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A grand jury’s indictment of Bishop Thomas L. Dupre on child rape charges can’t be used as ammunition in a lawsuit filed against the former leader of the Springfield diocese by the two men he allegedly molested in the 1970s. And legal experts said Tuesday that the charges may not be enough for out-of-state and federal authorities to prosecute Dupre — more bad news for the local district attorney who is barred from pursuing the case in Massachusetts because of the statute of limitations. The grand jury indictment of Dupre was unsealed Monday, making him the first Roman Catholic prelate to face criminal charges in the sex abuse scandal still plaguing the U.S. church. But just a few hours later, Hampden District Attorney William M. Bennett announced he can’t prosecute the 70-year-old bishop because the statute of limitations has run out. A lawyer for the two men who say they were raped by Dupre said Tuesday that because the indictment did not result in a guilty plea or conviction, the findings of the grand jury investigation can’t be used to bolster the lawsuit they filed against Dupre in March. “There’s only been one side presented to the grand jury so the courts feel that isn’t enough,” said Boston attorney Jeffrey A. Newman. “There’s been no finding in a criminal case — it’s just a grand jury proceeding.” Still, Newman said, the investigation may be of some use to his clients. Some information, such as witness lists compiled by the DA’s office for the probe, can be used in the civil case. But under grand jury secrecy rules, he cannot obtain a transcript of their testimony. Bennett said he will hand over information from the grand jury investigation to federal authorities and prosecutors in Canada, New York and New Hampshire, where the alleged victims say some of the abuse took place. Canada does not have a statute of limitations, Bennett said. And at the time of the alleged crimes, New York had a five-year statute and New Hampshire’s was six years. But Bennett argues those laws don’t apply to Dupre because he lived in Massachusetts. “All the time you’re out of state doesn’t count toward the statute,” he said. But Eugene O’Donnell, a professor at the John Jay School of Criminal Justice and a former prosecutor in Queens, New York, said it won’t be easy to prosecute Dupre in those states, even if the statute of limitations can be set aside. “In the best of circumstances, this is going to be a very difficult case,” he said. “You have people alleging a crime from many years ago. The chance of getting any evidence out of New York or New Hampshire is very low. There’s already a civil suit that’s been filed, so the DAs might take the posture that civil justice is the only justice at this point.” If nothing else, the indictment will provide a road map for out-of-state prosecutors to follow, some say. “They provide them with a good basis of information,” said Peter Hutchins, who has represented more than 100 alleged victims of abusive priests in New Hampshire. “It will obviously be very helpful. But they still might have to go out and do more investigation to nail down the New Hampshire aspect of things.” Charles Temple, director of the Pierce Law Criminal Practice Clinic in Concord, N.H., said if an out-of-state prosecutor takes up the case, it will hinge almost entirely on how persuasive the alleged victims can be. “The battle that’s going to be fought is in piecing together a case that’s at least 25 years old,” Temple said. “That’s never an easy thing to do, and it’s going to hinge on credibility and testimony of victims in light of the passage of so much time.” Newman is not concerned with how prosecutors handle the criminal case in other jurisdictions. He says his clients’ case is strong enough without any evidence gathered by the grand jury investigation. “We’ll be able to prove our case with the information we already have,” he said, “so anything else we obtain would already make an already strong case stronger.” Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed.

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