Charges Dropped against Diocese Critic
Protester Was Accused of Protesting in April Too Close to Church
By Jordan Carleo-Evangelist
Albany Times Union
August 1, 2006
Albany -- Prosecutors have withdrawn contempt charges against a longtime critic of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, who was arrested for allegedly violating a restraining order while protesting outside the Catholic Church of the Holy Cross in April, according to the man's attorney.
Mark Lyman, local director of the group SNAP -- Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests -- was charged on Palm Sunday with criminal contempt after police said he was protesting closer than 100 feet to the church's entrances and exits, allegedly in violation of the court order.
But in a letter from Albany County District Attorney David Soares to City Court Judge Rachel Kretser, Soares said his office was dropping the charges because Lyman's truck was actually in the designated protesting area.
The letter was dated July 18 and made available by Lyman's attorney, John Aretakis, who received a copy. Rachel McEneny, a spokeswoman for Soares, confirmed it was legitimate.
The error that led to Lyman's arrest apparently stemmed from how the 100-foot boundary was measured, Soares wrote. According to the letter, it should have been measured from the center of the entrances and exits to the parking lot, not the farthest edges, which is what the Albany police officer did on the morning of April 9.
The letter also says a claim that Lyman violated the restraining order by passing through the prohibited area was invalid because that restriction applied only to Aretakis.
"I knew that I hadn't done anything wrong and I was hopeful that David Soares would, with a thorough investigation, get to bottom of this and find out what the truth was," Lyman said Monday.
The restraining order was issued in January after parishioners said they were confronted by protesters calling for the removal of the Western Avenue church's pastor, the Rev. Daniel J. Maher.
Lyman and the other protesters allege that Maher molested an altar boy in 1973. An investigation by the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese cleared the priest.
Lyman and others have been protesting outside the church every Sunday for about 15 months.
Lyman still has an active $5 million notice of claim against the city, its police department and the diocese over the arrest. Staff writer Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or by e-mail at jcarleo-evangelist@ timesunion.com.
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