Man Testifies to Assault by Priest When He Was a Boy

Associated Press, carried in Hartford Courant [Laconia NH]
April 16, 2003

LACONIA, N.H. -- A former altar boy testified Tuesday against a former Roman Catholic priest at the start of a criminal trial, describing a trip to Rome during which he said the priest first assaulted him.

George Robichaud is the first priest to face criminal charges in New Hampshire since the church-abuse scandal erupted 18 months ago. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and attempted rape.

In October 1984, the former altar boy, now 33, said Robichaud invited him to Italy, where he was attending a conference at the Vatican. The boy stayed for seven days in an adjoining room, and he said Robichaud assaulted him, lying on top of him fully clothed.

He testified that Robichaud befriended him in 1984 when the priest was pastor of St. Anthony's and St. Stephen's churches in Swanzey.

The man, who had family problems at the time, said Robichaud became a father figure to him. He testified that Robichaud "would listen to me, and I would get hugs from him when I wasn't getting them from my dad, and it felt nice." Sometimes, the priest would kiss him, he said.

In spring 1985, Robichaud took the boy to his cottage on Lake Winnisquam, fondled him and had sex with him briefly, the man testified. The charges resulted from that incident.

In his opening statement, Robichaud's lawyer, Peter Callaghan, spoke of problems with the timeline of events. He said there were questions about how old the man was when the alleged rape occurred. The age of consent in New Hampshire is 16.

A grand jury indicted Robichaud on charges of rape and attempted rape. He faces 71/2 to 15 years in prison on the rape charge under 1985 provisions.

The Diocese of Manchester placed Robichaud on leave from St. Cecilia's in Wolfeboro and St. Joan of Arc in Alton a year ago, after he was accused of assaulting the boy.


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