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Jury finds ex-priest molested boy

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BOSTON — A defrocked Roman Catholic priest, accused of molesting some 130 young children over three decades, was found guilty here Friday of indecent assault and battery in his first criminal trial.

The former priest, John J. Geoghan, 66, was convicted of allegations that in late 1991 he slid his hand into a boy's swimsuit at a pool and squeezed the boy's buttocks.

The trial has received tremendous attention, not only because of the nature of the accusations against Geoghan, but also because his superiors apparently knew about the complaints and transferred him from place to place.

The Archdiocese of Boston has already settled about 50 lawsuits against Geoghan for a total of more than $10 million.

Two more criminal cases are pending against Geoghan as are 84 civil suits. Many of the suits accuse Cardinal Bernard F. Law and five bishops of knowing of Geoghan's problem but nonetheless putting him in positions where he had contact with children.

Last week, Law apologized to Geoghan's victims. But he said that although he had known that Geoghan had been treated for pedophilia in 1984, the cardinal's first year in office, he relied on psychiatric evaluations that said Geoghan was no longer a danger to children.

This week, The Boston Globe reported that one of the two doctors who evaluated Geoghan in the 1980s was a general practitioner with no background in psychotherapy or psychiatry and that the other doctor had no experience treating sex offenders.

In the trial that concluded Friday in Middlesex Superior Court, Geoghan's accuser, now a college student, testified that when he was 9 or 10, he was practicing diving at the Waltham Boys and Girls Club when Geoghan offered to help him. After 10 or 15 minutes of coaching, the young man said, he felt the priest's hand "going up the back of my leg."

He said he swam away quickly.

Associate Justice Sandra L. Hamlin has ordered the news media not to release the name of the man or his mother, who also testified.

Neither Geoghan nor any defense witnesses testified. Geoffrey Packard, Geoghan's court-appointed lawyer, argued that the young man and his mother, who took eight years to come forward and have also filed a civil suit, were motivated by money.

Packard said Geoghan had touched the boy to help hoist him out of the pool, and he said the young man's memory was faulty, pointing out that he was unable to remember the exact day, time or year of the incident.