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Time Expires in Bishop's Sex Abuse Case

District attorney won't prosecute the ex-leader of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Mass.

September 28, 2004|Elizabeth Mehren | Times Staff Writer

BOSTON — The former leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Mass., was indicted Monday on charges of raping two boys during the 1970s, becoming the highest-ranking official of the U.S. church to be indicted since the sexual abuse scandal unfolded in Boston nearly three years ago.

But hours after the indictment was unsealed, Hampden County Dist. Atty. William M. Bennett said that he would not prosecute Bishop Thomas L. Dupre because the six-year statute of limitations had expired. Bennett said Monday that he found "no evidence" to support an exception.

Dupre, 70, resigned in February after nine years as head of the Diocese of Springfield-- citing ill health -- but has retained the title of bishop. He stepped down one day after the Republican newspaper of Springfield printed allegations that he had molested the boys while serving as a parish priest.

Dupre's attorney, Michael O. Jennings, on Monday invoked the statute of limitations when he filed motions to dismiss the charges. "The alleged offenses occurred almost 30 years ago, and these allegations were not made until eight or nine months ago," Jennings said.

He would not disclose his client's whereabouts.

Bennett said that a grand jury inquiry found no evidence that Dupre had attempted to cover up any abuse, or that there were more alleged victims.

Dupre's successor, Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell, praised the grand jury and the district attorney Monday for their hard work, but did not comment on the indictment or the decision not to prosecute.

Dupre's alleged victims -- two men now in their 40s -- have said that the abuse went on for years and that Dupre had told them to keep quiet about it.

Their lawyer, Jeffrey Newman, said the men were "disappointed" that Dupre would not be prosecuted. Newman said his clients planned to pursue civil lawsuits against Dupre and the diocese.

David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said Monday that "our hearts ache for these brave young men who did what they should: reported to police, cooperated with prosecutors, but were ultimately re-victimized by an archaic and dangerous restrictive legal technicality."

At least a dozen grand jury investigations around the country have examined the way bishops dealt with abuse claims. Four bishops have resigned amid accusations of sexual misconduct.

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