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New Mexico priest's parole a mistake
Board failed to tell molested victims

Kathleen A. Shaw - Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Friday, August 13, 2004

WORCESTER, MA - The Rev. David A. Holley, a priest of the Diocese of Worcester serving a maximum 275-year jail term in New Mexico for molesting boys in that state, is still in prison although the state parole board agreed to release him in May.

Robert Martinez, executive director of the New Mexico Parole Board, said yesterday his department made a mistake when it agreed to parole Rev. Holley at a May 26 hearing without notifying his alleged victims. A new hearing is being set up and he will impanel a new parole board to hear the case, he said.

Tia Bland, spokeswoman for the New Mexico correction department, said Rev. Holley had not been released because they were waiting for a bed to become available in the inpatient sexual offender program.

Gov. Bill Richardson, who said he is "outraged at this breach of the public trust," said yesterday he expects Rev. Holley to "remain behind bars." The parole board will meet within 30 days and allow victims time to be informed and prepare to testify regarding parole for Rev. Holley, a convicted sex offender, the governor said.

Under New Mexico law, victims are notified of parole proceedings and can make statements to the parole board. Mr. Martinez said the earliest a new parole hearing can be scheduled is Sept. 12, but no date has been set.

Mr. Martinez said the May hearing was done improperly. He called it a "misstep" by his department and he apologized for it.

Plans were to release the 77-year-old priest with "stringent conditions" including six to 12 months of treatment at a state inpatient center for sexual offenders in northern New Mexico, he said. The state would pay the costs of treatment, he said.

Mr. Martinez said Rev. Holley first became eligible for parole in 1999 and last was denied parole in February 2003. He pleaded guilty in 1993 to molesting boys in that state and was sentenced to 55 to 275 years in prison.

Phil Saviano of Jamaica Plain, former New England coordinator for Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests and the organization's current Web master, said he will seek criminal prosecution of Rev. Holley in Massachusetts if he is released.

Mr. Saviano was paid about $12,000 by the Diocese of Worcester to settle his lawsuit against the diocese over allegations he was sexually abused by Rev. Holley when the priest was assigned to St. Denis Parish, East Douglas in 1964-65.

Mr. Saviano gave a statement to state police in the early 1990s and met with an investigator in the office of District Attorney John J. Conte, he said. Mr. Saviano decided not to go forward with criminal prosecution after Rev. Holley received the lengthy jail term in New Mexico, because he believed the priest was in no position to harm more children, he said.

Mr. Saviano and Rev. Holley exchanged correspondence after the priest was sent to prison. Mr. Saviano said he wrote to Rev. Holley with approval of his lawyer to see if he could draw him out on whether he had abused boys before he met Mr. Saviano.

The priest appeared to be onto Mr. Saviano's ruse. "Last week, I consulted a visiting lawyer who was here for another case and he gave me a very brief message after reading your letter. He stated that I should not answer any of your questions and definitely not contact your lawyer," Rev. Holley wrote in a 1996 letter to Mr. Saviano.

"The legal aide in the prison law library gave me the same advice. This must be disappointing to you but I must protect myself as you must surely understand," Rev. Holley answered.

Although Rev. Holley was never defrocked as a priest of the Diocese of Worcester, he told Mr. Saviano in another 1996 letter he had "no allegiances" to the diocese or its past bishops and as of that date had not heard from then-Bishop Daniel P. Reilly. He also called The Catholic Free Press, the diocesan newspaper, a "provincial and uninspiring paper" but said he had a subscription.

He talked about being "sadly disillusioned" with the legal system and said he "mistakenly took the poor advice from an incompetent and inexperienced public defender.

"He strongly urged me to plead guilty to blanket charges from accusers, many whom I have never met, to avoid the publicity of a jury trial," he said. Rev. Holley added he thought his accusers "were inspired by dreams of financial gain."

Rev. Holley told Mr. Saviano he was "appalled" by the saturation of media coverage involving the allegations against him. "I still suffer daily from the past publicity while my life is in constant danger from the mental patients who roam freely," he said of his life in prison.

Rev. Holley was ordained as a priest in Worcester in 1958. He served several parishes here until leaving the state in 1969. The Worcester Diocese sent him to the now defunct treatment center operated by the Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico, which is how he got to that state. He also served in Texas and Denver after leaving Worcester.

HOLLEY Complains About Terms of His Parole

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests