Men [of God] at work in Rhode Island

28 Mar 2001


WARWICK - Citing the "gross physical problems and mental frailties" of convicted rapist, Msg. Louis Ward Dunn, 79, a Superior Court judge sentenced the retired priest to remain at the nursing home where he now lives, and register with the state as a sexual offender.

Judge Stephen Fortunato Jr. imposed a 10-year suspended sentence with probation for Dunn, on one count of first-degree sexual assault for raping a woman in 1982, when she was 21.

He must remain at St. Antoine's Home in North Smithfield, and he may not leave the state save for medical treatment, and only with court permission. Dunn has been living there while free on $10,000 bail. Indicted by a statewide grand jury in 1996, Dunn was convicted by Fortunato in June 1997.

"I wish, I wish that I could do something" to assuage the victim's emotional pain, Fortunato said, "but I am powerless."

The sentencing ended a legal saga that stretched back almost 4 years - including Fortunato's overturning his own decision and granting a motion for a new trial. But the Supreme Court reinstated the conviction this year.

The woman, with a history of childhood sexual abuse, went to Dunn as a teenager for help. She testified that he took advantage of her trust and coerced her into sexual activity, but not intercourse, over a 4-year period preceding the rape.

Fortunato spent at least 20 minutes during the hearing outlining the thinking that led to his decision. At one point, noting that Dunn has received considerable support from former parishioners, he said that though some might think otherwise, he has not been influenced by pressure from the Church, and that Dunn "gets no better treatment because he was a priest."

Fortunato also underscored that the conviction and sentencing are confined to one incident, despite the prosecution's reference to long-time sexual abuse of this victim and Dunn's sexual relations with other women. Those relations were cited in testimony in this and another rape case against Dunn, which ended in acquittal.

Journal 12/23/99


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