CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The fate of defrocked priest Paul Shanley (search), who is charged with raping a boy at his church outside Boston in the 1980s, now rests with a jury.
The panel got the case Thursday after lawyers clashed over the validity of the repressed memories Shanley's accuser said came to him three years ago, when the Boston church abuse scandal broke. The jury was set to resume deliberations Friday on child rape and indecent assault charges.
Shanley's lawyer said the alleged victim's 20-year-old memories of being raped by Shanley were planted by a friend, who also had accused Shanley of abuse, and then were exploited by attorneys who filed a lawsuit.
"The core facts in this case are just not true," attorney Frank Mondano said.
The man, now a 27-year-old firefighter in a Boston suburb, testified that Shanley began raping him while he was in the second grade, taking him out of religious education classes for discipline and raping him in the confessional.
Mondano said the man contacted personal injury lawyers soon after he recovered his memories in February 2002. The attorneys filed a suit on his behalf three months later. The man received $500,000 in a settlement with the Boston Archdiocese (search) in May 2004.
But prosecutor Lynn Rooney said the man received his civil settlement almost a year ago and had no reason to lie. "Is this all a lie — for what?" Rooney said.
She said the emotion the man displayed when he testified about the abuse showed he wasn't fabricating his claims. The man spent more than 10 hours on the witness stand and broke down and sobbed several times as he described the alleged abuse.
"The emotions were raw. They were real. They were reflective of the pain he experienced," she said.
Shanley's defense rested after putting just one witness on the stand. Dr. Elizabeth Loftus (search), a psychologist from the University of California at Irvine, testified that her research shows people can wind up convinced that implanted ideas or suggestions are real.
"Many people who have false memories have a lot of confidence and have a lot of detail about their memories," Loftus said. "False memories can be held with a lot of emotion."
The trial is one of a handful of criminal cases that prosecutors have been able to bring against priests accused of molesting young parishioners decades ago.
Most of the priests accused in lawsuits avoided criminal prosecution because the alleged crimes were committed long ago, so charges were barred by the statute of limitations. But Shanley moved away from Massachusetts, stopping the clock and allowing authorities to arrest him in California in May 2002.
Archdiocese personnel records showed that church officials knew Shanley advocated sex between men and boys, yet continued to transfer him from parish to parish. He was defrocked by the Vatican last year.
He faces life in prison if convicted.