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N.H. Says It Can't Prosecute Mass. Bishop

Wed,. November 10, 2004

By ADAM GORLICK, Associated Press Writer

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - New Hampshire authorities said Wednesday they cannot prosecute former Springfield Bishop Thomas Dupre on charges he abused two teens in the 1970s because it wasn't a crime at the time to have sex with youths their age.

Will Delker, New Hampshire's senior assistant attorney general, said the state did not prohibit adults from having sex with 16- and 17-year-olds until 1986.

Dupre, 70, the first Roman Catholic bishop to face sexual abuse charges, was accused of having oral sex with two Massachusetts boys during a trip to New Hampshire when they were 16 or 17.

Saying the statute of limitations had expired, officials in Massachusetts have also declined to prosecute Dupre over allegations he abused the same boys in that state in the 1970s.

Hampden County, Mass., District Attorney William Bennett had said in September he would turn over the results of a grand jury investigation to federal officials and authorities in New Hampshire, New York and Canada. The two men who alleged they were abused in Massachusetts and New Hampshire also say they were abused in the other two locations.

New York and federal authorities said they are still reviewing the case, but expressed concern they may be hamstrung by statutes of limitations similar to those that prevented Bennett from prosecuting.

Bennett, who did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment, has said that Canada does not have a statute of limitations. Canadian authorities said they are still reviewing the matter.

Dupre also faces lawsuits filed against him by the accusers.

Michael Jennings, Dupre's lawyer, said he was relieved "that those who would seek to prosecute the bishop are learning that either no crimes were committed or that so much time has passed that the law says it's unfair to now make someone defend themselves."

Dupre resigned in February after nine years as head of the Springfield Diocese. He cited health concerns, but his departure came one day after The Republican newspaper of Springfield confronted him with allegations he abused the boys while he was a parish priest during the 1970s.

After he stepped down, Dupre went to the St. Luke Institute, a private psychiatric hospital in Maryland where the Boston Archdiocese sent many of its priests for mental health treatment after sexual abuse allegations were levied against them.

Dupre's current whereabouts were not immediately known, and Jennings would not say where the bishop is.

The Springfield Diocese, which includes more than 260,000 Roman Catholics in western Massachusetts, has reached a $7 million settlement with 46 people who say they were abused by priests.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests