Shanley Won't Face Sexual Abuse Charges in Riverside County

Associated Press, carried in The Mercury News [Riverside CA]
Downloaded June 3, 2003

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - One of the central figures in the clergy sex abuse scandal involving the Catholic Church will not face criminal charges here after prosecutors rejected the case against him.

The Rev. Paul Shanley, 72, was arrested last year in San Diego and was taken to Massachusetts where he pleaded innocent to 10 counts of child rape and remains free on $300,000 bail. Shanley was a longtime priest in Boston.

Riverside County Assistant District Attorney Sue Steding said that there are problems with the evidence against Shanley that led to the decision not to prosecute him. Last month, San Bernardino County prosecutors took similar steps, declining to seek statutory rapes charges against Shanley, who was accused of seducing a 17-year-old boy in Big Bear Lake in 1990.

Shanley was transferred to the San Bernardino diocese in 1990 and dismissed three years later.

The decision by San Bernardino prosecutors led sheriff's detectives to ask Riverside County prosecutors to charge Shanley with sexually abusing the same youth at a Palm Springs inn that the priest co-owned. Monday's announcement by Riverside prosecutors means Shanley will not likely face any criminal charges pertaining to alleged sexual abuse in California.

"We respect the decision of the Riverside district attorney's office and anticipate that matters will proceed through the (Massachusetts) authorities," said the Rev. Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the Diocese of San Bernardino.

Shanley would have faced about six years in prison if he had been convicted of crimes in California, prosecutors said. If Shanley is convicted in the Massachusetts case, he could get a life sentence.

Steding said the problems with the case against Shanley were twofold: there was no evidence showing that Shanley knew his alleged victim was under 18 when their relationship began and there was a lack of corroborating evidence.

The Diocese of San Bernardino has sued the Archdiocese of Boston, contending the archdiocese should pay any possible judgment against it. Church officials say they were assured that Shanley was in good standing when he transferred from Boston even though officials there had received allegations of sexual abuse involving Shanley since the 1960s.

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