The Albany Times-Union reports that an alleged victim of Gary Mercure, a former Roman Catholic priest charged with raping two young altar boys, told a jury Thursday that Mercure would take him into the rectory and have him close his eyes and pray as the priest fondled and abused him.
Mercure, 62, is on trial in Berkshire County Court on three counts of rape of a child with force and one count of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14.
The first of the alleged victims to take the stand was a 35-year-old man from North Creek (NY) who was an altar boy at Our Lady of the Annunciation Church in Glens Falls when Mercure was stationed there. The man said Mercure started abusing him when he was 7 or 8 years old.
All through the testimony of both alleged victims, Mercure sat calmly and looked straight at them nodding his head ‘yes’ or shaking his head ‘no’ at questions by First Assistant District Attorney Paul Caccaviello and responses by the witnesses.
During his opening statements, Caccaviello said one of the victims for years poked holes in his bedroom wall and hid the underwear he wore during the abuse incidents.
”Years later the parents are doing remodeling and find all of their son’s underwear stuffed into a wall,” Caccaviello said.
Jurors looked disturbed by some of the testimony and some leaned forward to get a better look at Mercure’s reactions to the witnesses statements.
The second or the victims, now 34 and living in Glens Falls, said he also met Mercure and became an altar boy at the same church when he was 7 or 8 years old.
When he was 9, Mercure took him to a lake to swim and then allegedly attacked him when they got back to the car, he said.
”I was raped,” the man said. ”He physically had sex with me and hurt me. He said if my parents asked what happened to say I got hurt on the rocks.”
One of the alleged victims said Mercure would touch him while they dressed before Mass.
”He grabbed my penis,” the man said. ”I did not know what to say. I was confused and scared.”
Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan investigated claims of the two alleged victims and others against Mercure in 2008 but charges could not be brought because the statute of limitations in New York had elapsed. But during her investigation, Hogan learned of separate trips the men made with Mercure to Berkshire County, one victim in 1986 and the other in 1989. Massachusetts law allows charges to be brought against Mercure for those incidents.
One alleged victim said Mercure took him to a trail head in Berkshire County and allegedly raped him in the back seat of the car. The other recalled a ski outing to Brodie Mountain with Mercure when he was also allegedly raped in the back seat.
Mercure’s attorney, Michael Jennings of Springfield, urged the jury in his opening arguments to ignore the testimony they will hear regarding incidents in New York.
”Through this all Mr. Mercure has been dragged into the public square and branded a rapist,” Jennings said. ”You are going to hear evidence that will disturb you, make you angry. You have to push that off to the side and keep an open mind.”
Mercure, who also served in two Troy parishes and at a church in Albany, was permanently suspended from ministry in August 2008, which means he cannot dress as a priest or celebrate Mass. Mercure was not officially defrocked (permanently removed from the priesthood). Only the Vatican can make that decision, officials said.