CBSN

Mistrial On N.H. Sex Abuse Allegation

Priest abuse scandal. Roman Catholic church. Sex abuse.
AP
The first criminal trial from New Hampshire's church abuse scandal has ended in a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a verdict because of uncertainty over the accuser's age.

Another trial will likely be held, said Peter Callaghan, lawyer for the Rev. George Robichaud, who faced rape and attempted rape charges. He declined further comment because of that possibility.

After the jury deadlocked Wednesday, one juror said the panel was divided on the accuser's age. The indictment charged Robichaud with raping and attempting to rape the accuser when he was between the ages of 13 and 15, a minor.

During the accuser's testimony, Callaghan pointed to pretrial questioning when the alleged victim at various times said he might have been 14, 15 or even 16 - the age of consent - but that he was almost certain he was 15.

The accuser, a former altar boy who is now a 33-year-old state trooper, testified the priest fondled him and had sex with him at Robichaud's lake cottage in the spring of 1985.

Robichaud, 59, did not testify. He has admitted inappropriate sexual contact with the accuser but denied the charges of rape and attempted rape.

The prosecution emphasized a conversation secretly recorded by police last year when Robichaud apologized to the trooper and said he "crossed the line" when he "played affectionately" with him.

Juror Tom Croft said 10 jurors wanted to convict Robichaud. The others, a man and a woman, thought Robichaud committed the acts, but would not convict him because they had doubts that the accuser was under 16 at the time.

"We had a tough time trying to get a guilty verdict," Croft said.

Jurors got the case Monday and deliberated 13½ hours over three days. Prosecutor Lauren Noether had no immediate comment on a retrial.

The Diocese of Manchester placed Robichaud on leave a year ago from his job as pastor at St. Cecelia's Church in Wolfeboro and St. Joan of Arc in Alton.

Robichaud was pastor of St. Anthony's and St. Stephen's churches in Swanzey at the time he befriended the boy.

Separately, Robichaud faces a rape charge involving a different altar boy. That plaintiff also has filed a civil suit against Robichaud.

By Mike Recht