08 January 2019
Montreal priest Brian Boucher has been found guilty on three charges of sexual assault and sexual touching.
The victim, now in his 20s, was a minor at the time.
He said he suffered years of abuse, claiming it began when Boucher asked him about his sexual feelings.
The victim said it escalated to sexual touching, oral sex and penetration.
Tuesday, the judge said the defendant was asking the court to believe the unbelievable when it came to the defence’s argument that the victim had fabricated the abuse as retaliation for a prior incident where he was reprimanded by Boucher.
Boucher was arrested in March 2017.
He had started working as the parish priest at a church in Montreal’s Town of Mount Royal (TMR) in 2005.
He was heavily involved in all activities at the Our Lady of the Annunciation Church, including helping children with their first communions and confirmations.
In 2014, Boucher abruptly left the church, without finishing his mandate, to head to Washington for theological studies.
A publication ban prohibited any details of the case(s) that could identify any of the boys.
Boucher is expected back in court Jan. 21 for a separate trial.
Sentencing is scheduled for March 25.
Montreal priest convicted of sex crimes pleads guilty to additional charges
Brian Boucher avoids second trial involving another victim, now faces canonical inquiry, possible defrocking
Brian Boucher, a Roman Catholic priest who has worked at 10 churches in Montreal over the last two decades, has pleaded guilty to one count of sexual interference and one count of invitation to sexual touching. It’s the second conviction in two weeks for Boucher on sex-related charges.On Jan. 8, a judge found Boucher guilty of sexually harassing and assaulting a former altar boy more than a decade ago, while he was parish priest at a church in the Town of Mount Royal.In a brief appearance at the Montreal courthouse Monday morning, Boucher admitted he sexually abused a second altar boy, this time while he was a junior priest at a parish in Montreal’s LaSalle borough in the 1990s.His trial before judge alone was set to get underway this morning. Two other charges against Boucher were stayed.
Victim testified in previous trial
The victim in the second case had already testified as a witness in the previous trial. He was called by the prosecution as a “similar-fact witness,” to try to establish a pattern of behaviour by Boucher.Crown prosecutor Annabelle Sheppard said that for the purposes of Monday’s guilty plea, the Crown and defence agreed to accept the witness’s testimony from the first trial as fact.”In the course of the first trial, Brian Boucher denied those facts. Today, he finally admitted them by pleading guilty,” Sheppard said.”The victim was very happy, very relieved because he would have had to testify again in this case,” said Sheppard.”It was a huge relief for him.”
Motels, pornography, confession
In the first trial, the victim — now in his 30s — said he came to know Boucher when he was an altar boy at St. John Brébeuf Parish in LaSalle.He testified Boucher began abusing him when he was 11.He said for a period of two years, Boucher would drive him to motels, watch pornography with him, touch his genitals and force him to give and receive oral sex.He testified this happened almost weekly over a period of two years, until he was 13.He said after these incidents, Boucher would often say to him, “We shouldn’t have done that. We have to go confess.”The man testified he still feels the effects of the abuse.”It’s the little things that still affect me today. Even if someone I care for puts their hand on my leg, it still affects me,” he said.He choked up when he told the court about finally telling his mother what had happened.”At my age, I told my mom. Seeing her break down … it was devastating,” he said.
‘Your pain is our pain’: Archbishop
The Montreal archdiocese issued a statement Monday responding to Boucher’s guilty plea.”With this plea, the victims are able to continue the difficult process of healing according to their own needs and out of the glare of the public,” the statement read.”It’s a scandal that is a source of tremendous sadness. It stands in complete opposition to Jesus Christ and his Church,” said Archbishop Christian Lépine in the statement.”We are of one heart with the victims, their families, their parish communities in their pain and suffering,” Lépine said. “Your pain is our pain.” “We will never accept that such crimes be committed and remain concealed.”The statement also said any other victims who come forward about alleged abuse would be “received openly and listened to carefully.”
Boucher — still a priest — could now be defrocked
In its statement, the archdiocese explained that one of Boucher’s victims first approached the diocese in December 2015 and said the diocese co-operated with every step of the subsequent police investigation.It said the archdiocese immediately removed Boucher from all ministry functions, including saying mass in public or hearing confessions, and initiated a disciplinary proceeding called a “canonical inquiry.”The archdiocese said the inquiry was suspended pending the outcome of the criminal trials.It said the process will now resume.It explained that several sanctions can be imposed on a cleric deemed guilty, including “dismissal from the clerical state (laicization).”Sentencing arguments for Boucher for the case in which he pleaded guilty Monday and for his previous guilty verdict are set for March 25.
For nearly an hour, Father Brian Boucher sat in the front row of a Montreal courtroom on Tuesday, wringing his hands and quietly tapping his feet as he waited for a judge to finish reading out her decision.
In the end, Quebec Court Judge Patricia Compagnone was unequivocal: Boucher’s version of events lacked credibility and truthfulness while the victim’s story was believable, honest and convincing.
“The court believes (the victim’s) testimony and finds it reliable,” Compagnone said. “Consequently, the court is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of all the sexual assaults.”
As a result, Boucher, 56, was found guilty of the three counts he faced: sexual assault, sexual interference and sexual touching.
He will remain free until his sentencing hearing in late March, at which point Crown prosecutor Annabelle Sheppard said she plans on arguing for a “substantial” prison sentence.
During a judge-alone trial in November, the victim, whose identity is covered by a publication ban, said Boucher began abusing him at the age of 12 while serving as parish priest at Our Lady of the Annunciation Church in Town of Mount Royal.
He said the abuse continued for three years, between 2008 and 2011, and took place in Boucher’s bedroom in the church rectory. It was frequent, included oral sex and escalated to anal penetration on three occasions, he said.
Boucher, who was relieved of church duties in 2015, repeatedly denied all allegations during his trial.
He claimed the victim, an altar boy who later volunteered and worked for the parish, had fabricated his claims out of revenge since Boucher had once informed the boy’s parents he had engaged in “immoral acts” with his girlfriend in the church.
On Tuesday, Compagnone ruled Boucher was “not telling the whole truth” and that his testimony amounted to “telling a story for the purpose of rebutting (the victim’s) testimony.”
The judge said she was “baffled” by the defence’s argument that the victim didn’t give enough specific details about the assaults and that there were too many people around the church for them to have happened.
“Does the court really need to reiterate that sexual assaults are almost always committed in secrecy behind closed doors?” she asked.
Boucher has worked in churches in Montreal, LaSalle, Dorval, Town of Mount Royal and Senneville. He also served as chaplain at McGill University.
He is scheduled for a separate trial this month in which two men allege similar abuse.
Testimony from one of the men, now in his 30s, was deemed admissible in the November trial as “similar fact” evidence, supporting the prosecution’s case and challenging the defence’s argument that the victim had fabricated his complaint.
That man said he was abused between 1995 and 1999, when Boucher was a priest at St-John-Brébeuf Church in LaSalle.
He said family members had asked Boucher to take him under his wing while his father was in prison, and the priest became a mentor. He said Boucher would touch him in his car and drive him to motels, where the abuse escalated.
Boucher denied the allegations.
In her judgment, Compagnone said suggesting the two men had somehow concocted such similar stories, so many years apart and without ever meeting, was asking her to “believe the unbelievable” and was “highly improbable.”
Following the decision, Sheppard said the Crown was satisfied with how the judge “clearly denounced the reprehensible behaviour committed” by Boucher and called it a victory for the victim.
“It can never undo the years of abuse; even a positive decision will not change having been sexually abused for years,” Sheppard said, adding that it wasn’t easy for the victim to come forward.
“But when the purpose is to hold somebody accountable and to ensure that they can no longer do it to someone else, I think it’s a relief and something that will help him in the healing process.”
Defence lawyer James Cocciardi said he will review the decision.
The Montreal archdiocese, which Sheppard noted fully collaborated with the investigation, issued a statement following the ruling.
“For many different reasons, the verdict arouses a gamut of feelings among both parishioners in the pew and Church leadership, including bishops and priests: feelings of shame, revulsion and anger as well as confusion, sadness and compassion,” it said.
“The Archdiocese acknowledges the courage of those who met with diocesan authorities to report what they had experienced, which led to the court proceedings underway,” it added.