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Middlesex DA Holds Press Conference After Arrest of Priest

Aired May 2, 2002 - 13:00   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: More now on that breaking story we continue to follow this hour. The arrest of a former Boston priest on child rape charges. Jason Carroll back with us once again as we await that briefing to begin. Let's get to Jason for more details on what we are finding out, and Jason, it is my understanding that up to recent days or, perhaps weeks, Reverend Paul Shanley was actually working with the San Diego Police Department. What is the connection there?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Actually, some time ago he was working as a volunteer with the San Diego Police Department. A part of his responsibilities including fingerprinting children, so you can imagine how angry the police department was when they finally learned that Father Shanley had all of these allegations from his past that he was facing.

As you say, he was arrested on three counts of rape of a child with force. He was arrested this morning. We have some video from that. Arrested this morning at his apartment in San Diego at about 7:40 Pacific time. Detectives apparently called the residence from the outside and told Shanley that they had a warrant for his arrest. He invited them in. He was taken into custody without incident.

Shanley arrested in connection with the rape of a child in Newton, Massachusetts. Newton located not too far from Boston. According to authorities, between 1983 and 1990, Shanley allegedly raped a male victim who is now 24 years old. The alleged incidents taking place at St. Jean's parish there in Newton.

The warrants were issued, as you said, here in Massachusetts, and I'm told that the press conference is about to start. We're going to dip into that right now, see if we can get some more information about this developing story.

HEMMER: All right, Jason, thank you. Martha Coakley is the DA, Middlesex County. We will listen in now.


MARTHA COAKLEY, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, MIDDLESEX COUNTY: ...about what has been happening in the Catholic Church has been in the local and in the national press. And particularly, in the last three months, extensive information about one particular priest, Lt. Paul Shanley, was made available. As we and other DA's offices in Massachusetts have reviewed the files and the records, we determined, as most of you know, that many of the cases, potential cases, were out of the statute of limitations.

However, within the last three weeks, especially with the focus on particular documents that were released about Father Paul Shanley, and in that time period, certain victims came forward who had never disclosed before to anyone, not to the Church, not to their families, about the abuse that they believe they suffered at the hands of Lt. Paul Shanley.

And in the last two months and three months, and many of you also know that victims, adult victims, of child sexual abuse disclosed in their own ways and in their own times, depending upon the context, that those victims then, very recently, came to us, and the district attorney's office began the investigation that we do in all child abuse cases, with a thorough, comprehensive interview that is videotaped, and then the investigation that can corroborate that to try to build a case.

In this case, certain circumstances, particularly related to the discovery this past week that Father Paul Shanley was still in California and not having fled the country as we had been led to believe, and clear, competent disclosures by victims to us about abuse that was still within the statute of limitations led us, yesterday, with the help of the Newton Police and with the help of the State Police and the San Diego Police and their Violent Crime Task Force, yesterday Newton police sought a complaint and an arrest warrant for Father Paul Shanley. That complaint alleges three counts of rape of a child.

Father Paul Shanley was arrested this morning at California time approximately 7:45 without incident at 3912 Albatross Street in San Diego, number 109. We believe he was there with a friend. When the San Diego Police approached and notified the occupants of that house that they had a warrant for his arrest, he did agree to come with them. He was then arrested and booked at the San Diego County Jail.

We believe, but we are not certain that he will be arraigned on a fugitive complaint either today or tomorrow. We are trying to confirm that information. I will say that the incredible assistance from the San Diego Police Department, the U.S. Marshall's Office out there, again, as well as the work of the Newton Police and the State Police here made this arrest effective, quick, and without incident.

What the individual upon whom these complaints are based -- and I should note that this is an ongoing investigation, there are other credible witnesses that we are investigating at this time, but the complaints relate to one individual, again, based upon the need, we believed, to seek the arrest warrant and to try and get Father Shanley in custody.

The indication of these complaints are that during a time period, over approximately a seven year time period, the now 24-year-old male complaining witness in this case was a CCD student at St. Jean parish, now closed, I believe, in Newton near the Newton-Watertown line. What the young man alleges is that almost on a weekly basis, as he was a student in a CCD class, Father Paul Shanley who was the pastor at the time, would come to take not only him, but others from that class for talks. For various reasons, they would be removed from the class, the priest would take them to one of three locations. To the bathroom, often across the street to the rectory, or to the confessional, and that is where the sexual abuse would occur.

The young man disclosed that Father Shanley said to him that if he told, no one would believe him, and he believed that at the time. He indicated that he was 6 years old, that he was very fond of Father Paul Shanley, as was everybody in the parish, and he never told anybody until, as he indicated, much of the press around what has been happening not only with Father Paul Shanley but with this church, brought him to make these disclosures.

At this time, the -- obviously, these charges will have to be brought before a grand jury, there is a count -- three counts of rape at this time. There will be further investigation, as I indicated around the disclosures made by this individual as well as what we believe are other credible witnesses against Father Paul Shanley.

I will make one further note that I believe that this is an extraordinary set of circumstances for everybody, and that without the assistance in many ways of the print media and the broadcast media around these issues, both in indicating the past history of priests and bringing to the attention, and, indeed, I think, precipitating these disclosures by these victims, as well as really alerting us as to the location of Father Paul Shanley, I believe that these complaints and indictments would not have happened. It is, again, an extraordinary set of circumstances for everybody.

I make one further request that I do believe that adults survivors of child abuse disclose in many different ways and under their own terms, and I would ask to the extent that that is possible, that you all recognize that, and in some respects, the victims who have come forward, who will come forward, need to be able to do it on their own terms.

I will entertain questions if I can.


COAKLEY: I'm sorry?


COAKLEY: Well, the process will be -- he will be arraigned on a fugitive complaint in California. He has the option of waiving that or fighting it. We will not know until that occurs. If he chooses to fight it, we will obtain a governor's warrant and we will seek to bring him back. That can be a lengthy process. Once -- if he waives, he would come back relatively soon, and then he would be arraigned on the substantive charges here.

QUESTION: Does he know the charges against him?

COAKLEY: At this time, that investigation is ongoing. I am not going to comment further on that.

QUESTION: You said that you were led to believe that he was outside the country. Was that independent or was that from media reports?

COAKLEY: Through media reports.

QUESTION: Martha, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) victim not to be identified at this point?

COAKLEY: Let me say this, we are not identifying him today. There have been some victims, I know, in this case who have come forward. We believe it is his choice if he wishes to, but I am not -- at least at this time today releasing his name, as is our practice in any sexual assault cases.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how the statute of limitations or lack of worked in this case along with the fact that the knowledge (ph) or the statements by the victims along with the suspect being out of state?

COAKLEY: Well, keeping in mind that the -- these allegations occurred between 1983 and 1990. The young man was only six at the time, and so he got the benefit of a statute that leaves him indeed not only 10 years from his 16th birthday, but probably 15. In this case, the fact of Father Paul Shanley's being out of the state is not relevant. He would still have been within the statute of limitations.



COAKLEY: It is now -- 15 years or ten years? Ten. Ten years after his 16th birthday. He is now 24 years old. So, he is still within the statute of limitations, even without Father Paul Shanley's having told the statute by leaving the state.

QUESTION: Sources tell us that Shanley will not return legally or (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Do you have any expectations that that may be correct?

COAKLEY: Don't know. We did arrest him. We expect that we will have to pursue whatever processes. It will be his decision where he waives or not, but we are fully prepared to get the governor's warrant and proceed to try and bring him back. Our main concern was making sure that we did get him, once he had probable cause, to bring charges against him within the country.


QUESTION: ...the circumstances under which he was arrested. Can you give us a little bit more of a picture of the arrest?

COAKLEY: My understanding is that it was pretty straight forward, that it was without incident. Once we had obtained -- once Newton Police had obtained a complaint and a warrant last night, Newton police with our state police contacted San Diego officials. We did have some idea where he might be. We alerted them to that. They were cooperative.

They were undergoing another investigation last night, but they said at 6:00 this morning, they would put their fugitive squad on it. That was the San Diego Police and the U.S. Marshall's Office. There were several of them who went to the location, and that is the Albatross Street location. We believe it is the address of a friend of Father Shanley's. We had reason to believe he might be there. They made a phone call, indicated they were outside, and they were requesting that he surrender. Within a very short period of time, he called back and said that he would. They entered the home, and he was handcuffed and he surrendered without incident.


QUESTION: ...difficulties finding him or keeping his location known at any time during the investigation? Was he, in your mind or any evidence (UNINTELLIGIBLE) avoiding detection by your investigators?

COAKLEY: Well, let me say this. That we had just begun investigations -- our investigations always begin with the victim coming forward. Our first contact with a victim within the statute was very, very recent, and at that time, we believe there was other investigation that needed to be done. We did not know where Father Paul Shanley was, and generally we do not have the ability or the resources to do manhunts, so to speak, and I will have to, in this instance, give credit to the appropriate press sources who have those resources, and who are very vigorous in maintaining -- in finding him and identifying him.

Let me say that at the time that we believed we had probable cause, we would have entertained that, but we do not -- nor are we able to just go out and look for people that we suspect we might bring charges against.


COAKLEY: Correct. I mean, as always, there are (ph) a couple of things that converged the week in terms of that, and I agree, and people were aware, there was some urgency to that.

But certainly, as our investigation focused on allegations, did we have cases within the statute that we could bring, and we were aware in California, we decided with the Newton Police that we should move quickly.

QUESTION: We you worried about (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

COAKLEY: Always worried about that with a defendant.

QUESTION: Martha, can you explain the fugitive (ph) charges?

COAKLEY: Yes. It is merely a process by which another state holds somebody in custody, because we don't have any jurisdiction in California, Massachusetts says we have these complaints, there is a warrant, and we ask the officials in California to declare that because he is wanted here, he is technically a fugitive in another state.

That state takes out what is called a fugitive complaint, he's held on that, presumably on bail, until we have time to pick him up, including the whole process, and most states have the ability for the individual to say, I'm not the person, those charges are bogus, whatever they want.

They can contest it or they can waive. It is merely a process by which a state -- in recognizing another state's jurisdiction, holds somebody. Once he leaves California and comes back here, that complaint will be dismissed, and he will answer to the substantive charges of rape in Massachusetts.

QUESTION: Once he is back here, how long will it be before this case goes to a grand jury?

COAKLEY: Hard to say, but there is -- there is ongoing grand jury work, and so I can't give you a definite date, but trust me, it will not be long.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) into court here in the Commonwealth, what will the prosecution be asking preliminarily?

COAKLEY: In terms of?

QUESTION: Holding him, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in terms of dangerousness...

COAKLEY: There are a lot of factors that we're not even aware of yet that would go into our what our request would be on an arraignment. And it is premature now to say. Much of it depends on what the circumstances are in California, what agreements or not are made, so I can't -- it's premature for me to tell you now what we would ask when he does appear in Massachusetts.

QUESTION: Are you having cooperation with the Archdiocese of Boston?

COAKLEY: In this case, you know, this is a case that did not come into us through the archdiocese, so it's really -- it's not really a relevant question. Because this, at this stage, did not involve complaints that had been made to the Church, any documents from the Church. And so, I can't say they were uncooperative, but it didn't really factor into the case at this stage of the game.

QUESTION: Was Shanley's name one of the ones that was turned over to you from the archdiocese?

COAKLEY: I will acknowledge that it was, but obviously it was not these complaints, because these young men had never disclosed to anyone, never mind to the Church. But Father Shanley was among names that we received from the Church.


COAKLEY: Just a second.

QUESTION: ...a priest from the Archdiocese of Boston while serving on the Cardinal's Commission for the Protection of Children. How do you go about balancing those roles?

COAKLEY: Let me say that that situation is under review by me. That is my decision, I have said from the outset that if I believe there is conflict between what I do as DA and the commission, I will recuse myself from the commission.

I will say two things. First, I believe that commission is independent, and there's a great need for a critical, independent, and particularly law enforcement perspective. However, I am aware and I am very consciously aware and will review and make a decision very shortly as to whether there is an apparent or otherwise conflict between my job as DA. My job as DA comes first.

QUESTION: Martha, assuming (UNINTELLIGIBLE) accused been living out there, do you have an open criminal investigation (UNINTELLIGIBLE) before this case?


QUESTION: How many other victims are you talking to that name Shanley as their...

COAKLEY: I am not going to give you a number, but there are -- there are others. And again, we are -- it is an open investigation. We have just really focused on people within the statute, with these most recent revelations. These are people who have come forward very recently, and so there are others -- Mr. Ford, and we have acknowledged that that case is under investigation, but it is part of this investigation. It is ongoing, and all I will say is we believe there are, in addition to Mr. Ford, other credible witnesses.


COAKLEY: I think that's a fair characterization.

QUESTION: Given all the enormous publicity around Paul Shanley and the continuing reports about the allegations against him, how relieved are you that he is in custody at this point?

COAKLEY: Relieved. Do you want very relieved or extra relieved? We are pretty relieved. We were concerned that given -- and it's ironic in a way that these allegations are old, these victims have just come forward, but we are conscious for the victims particularly, that there is a sense of urgency. We are always concerned when there is an individual outside the state, facing criminal charges, who has the means to flee. There are countries with whom we have extradition, there are countries with whom we do not. It is always a difficult and expensive proposition, and so it had been our goal, if we had credible charges, to pursue that in order to assure that he would be here to answer the charges. He is innocent until proven guilty. That is our job, but we also believe we have a job to try and make sure that he will be here to answer those charges.


QUESTION: ...dozens and dozens of victims would have come forward from the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

COAKLEY: Sure. I don't -- I'm not sure there will be a flood. I said from the outset that most of the documents we obtained from the Church involved allegations that go back to the 60s and 70s. Even with Father Shanley, there are clearly victims who are outside the statute of limitations. We are prepared with our child abuse unit to deal with adult victims of sexual abuse, and we have, in fact, urged anyone who even has questions about whether they are within the statute or not to contact us. We will make ourselves available to handle that.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) without dozens of victims coming forward?

COAKLEY: It depends. I don't know the answer to that. But if there are, we will deal with them.

QUESTION: Martha, do you have any indication that he might be held on charges out in California?

COAKLEY: I have no indication of that. I am not aware. I just don't know whether there's any either ongoing investigations, or charges. I don't believe there are any public charges against him there now.

HEMMER: All right, the news out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the district attorney, Martha Coakley there revealing what we had reported about an hour and 20 minutes ago, the Reverend Paul Shanley, retired Roman-Catholic priest, charged with three counts of child rape going back to the years of 1983 through 1990. The alleged victim is now 24 years old at the time he was six. His name is Greg Ford. In fact, he will have a briefing later today to meet with his attorney, at 3:00 Eastern time. That's about an hour and 40 minutes from now. We will try to effort live coverage of that as well.





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