Monday June 11, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- A former New York priest convicted of raping two altar boys in the Berkshires in the 1980s is being sued by one of his victims.

The victim, whose name is not being revealed, is suing former Pastor Gary W. Mercure and the Albany Roman Catholic diocese, according to a report in the Albany Times Union.

Mercure, 68, who served in Glens Falls and Queensbury, N.Y., was convicted in a Pittsfield court in 2011 on three counts of forcible rape and one count of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14. He was sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison.

Mercure has been accused of similar crimes in New York and Vermont, but those cases could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had run out in those states.

The lawsuit is being filed against Mercure and the diocese in U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vt. Vermont's statute of limitations allows child abuse victims to sue for damages within six years after they discover emotional or physical problems connected to the acts of abuse.

A spokesman for the diocese could not be reached Sunday night. A statement released to the Times Union said, in part, that the diocese plans to "vigorously contest" the suit.

The victim is seeking the release of diocesan records in connection with that organization's handling of the abuse allegations. Attorneys for the victim are seeking records for the past 40 years in connection with any other potential sexual assault cases in addition to the victim's.

During last year's trial, the victim, now 36, testified that he was assaulted by Mercure a number of times over the course of several years. He also testified that Mercure told him the assaults were the young boy's fault, and that his parents would divorce if the boy told them.

At Mercure's sentencing, Judge John A. Agostini told the priest that his actions in the Berkshires were "evil" and had violated the trust of his victims and their families, all of whom believed Mercure had the best interests of the victims in mind.

Agostini told Mercure that he violated his calling by taking advantage of his position to satisfy his needs.

Mercure is presently appealing his conviction.