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Priest in sex abuse scandal killed in prison

Geoghan serving sentence for molesting boy in 1991

John Geoghan
John Geoghan

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CNN's Renay San Miguel talks to Phil Saviano, an abuse victim, about the news that defrocked priest John Geoghan was killed in prison. (August 23)
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(CNN) -- John Geoghan, a defrocked Roman Catholic priest and convicted child molester, died Saturday after he was assaulted in prison, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections told CNN.

Geoghan was injured during an incident with another inmate about noon and died shortly after being taken to Leominster Hospital, Department Of Corrections spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said.

Geoghan became a central figure in the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal. He was found guilty in January 2002 of molesting a boy in a swimming pool a decade earlier and sentenced to nine to 10 years in prison.

"The other inmate involved was immediately identified and isolated," Nantel said.

The Corrections Department is working with the Worcester County District Attorney's office in the investigation, she said.

"We'll share our results with the D.A.'s office," she said. "From there they'll decide whether charges will be filed. Obviously the other inmate will face disciplinary measures."

More than 130 people have accused Geoghan of sexual abuse during his 30-year career in six parishes. Geoghan was defrocked in 1998.

The Catholic Church paid millions of dollars from civil suits filed in connection with allegations against Geoghan. The church is still dealing with a settlement for others who say they were abused.

Earlier this month, a group rejected a settlement offer of $55 million from the Boston Archdiocese.

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the Boston Archdiocese, spoke about Geoghan's death soon after the state's announcement.

Coyne said the church "offers prayers for the repose of John's soul and extends its prayers and consolation to his beloved sister Kathy at this time of personal loss."

Luise Dittrich, communications director of Voice of the Faithful, a support group of lay Catholics for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy, said Geoghan's death will not make life easier for his victims.

"It's a very sordid end to a very sordid story," Dittrich said. "It's our feeling that a violent act like this does a lot of negative things to the psyche of survivors who are trying to heal and trying to come to peace with what has happened to them. Any kind of violence like this will just stir up pain all over again."

She added, "It's just hideous all around."

The 2002 verdict pertained to only one case, in which he was charged with indecent assault and battery against a 10-year-old boy. The boy was a college student when he testified that Geoghan reached under his swimming suit and grabbed his buttocks while the two were in a pool at the Waltham Boys and Girls Club in 1991.

Geoghan said he touched the boy only to help him out of the pool.

A psychiatrist testified that Geoghan acknowledged having sexual fantasies about children.

"We discussed his ability to control his sexual fantasies and his sexual feelings about women and boys," testified Dr. Edward Messner, a Boston-based psychiatrist who said he treated Geoghan between December 1994 and July 1996.

Also during the trial, jurors in Middlesex County Superior Court heard from Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes, who once oversaw the Boston area.

In 1991, Hughes testified, he forbade Geoghan from going to the swimming club after a friend of the boy's family complained to the church.

Hughes said he made that decision based on a report that Geoghan had been proselytizing at the pool there and had conversations that could be interpreted as "prurient."

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