Judge Says Church Lawyers Can Have Some Police Files [Boston MA]
Downloaded May 17, 2003

By Theo Emery, Associated Press, 5/16/2003 19:26

BOSTON (AP) The Newton police department turned over some documents on Friday about the family of an alleged sexual abuse victim, but a judge ordered more sensitive files withheld after prosecutors said they could compromise the ongoing criminal investigation of the Rev. Paul Shanley.

Attorneys for New York Bishop Thomas V. Daily, who is a defendant in Gregory Ford's civil lawsuit against Cardinal Bernard Law and the Archdiocese of Boston over their handling of Shanley, asked for police records about the Ford family, and went to court to ask Judge Constance Sweeney to order the documents' release.

Ford alleges Shanley sexually abused him, starting at age 6, at St. Jean's Parish in Newton, and that church officials tried to cover it up. The case is one of about 500 lawsuits filed against Law and the archdiocese involving Shanley and other priests.

Shanley also faces Middlesex County criminal charges alleging he raped four boys at St. Jean's from 1979 to 1989, including Ford and Paul Busa, who also has filed a civil lawsuit.

A representative from Newton produced the police department documents about the Fords, but was told by Sweeney to withhold some of them because they could influence an ongoing Middlesex County criminal investigation of Shanley.

At issue is a document that describes a fifth alleged victim of Shanley, referred to in court as "John Doe Five," a previously unknown alleged victim who has not yet been referred to in court documents.

Were documents about John Doe Five and other victims released, it could damage prosecutors' pending case against Shanley, said Esther Bixler, an assistant district attorney in the Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley's office.

"The District Attorney's office has a very strong interest in keeping these documents confidential," Bixler said. "It's highly imperative that that information remain secret."

Sweeney ordered Newton not to turn over documents about John Doe Five and one other person referred to as John Doe Four. She took under advisement arguments over releasing files that refer to Busa and another alleged Shanley victim whose accusations have resulted in some of the existing criminal charges against Shanley.

"At least at this point we can get to the unobjected documents to you," she told Timothy O'Neill, an attorney for Daily.

Church attorneys have suggested in court that Ford may have been abused by his father, an argument that has prompted angry denials and denunciations from the Ford family.

Attorneys for Daily also say Newton police were called to the Ford home on "one or more occasions under circumstances that are relevant and material to this action," according to the motion by Daily's attorney, Randall E. Ravitz.

In another matter, Sweeney quashed a subpoena of Ford's therapist, Paula Stahl, on procedural grounds. She said that if motions seeking Stahl's subpoena were refiled correctly, she would hold an evidentiary hearing on whether or not Ford's medical records were protected by medical privacy, or shielded by an privacy agreement between the church and Stahl.

Also, O'Neill's firm sent a notice late Friday that they intended to depose Ford's lawyers. Attorney Robert Sherman, part of the legal team, called the move "absolutely outrageous" and "an assault on the attorney-client privilege."

"First they've gone after the therapist, now they're going directly after the attorneys," he said. "They are trying to bludgeon the plaintiffs into backing down from their lawsuits and that is not going to happen."

O'Neill did not immediately return a message left at his office Friday evening.


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