (ph) do say that the defendant is guilty.

So say you, Mr. Foreperson?

UNIDENTIFIED JUROR: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So say you all, members of the jury?

UNIDENTIFIED JURORS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jury may be seated. You may be seated, Mr. Geoghan. May the verdict be recorded, your honor. The verdict is this day recorded, Mr. Reporter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Foreman and ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my remarks include the alternates as well. The court thanks you for your service in this case. You've now have an opportunity to participate in the system, and I hope you leave with a sense of faith in the system and more knowledge about how it operates. I thank you, and you're excused.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All rise. You may step down, please.

O'BRIEN: All right. It was a bit terse. There you see John Geoghan to the left, there, the defendant in this case, found guilty of molesting a boy, the defrocked Catholic priest.

Let's turn it now to CNN's Bill Delaney, our Boston bureau chief, who has been following this trial. Bill, you've had a chance to hear some of the testimony -- how compelling was it? In other words, is this a surprise?

BILL DELANEY, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: Not at all a surprise. If anything's a surprise, Miles, to tell you the truth, it's how long it took this jury to reach a guilty verdict, some seven hours of deliberation. This jury had to decide beyond a reasonable doubt whether John Geogan, he was then Father John Geoghan in the fall of 1991, committed indecent assault and battery against a person under 14. Now, that's not a very high bar to cross. Indecent assault and battery requires that there be a touching, an intentional touching, however slight, of a person under 14 meant to cause harm or offense that was, according to contemporary moral standards, considered indecent.

Now, a 20-year-old -- now 20-year-old college student testified that back in fall of 1991, Father John Geoghan, he was then a priest, he has since been defrocked, in a swimming pool in the Boston area, Father John Geoghan reached under his bathing suit and touched his bare bottom.

So, if the jury were to believe the testimony of this 20-year-old college student, and by this verdict they clearly did, it would seem that it would not have been a very high bar for them to cross to simply determine that there had been intentional touching, however slight, meant to be harmful or offensive. The jury coming back with a guilty verdict, but it took them seven hours of deliberation, Miles, which surprised us a bit.

O'BRIEN: All right. Well, this is one particular case. The story on John Geoghan is perhaps much bigger than that. There are reports that as many as 130 people accused him of sexual abuse during his 30-year tenure as a priest. The Catholic church in Boston has paid out some $10 million in claims related to all of this. Much bigger story than that. What exactly is Catholic church saying there, Cardinal Law, has he said much to apologize, for example, to some of these families?

Bernard -- Cardinal John Law up here in Boston expressed his -- really, grief is the word he has even used, his extreme dismay at all of this. Last week in an extraordinary public apology, Cardinal Law apologizing for his role in all this.

In 1984, Cardinal Law transferred John Geoghan from one parish to another, to Saint Julia's parish in Weston, west of Boston. Now this was the sixth Boston area parish that John Geoghan had been transferred to despite years, going back to the 60's, of allegations that he was involved in sexually molesting boys.

Now, as you said, Miles, 130 accusations of sexual molestation against Father John Geoghan have been brought up over the years. 30 of those occurred during the time that John Geoghan was in Saint Julia's parish in Weston. 30 of them allegedly occurred at Saint Julia's. That's where Bernard Law had transferred John Geoghan.

Now, Cardinal Law saying he was given medical advice that John Geoghan was -- was healed, was cured of his tendency to become involved with young boys, those alleged tendencies, and that's why Cardinal Law said he transferred him, but he said he deeply regretted that. And in eight years at Saint Julia's in Weston, as I said, some 30 incidents, John Geoghan accused of, involving sexual molestation of young boys.

This has sent shockwaves through the Catholic church here in Boston, and, Miles, as you suggested, there's more to come.

There are 84 pending civil cases against John Geoghan. In late February, a second criminal trial begins. That involves two counts of rape against John Geoghan involving a 7-year-old boy.

O'BRIEN: A terribly, terribly sad story.

Bill Delaney, our Boston bureau chief, thank you for bringing us up to date. 66-year-old John Geoghan found guilty of indecent exposure -- in one particular case, for molesting a boy . But as Bill just told you, that may be just the beginning of that story in Boston.

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