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Two Former Priests Moved By a Massachusetts Prison
New York Times ^ | August 27, 2003 | By FOX BUTTERFIELD with MARC SANTORA

Posted on 08/26/2003 11:08:06 PM PDT by Bayou City

August 27, 2003

Two Former Priests Moved By a Massachusetts Prison


BOSTON, Aug. 26 — Two former priests convicted of sexual abuse of children have been moved to the hospital wing of their prison after the killing of another jailed priest last weekend, prison officials said today.

The officials described the transfers as new details emerged about an inmate's account that he had tried to warn guards of an impending threat.

The two former priests, Kelvin Iguabita and Ronald J. Paquin, were in the state prison at Concord and were transferred at their request because of safety fears, the officials said. Mr. Iguabita is serving a 12-to-14-year sentence, and Mr. Paquin is serving 12 to 15 years.

A spokeswoman for the Correction Department, Kelly Nantel, said she could not confirm or deny the transfers to the hospital, generally considered the safest part of the prison.

The moves were precipitated by the killing in a protective custody unit of John J. Geoghan, 68, who was convicted last year of groping a 10-year-old boy, one of almost 150 people who have accused Mr. Geoghan of molesting them in his years as a parish priest in suburbs of Boston. Mr. Geoghan was killed on Saturday, officials say, by another inmate in the protective custody unit of his prison, Joseph L. Druce, 38. Mr. Druce is serving a life sentence without parole for strangling a trucker who he believed was gay.

Today the state police interviewed another inmate in the unit, at the Souza-Baranowski prison in Shirley, 40 miles northwest of Boston. The prisoner, Robert Assad, said he warned guards two times this summer about a possible attack that Mr. Druce said he planned involving Mr. Geoghan, Mr. Assad's lawyer, Jim Pingeon, said. Mr. Pingeon is director of litigation for Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, a prisoners' rights group.

In addition, Mr. Assad said that a few days before the killing Mr. Geoghan told him that another inmate had told him that Mr. Druce "was after him," Mr. Pingeon said today in a telephone interview.

"At the time, Geoghan said he was afraid of Druce," Mr. Pingeon said, and Mr. Assad had told him. As a result, Mr. Geoghan told the guards' police force of his concerns, but nothing was done, Mr. Pingeon said.

Edward A. Flynn, secretary of the Public Safety Department, which oversees the prisons, said on Monday at a news conference that Mr. Geoghan had "at no time" identified Mr. Druce as a threat. The department is one of the agencies investigating the killing.

Mr. Pingeon said Mr. Assad's warning the guards "suggests to us that this was a murder that might well have been prevented."

"It is further evidence of what we have always believed," he added, "that there is a culture of indifference toward the safety of prisoners in protective custody."

A spokesman for the Public Safety Department, David Shaw, said he could not comment on Mr. Assad's reported warnings or whether Mr. Geoghan was fearful and had tried to tell guards of his concerns.

"We will get to the bottom of this," Mr. Shaw said. "We will interview any and all individuals who may have relevant information."

But, he added, "Because we don't want to compromise the integrity of the investigation, it is not helpful to hear these reports secondhand."

The prison guards' union earlier denounced notions that guards were alerted to possible trouble between Mr. Geoghan and Mr. Druce.

"In my opinion," a union representative, Robert W. Brouilette, said, "if an inmate had told a guard anything like that was suggested, action would have been taken."

The problem, Mr. Brouilette said, was a lack of money to provide adequate security.

With the investigations picking up steam, prison officials say, they are concerned that the killing could touch off a series of trumped-up accounts by inmates of what they saw to embarrass the Correction Department or obtain special favors.

Experts raised questions about placing Mr. Geoghan, a convicted pedophile, in the unit with Mr. Druce, who said he hated homosexuals and professed neo-Nazi sympathies. Protective custody is reserved for inmates who may feel in danger and is not intended for predatory inmates who are a threat to others, said James Austin, a professor of sociology and the director of the Institute on Crime, Justice and Corrections at George Washington University.

Professor Austin, an expert on classifying inmates, said the two should not have been in the same protective custody unit. But he added that assigning inmates to avoid confrontations has become the "No. 1 topic of conversation" among prison administrators as a result of mistakes that led to serious injuries and killings. Some of those cases have resulted in suits that required states to pay millions of dollars in settlements.

"Prisons make mistakes in assigning inmates," Professor Austin said. "It is not frequent, but it is not uncommon, like car crashes."

After serious incidents, several states, have installed computer systems to ensure that inmates who are natural enemies are not assigned to the same unit, he said.

It is unclear how Mr. Druce was assigned to the protective unit. An official said he had showed a reasonable fear of enemies, apparently based on his neo-Nazi beliefs. Mr. Pingeon said Mr. Assad, who is of Lebanese ancestry, said Mr. Druce approached him in June, proposing to stage a hate crime so he could obtain a transfer to a federal prison, which he preferred. Mr. Druce said he would jam open Mr. Assad's cell door and rough him up until the guards arrived.

Mr. Pingeon said Mr. Assad had told him that when Mr. Assad declined, Mr. Druce said, " `Well, if you're not going to do it, the only other guy is Geoghan.' "

Mr. Assad approached two members of the prison police force to alert them, Mr. Pingeon said. He added that Mr. Assad had told him that the officials called the account of the threat not credible.

Under state law, Mr. Geoghan's conviction could be vacated, because he died in prison while his case was on appeal. The law was used in the case of John C. Salvi III, convicted of killing two receptionists in 1994 at an abortion clinic in Brookline. Mr. Salvi committed suicide while in prison before his appeal ended.

Mitchell Garabedian, who is negotiating a settlement for 26 victims of Mr. Geoghan, said vacating the conviction would not affect those suits.

"I don't think it is going to adversely affect my ability to prove that the supervisors of John J. Geoghan were negligent," Mr. Garabedian said. "I have an enormous amount of evidence collected since 1994."

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; Front Page News; News/Current Events; US: Massachusetts
KEYWORDS: druce; geoghan; preists; prison
Under state law, Mr. Geoghan's conviction could be vacated, because he died in prison while his case was on appeal.


1 posted on 08/26/2003 11:08:06 PM PDT by Bayou City
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To: Bayou City
Experts raised questions about placing Mr. Geoghan, a convicted pedophile, in the unit with Mr. Druce, who said he hated homosexuals and professed neo-Nazi sympathies.

Experts did not raise questions about placing Mr. Geoghan, a homosexual, in a position of authority in the church that gave him access to young boys. "It would be a hate crime to suggest that homosexual priests pose any threat at all to young boys," stated the experts.

2 posted on 08/26/2003 11:22:17 PM PDT by ModelBreaker
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