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BRIGHTON — The defense for defrocked priest Paul Shanley began making its case on Feb. 2 after a one-day break that followed the final testimony of prosecution witnesses.
Shanley’s trial began in Middlesex Superior Court on Jan. 25 with prosecutors alleging that over 20 years ago Shanley told a 6-year-old boy no one would believe him if he spoke out about the abuse he received while at St. Jean Parish in Newton.
The alleged victim did not tell anyone for almost two decades, and recovered his memories after hearing reports in the media about similar abuse, Assistant District Attorney Lynn Rooney said.
Shanley, who recently turned 74, faces two charges of raping a child and two charges of indecent assault and battery on a child. The maximum sentence would be life in prison.
Shanley’s attorney, Frank Mondano, has often asserted that the accuser made up allegations of abuse in order to receive money from a multimillion-dollar lawsuit. The accuser has repeatedly changed his story since coming forward in early 2002, Mondano said.
The 27-year-old man received $500,000 in a civil settlement with the Archdiocese of Boston last year.
The prosecution claims that Shanley took students from religious-education classes and abused them. One of the accuser’s CCD teachers, Ann Marie Rousseau, said under cross-examination on Jan. 26 that she could not recall Shanley taking any students out of her class and she would have called the director of CCD program, not Shanley, for disciplinary problems.
The accuser, now a firefighter, gave an emotional 10 hours of testimony over the course of three days. Breaking down at times, he described in detail the alleged abuse.
Shanley’s lawyer attempted to undermine the alleged victim’s credibility in cross-examination. Mondano implied that the accuser’s story conforms to other abuse reports. He questioned the accuser about his troubled adolescence, which involved gambling and abuse of alcohol and steroids for eight years, beginning when the accuser was 16. The alleged victim said he blamed Shanley for his steroid use, saying the abuse gave him a poor self-image.
The accuser added that he blames Shanley for not being able to realize his dream of playing major league baseball.
After the intense and sometimes graphic questioning from Mondano, the alleged victim asked the judge on the second day of his testimony, not to be forced to continue.
"I can't do this again," he said, his shoulders slumped and his head down. "I can't start over again. Every time I come back I have to start over. It's been three years."
Superior Court Judge Stephen Neel told the man he had to return, and the accuser finished his testimony the following day.
That same day, the accuser’s wife testified about a phone conversation that took place in 2002 when he was at an Air Force Base in Colorado, and she was his girlfriend. She said she told the accuser about the allegations against Shanley, and it was then that he remembered his own abuse.
A psychiatrist testified that it is “not common, but it’s not at all rare” for adults who suffer trauma as children to repress memories of the experience. Dr. James Chu, associate professor at Harvard Medical School, said repressed memories are more common among people who suffered repeated trauma as children than those who suffered a single traumatic event.
Through cross-examination, Chu admitted that the validity of repressed memories are intensely debated within the psychiatric community and that at times false memories can be implanted in someone’s mind.
Contrary to the CCD teacher’s testimony on a previous day, one of the accuser’s former classmates, Brendan Moriarty, testified that Shanley and the boy left Sunday school classes together on several occasions.
The prosecution then rested their case, and Shanley’s lawyer asked the judge to dismiss a charge because the accuser’s testimony didn’t support it. Prosecutors didn’t object to the request.
Shanley was a priest known for ministering to troubled youth in Boston during the 1970s but was charged with sexually abusing boys at St. Jean’s between 1979 and 1989. He was defrocked by the Vatican last year. He was at the center of the archdiocese’s abuse scandal, in which many accused officials of knowingly transferring abusive priests from parish to parish.
After his assignment at St. Jean’s, Shanley moved to California where he was arrested in May 2002. When Shanley moved out of Massachusetts, the clock stopped on the statute of limitations, allowing him to be prosecuted.
AP materials contributed to this report.