Morning Read: North Country priest on trial

A jury is now reviewing the evidence against Gary Mercure, the former Glens Falls-area priest accused of using his position and authority to target young children.

He served at the Our Lady of Annunciation church in Queensbury, but has since been dismissed by the Diocese of Albany.

One of the many painful wrinkles of this case is that the trial is being heard in Massachusetts (where a small portion of Mercure’s crimes allegedly occurred) because New York’s statute of limitations on child rape has already expired.

This from the Berkshire Eagle newspaper, via the Glens Falls Post Star.

The alleged victims are now in their 30s. As youngsters, however, they served as altar boys at Mercure’s church in Queensbury, N.Y., where, they say, the assaults began.

Defense attorney Michael O. Jennings has suggested the altar boys were prodded by a support group for victims of clergy abuse to go public, particularly since they couldn’t get justice in New York.

New York authorities determined the statute of limitations for criminally prosecuting Mercure had elapsed, and civil action against the priest also was no longer an option.

The Roman Catholic church in New York has campaigned aggressively against changes to state law that would extend the statute of limitations on this kind of crime.

But last week, jurors heard testimony from the parents of victims, and from other altar boys at the Queensbury church who accused Mercure of waging a campaign of sexual terror against children in the parish.

This from the Albany Times-Union.

One of them, a 38-year-old Queensbury man, said he remembered the first time Mercure allegedly molested him — Dec. 10, 1984.

”It was the day my grandmother died and my parents had him come and baby-sit us while they went to make arrangements,” the man said.

When asked by Assistant District Attorney Marianne Shelvey how many times over the years he was allegedly abused by Mercure, the witness said hundreds if not thousands of times at his home, in the rectory, in the church where the altar boys dress and in Mercure’s car.

After testifying, the man sat alone on a bench outside of the courtroom crying.

Mercure’s defense team has called the charges fabrications and the jury is still deliberating.
But I wonder if this case won’t reopen the larger question of whether we should find a way to try these cases, and find justice,  here in New York.

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1 Comment on “Morning Read: North Country priest on trial”

  1. Mervel says:

    I agree the statute of limitations needs to be extended for all sexual abuse crimes in our state. Many victims cannot come forward at the time as they are children and their family with good reason won’t let them be subjected to recounting the horror on the stand and under cross examination; and only after many years can find the courage to talk about the abuse.

    These are hard crimes to get convictions on due to memory issues and so forth 20 30 years later, but I think it is worth it.

    Of course this would apply far far beyond the Catholic Church, teachers, families, school districts etc, would all have to deal with cases that are decades old.

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