Diocese wants new judge for upcoming sexual abuse case, doubts it can get fair trial

.- The Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, wants Judge Ben Joseph removed as the presiding judge in an upcoming sex-abuse case. Diocesan officials say Joseph’s rulings in a recent case jeopardize the diocese’s chances of getting a fair trial, reported the Burlington Free Press on May 5.

In a sealed motion filed Thursday in Chittenden Superior Court, diocesan attorney David Cleary said Joseph's decision to lift a gag order regarding church documents after the April 19 settlement had resulted in extensive media coverage.

"It is now absolutely impossible for the diocese to receive a fair trial in these matters because of the pre-trial publicity surrounding these events," reads the court motion, which was approved by Bishop Salvatore Matano.

Joseph wrote in a brief ruling later that day that the diocese's request to keep the motion secret was groundless. He declined comment on the request.

Joseph issued a series of pre-trial rulings that expanded the scope of testimony by allowing evidence of abuses by other priests to be considered, Cleary added.

The recent case involved claims that the diocese knew Fr. Ed Paquette had molested boys when it assigned him to Christ the King Church in Burlington in 1976. The lawsuit was brought by Michael Gay, a former altar boy. The case was settled for $965,000.

The next trial, tentatively scheduled to begin July 1, involves claims that Fr. George Paulin molested an altar boy in the mid-1970s during his term at St. Mary of the Sea Church in Newport.

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