Priest Pleads Guilty To Sexually Assaulting 17 Victims

June 8, 2011

By: The Windsor Star

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WINDSOR, Ont. -- A man who was molested by Rev. William Hodgson Marshall at a Catholic high school in Sudbury in 1969 had to be ushered from a Windsor courtroom Wednesday by police officers after trying to punch the aged priest.

Ted Holland was in the midst of delivering his victim impact statement Wednesday afternoon when he got up out of the witness box and walked across the courtroom to where Marshall was sitting. “Take off your glasses,” Holland said, standing across the defence table from Marshall. “I want to hit you.”

Assistant Crown attorney Walter Costa intervened and the judge called for courtroom security. Holland was led out of the courtroom and did not finish his statement.

Marshall, who sat expressionless during the confrontation, pleaded guilty Wednesday to sexually abusing 16 boys and one woman in assaults dating back to 1952. The assaults took place while Marshall was a teacher at various Catholic high schools in Windsor, Sudbury and Toronto. Most of the victims were students, but some were the children of families Marshall befriended. Marshall taught at Assumption high school and was later principal there and at Holy Names.

Emotions were running high in the courtroom, acknowledged Ontario court Justice Lloyd Dean. The hearing, while before an Ontario court judge, had to be held in Superior Court where there was a courtroom large enough to hold all the victims, their supporters and others who came to watch the proceedings.

Marshall is facing a two-year prison term to be followed by three years’ probation. Dean is considering that sentence, suggested jointly by the Crown and the defence. Dean reserved his decision and will pass sentence this morning.

Defence lawyer Andrew Bradie, who has represented several Catholic priests convicted of sexual abuse, told the court a doctor who specializes in estimating life expectancy, usually for the insurance industry, has predicted Marshall will likely live only two more years. Marshall is 88 and has skin cancer among other “health concerns” Bradie did not detail in court.

Bradie said Marshall was himself sexually abused as a child by a teacher.

Marshall walked in and out of the courtroom using a cane. When he addressed the court, he leaned on the lectern.

Marshall turned and faced his victims and said he prays for them. “May Jesus Christ our brother forever walk by your side and help you carry this cross that I so callously placed on your shoulders.”

Nearly all the victims told of lives lived with psychological issues, addictions, failed marriages and strained relationships with friends and family. Many have attempted suicide. Some have criminal records. Many have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder triggered by the abuse at Marshall’s hands.

Marshall, in addition to being a teacher and later a principal, was a basketball and football coach. The abuse often began under the pretence of inspecting boys’ bodies for muscles. Many of the men reported being small for their age when the abuse began and said they were easily physically overpowered by Marshall when he’d hug them from behind and force his hand down the front of their pants.

Marshall would call them out of class to be abused in his office or empty classrooms.

Some victims said other priests and teachers walked in on the abuse, but never reported it.

Some of the abuse happened under the noses of adults, but was never detected. One couple befriended Marshall and had him spent the night at the family home and cottage. Marshall would sneak into their son’s bed at night while the boy’s parents slept in the next room.

Marshall was ushered in and out of the courthouse Tuesday through a back door, away from media cameras and from his victims and their supporters gathered on the courthouse steps. Peter Heslin, who says his friend was abused by Marshall at St. Michael’s College in Toronto but never went to police, carried a placard protesting the Catholic Church’s handling of pedophile priests.

Rev. Timothy Scott, general councillor of the Basilian Fathers, attended the hearing. He handed out a prepared statement to reporters.

“The Basilian Fathers wish to express our deep shame that one of our members has acted in this way. These criminal acts against children are a violation of our religious vows and are grievously sinful,” the statement said.

Scott called the hearing “gut-wrenching.” The father of one victim pointed out Scott in the courtroom because Scott was wearing a collar, and said he and his once devoutly Catholic family will never trust another priest again.

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