Another Martha Coakley Priest Case — Father Paul Manning

[Note: Friends of Justice is a personal blog. I speak only for myself.]

Dear Friend of Justice,

I have received quite a number of emails these past few days from readers of this blog. Many more of you almost certainly share the concerns of those who have contacted me. So I will try to clarify a few points.

First of all, I will not be posting a 15.500 word document. What I will do, when it is ready, is upload it as a file. When I do so I will post a short summary. Those who wish can read all or part of the complete document. In any case, it will be available in the future as a reference document. Remember, if  Coakley wins on Tuesday she isn’t going to settle for just being a Senator.

I will post two or three more excerpts from Frank’s draft, all shorter than the Souza segment.

The other main question I find much harder to answer: What impact do I want to have on the election?

(Of course I realize that I am powerless to have much of an impact, one way or another.)

It’s hard to answer beause I don’t know what I’m going to do on Tuesday. I may not know until I get into the voting booth. (In any case, I won’t vote for Coakley.)

After she won the primary, I decided to post no more about Coakley until after the election. I considered her a shoo-in and had more important things to do than waste ammunition on her. But the saturation coverage of the race caused me to break that vow. And then the Shanley decision made me really, really angry. My anger is not just at Coakley. I am angry at  that whole gang of witch hunters who have done so much damage to justice — and to people I care deeply about.  I am angry at the Boston Globe (and to a lesser degree, the Boston Phoenix) for spreading so much harmful misinformation. And I am angry at the Massachusetts Democratic party for capitalizing on the nonsense. True, some (like former Attorney General James Shannon) have had the courage to speak out. But far too few.

Many have emailed me asking me to vote for Coakley to “save health care.” I care deeply about health care. For most of the many years my partner Jim and I were battling to free Bernard Baran (and others) we went without health insurance because we just couldn’t afford it. There were several times when we needed medical care and didn’t get it because we had no insurance. (Thankfully, most things get better on their own.) Now we are on Medicare.

I am not a tea-bagger. But I have serious reservations about the health-care bill now before Congress. This blog is not the appropriate forum to discuss them. But anyone is free to email me.

I went on much longer than I had planned. Here’s Frank Kane on the Manning case:

Rev. Paul Manning Case:

In 1994, Martha Coakley prosecuted the case of Rev. Paul Manning for allegedly molesting an 11 year-old altar boy, who, after leaving a police interrogation, in which he supposedly disclosed “something,” immediately retracted what he said he’d been coerced to say. Nonetheless, Coakley went forward with the trial, relying on the testimony of Fr. Manning’s pastor and, what, circumstantial evidence? Unlike other cases against Catholic priests, not one other person, adult or child, came forward to join in the prosecution. The trial ended in an acquittal, which Coakley decried, loudly and often, even on Dateline,a national television program, had been a disgrace.

In a March 12,1998 op-ed piece, titled, Would-be District Attorney finding bad case comes home to roost, regarding Coakley’s upcoming D.A. election bid, here’s what a well-respected journalist, Paul Sullivan, said in the Lowell Sun:

It’s always heart-warming to see someone who has achieved something giving credit to that special person who influenced him or her. Often, that special person is a man of God–a priest, a rabbi, or minister, who might bring a kid to the beach, offer financial asistance to a fatherless family in need of rent money, or simply take a kid to the movies. By the standards of most of us, these would be acts of charity. Martha Coakley, a candidate for Middlesex district attorney, sees it as “unusual” behavior, possible evidence that a person is a child molester. She is the assistant D.A.who prosecuted the Rev. Paul Manning in 1994 on a child molestation charge.

Manning, who formerly served in Lowell, is a popular fellow, said to have never refused a    kid in need. By some lights, he’s a real Father Flanagan. By Coakley’s standards, he’s a suspect. In fairness to Coakley, bringing people to justice is not a job for people looking to win a popularity contest. Sometimes, justice is not easy. But Coakley, who is well known for her role in trying to put Louise Woodward in jail for life, seems to have her work cut out for her–at leaast in Lowell–when it comes to explaining the Manning case. Even if she can convince someone that charging Manning with molestation was a good idea–though the supposed victim said it never happened–the general rule is that when someone is accused of this stuff, other victims come forward in droves. In Manning’s case, just the opposite happened. In Manning’s case, hundreds of young people he helped over the years came forward to say he was not capable of such behavior.

Coakley must explain why, after the jury found Manning innocent, she went on national television to again try to convince the public that Manning was guilty. It’s peculiar behavior from Coakley, who in the Woodward case says that Judge Hiller Zobel should not have second-guessed the jury. Coakley’s behavior might have some political ramifications. When she travels around Lowell in her quest for political support, as she did yesterday, she will run into people who were quite interested in the Manning case.

Like Lowell Mayor Eileen Donoghue, who was Manning’s lawyer and zealous defender. For her, it was more than just a client she was defending; it was a mission of justice. She was outraged that Manning had to defend himself not just in the court, but on TV, from Coakley’s broadsides. Or City Councilor Grady Mulligan, or City Manager Brian Martin–two city officials who were willing to put their reputations on the line and testify for Manning. That’s not something people are generally willing to do in child molestation   cases.

To put this issue in context, in the introduction of the post-trial TV piece The Sin of the Father, by NBC’s Stone Phillips and Jane Pauley, there were references to the anti-Catholic priest hysteria evident at the time. That was when the molestation trial of the Rev. James Porter of the Fall River area was still vey much in the public memory, along with many other high-profile cases. The public will have a chance to determine whether Coakley fed the hysteria and attempted to add a priest’s pelt to her prosecutorial belt.

In this rare case, the public will, like a jury, have a chance to weigh in on Coakley’s actions. At the voting booth.