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Franklin Huntress given 12 month suspended sentence after admitting to two counts of assault

A former priest of the Diocese of Massachusetts has been given a twelve month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of assault.

Franklin E. Huntress, Jr., was arrested in July 2011 by police in Massachusetts and extradited to New Hampshire following a grand jury indictment for having twice sexually assaulted a child under the age of 13 in January 1984 and April 1985. The incidents occurred while Huntress served as rector of St Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Schuylerville, NY, and took place during a church event in New Hampshire.

In April 2011 allegations of child abuse were filed with the New York State police, however, the Saratoga County District Attorney said his office could not pursue criminal charges against the retired priest. At the time the alleged abuse took place, New York law required that criminal proceedings be brought within five years, or five years after the alleged victim turned 18. The statute of limitations on sex crimes differs in New Hampshire and a grand jury returned an indictment on two counts of abuse.

Last year the trial court dismissed the charges citing insufficient evidence but in June 2014, the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed the ruling and remanded the case for trial. Huntress pled guilty to two counts of simple assault and was given a non-custodial sentence. Assistant County Attorney Mike Zaino told WMUR television the passage of time since the crimes took place necessitated the deal.

Claims Huntress molested a child in 1984 prompted an investigation by the Diocese of Massachusetts. During the course of its investigation, the Diocese learned Huntress had been arrested by police for abusing a child in 1994 while service as vicar of St Matthew’s Church in Skegness, Lincolnshire.

No charges were filed in the English case as the victim’s family did not want the child to testify in court. However, Church investigators concluded the allegations were true after reading the police report and speaking to the officers involved, said Canon Mally Lloyd, the Bishop of Massachusetts’s assistant.

Confronted with the charges, Huntress resigned his orders, and was formally removed from the priesthood on 11 February 2011 by the Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw SSJE of Massachusetts.

However, the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Massachusetts at the time told AI “there is nothing in the records here indicating that the Diocese of Massachusetts was contacted by either civil or Church authorities in England regarding the 1994 charges there.”

A spokesman for the Diocese of Lincoln confirmed that Huntress “had been arrested and charged in 1994 on accusations of abusing a minor when he was serving in England. However it appeared that these charges were dropped and the detail and the circumstances were unclear.”

Diocesan spokesman Will Harrison stated that “when the request for further information from the Diocese of Massachusetts was received the former Diocese of Lincoln file had been destroyed as part of a previous archive policy.”

Huntress gave permission for the Lincolnshire Police to release their file on his arrest to the Diocese of Massachusetts, Mr. Harrison said, adding the diocese “was then informed that he was removed from the priesthood in the USA and the Diocese therefore notified the national Church authorities in case he moved back to the UK.”

Ordained in 1962, Huntress served parishes in Massachusetts, New York and New Hampshire and in the UK.

At Monday’s proceedings, Huntress did not apologize for his actions. However, the victim told the court; “As a direct result of the defendant’s actions, I have struggled with alcohol abuse, drug abuse, self-harm, relationship issues, sexual issues, flashbacks and suicidal considerations.”

The victim’s mother said in her victim impact statement: “My memory of kneeling at the altar and taking communion from you for the remission of my sins with the same hands that you were using to abuse my son makes me literally sick.”