Monday, August 29, 2016

The Father Gordon J. MacRae Story: Injustice in New Hampshire


By Ryan A. MacDonald



L to R:  The Plea Deal of Monsignor Edward Arsenault; The Wrongful Conviction of Father Gordon MacRae; The Arrest of Judge Arthur Brennan

Here in one place can be found the series of links on the case against Father Gordon MacRae investigated, researched, and published by Ryan A. MacDonald.  Please share and post links to this URL.


I recently received an email from a well known American journalist asking if my investigation
and articles on the case of falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned priest, Father Gordon J. MacRae, can be found in one place.  I had never thought of this, but it's an excellent idea.  single post with a list of links to my publications at multiple sites on this case would be a helpful tool for anyone with an interest in this story that remains a gaping wound on the integrity of American justice.


In 2005, I came upon the story of Father Gordon MacRae in a series of articles by Pulitzer-Prize winning writer, Dorothy Rabinowitz in The Wall Street Journal. This was my first inkling that the case against this Catholic priest, that I and most others thought to be fairly and justly adjudicated, was in fact deeply flawed.

As I looked more closely, and probed more deeply, it became apparent to me that this priest is a victim of a zealous sex crimes detective, a set of political agendas, and the greed of men pretending to be victims to ride a wave of media coverage of Catholic scandal to commit fraud.


There are two common denominators in the case against Fr. Gordon MacRae:  Expectations of money, and Keene, NH sex crimes detective James F. McLaughlin.  The articles below tell a shocking and unexplained account of fraudulent investigation, witness tampering, and claims of attempted bribery and falsification of evidence. 


The following statement by Steven Wollschlager was presented to FBI Special Agent (Ret.) James Abbott who spent three years investigating this case. This disturbing statement is from an individual who accused Father MacRae and has now recanted. This man has nothing to gain except his own integrity by making this statement, but no New Hampshire judge has allowed him to testify.  Here is his statement: 

"My name is Steven Wollschlager. . . In 1994 I was contacted by Keene Police Detective McLaughlin. . . I was aware at the time of Father MacRae's trial knowing full well that it was bogus and having heard of the lawsuits and money involved and also the reputations of those who were making accusations. I agreed to meet with the above detective after being told I would be reimbursed for my time. 
During this the meeting, I just listened to the scenarios and statements being spoken to me by the police. The lawsuits and money were of greatest discussion and I was left feeling that if I would go along with the story I could reap the rewards as well . . . .  McLaughlin had me believing that all I had to do was make up a story about this priest and I could receive a large sum of money as others already had.  McLaughlin reminded me of the young child and girlfriend I had and referenced that life could be easier for us with a large amount of money.
I left that meeting after being given $50, easy money like what would come from lawsuits against MacRae.  I was at the time using drugs and would have been influenced to say anything they wanted for money."

When told of this statement, Detective McLaughlin described it to The Wall Street Journal as "a fabrication." However, it is a testament to the role of money in this story that a full year before Father MacRae was charged with the claims of accuser Thomas Grover, hard evidence places this detective investigating this case from the Concord law office of Thomas Grover's contingency lawyer, Attorney Robert Upton. Probing phone calls in an attempt to get this priest to say something incriminating, instead cast doubt on the role of this detective. Was he investigating a crime or choreographing a lawsuit?

The links below are to articles independently investigated and researched. These articles are published at These Stone Walls or A Ram in the Thicket. It is my hope that readers will bookmark this URL and forward it or post it to refute the distortions of those with an agenda to mask the true facts of this story.

THE FLAWED AND SUSPECT PRE-TRIAL INVESTIGATION

  Bombshells and Black Ops in the Fr Gordon MacRae Case 

The Story Buried under the Father Gordon MacRae Case 

A Touch of Deja Vu 

How Psychotherapists Helped Send an Innocent Priest to Prison 

Whack-A-Mole Justice Holds Court






THE 1994 TRIAL OF FATHER GORDON MACRAE

The Trial of Father MacRae:  A Conspiracy of Fraud 


The Prison of Father MacRae:  A Conspiracy of Silence 

The Post-Trial Extortion of Father Gordon MacRae 

Judge Arthur Brennan Sentenced Father Gordon MacRae to Die in Prison 




THE POST-TRIAL APPEALS OF FATHER MACRAE

Judge Joseph Laplante Denies Priest's Appeal 

For One Priest, A Fate Worse Than Dying in Prison 

A Grievous Error in Judge Joseph LaPlante's Court 

"Those aware of the facts of this case find it hard to imagine that any court today would ignore the perversion of justice it represents." Dorothy Rabinowitz, The Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2013

Bishop John McCormack, Bishop Francis Christian, and Msgr Edward Arsenault release the names of "credibly" accused priests to the news media.


JUSTICE AND DUE PROCESS IN THE DIOCESE OF MANCHESTER, NH

Bishop Takes Pawn:  Plundering the Rights of a Prisoner Priest 

To Azazel:  The Gospel of Mercy in the Diocese of Manchester

Justice and a  Priest's Right of Defense in the Diocese of Manchester

Prelude to the Year of Mercy:  Confronting the Truth by Father George David Byers, Missionary of Mercy



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Friday, June 24, 2016

A Grievous Error in Judge Joseph LaPlante's Court






Federal Judge Joseph LaPlante dismissed without testimony Fr Gordon MacRae’s recent hope for justice. No U.S. court has allowed this defendant to utter a single word.

On September 13, 2012, a full year before MacRae’s habeas corpus petition came before Judge LaPlante, the annual “Red Mass” for the legal and law enforcement community took place at Saint Joseph Cathedral up in the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire. It was officiated by The Most Reverend Peter A. Libasci, Bishop of Manchester. Following the Mass, Bishop Libasci was a guest of honor as the New Hampshire Catholic Lawyer’s Guild held its annual awards dinner at the Radisson Hotel to honor the 2012 recipient of the St. Thomas More Award.

According to the Catholic Lawyer’s Guild invitation, the award is bestowed upon a Catholic lawyer or judge “who embodies the spirit of St. Thomas More in courage, dedication, integrity, civility, and compassion toward others.” On September 13, 2012 the St. Thomas More Award was presented by Bishop Libasci and the Catholic Lawyer’s Guild to The Honorable Joseph N. LaPlante.

Saint Thomas More would have heard all sides. He would not, as so many have done, simply assume a priest’s guilt. He would not have made comments like “especially a Catholic priest.” He would not have presumed the existence of evidence he had never seen nor heard for himself. He would have gotten to the truth of the matter before tossing the case off his desk. He would not have allowed the continued judicial railroading of an innocent man.

    Sunday, December 6, 2015

    Thomas Merton and Pornchai Moontri: A Prayer for the Year of Mercy

                                                                                 By Ryan A. MacDonald



    Pornchai Moontri was Valedictorian of his high school graduating class of 2012


    Tragedy struck the life of Pornchai Moontri obstructing justice and mercy. Now echoed in a prayer by Thomas Merton, the redemption of Pornchai evokes the Year of Mercy.  

    Some recent posts over on These Stone Walls made me want to revisit something I published a few years ago but never got back to.  It was an article titled “Pornchai Moontri at the Narrow Gate,” and it has always needed a sequel. 

    A lot has come to light since I first ventured into the remarkable life of this remarkable young man.  I have learned a lot about Pornchai’s life, including the fact that at age two in Northern Thailand, he was abandoned to the streets and had to be hospitalized for severe malnutrition before relatives came to rescue him.  Living with the wonderful and kind extended family of his mother, he worked hard in childhood, but he was happy.

    Then, at the vulnerable age of eleven, he was torn from his home, his country, his very identity, and brought to America.  In the ordinary course, this could have been a golden opportunity for a child like Pornchai.  America should have meant a home, an education, a family, nourishment, a life.  Instead, this child was forced by a chain of events into homelessness and despair.  How and why that happened to him at age twelve in 1985 is a shocking story waiting to be told.  And it will be told. But not just yet.

    Speaking and understanding little English, Pornchai was deprived of a home, a family, and guidance at an age when most American children coped with little more than school and homework.  His childhood on the streets was consumed with the bare necessities of mere survival.  On a daily basis, for the second time in his life, Pornchai faced the challenges of finding food, shelter, and the means to survive alone in a foreign land. Six years later, at age 18, a fight and a flight took a life, and Pornchai was sent to prison.

    Today, Pornchai has transformed from within.  He graduated from high school as an honor student in 2012, was Valedictorian of his class, and has since completed post-secondary courses in theology with a Grade Point Average of 4.0 at Catholic Distance University.  Then he earned two diplomas with highest honors in Psychology and Social Work at the Stratford Career Institute.  He did all of this while in prison with some help from friends to pay his tuition, aided by the sale of some magnificent woodworking projects he created in prison. 

    Today, Pornchai is a mentor to his peers, a source of guidance for others in troubled times, and a model of recovery from the darkest of adversities.  Pornchai knows the past will echo throughout his life. He was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a cross he had carried alone for much of his life.

    Five years ago, Pornchai also became Catholic on the Feast of Divine Mercy in 2010.  He has since led many others from the dark wood of error down that same path with the example he set as a member of Saint Maximilian Kolbe’s Knights at the Foot of the Cross.  In 2012 on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Pornchai Consecrated himself to Jesus through Mary after completing the “33Days to Morning Glory” retreat.  He was among the first prisoners in the world to do so, and his special witness was chronicled by my fellow journalist, Felix Carroll in “Mary is at Work Here.”

    Marian Helper

    THE YEAR OF MERCY TO THE MAX
    Pornchai Moontri accomplished all of this – or more accurately it was all accomplished within him – while a prisoner in the State of New Hampshire after having emerged from seven years in a long dark night of the soul held in the cruelty of solitary confinement.  For his sheer power of resilience and access to the Force within him, Luke Skywalker has nothing on Pornchai Moontri.

    Late last month, it was my privilege to interview Pornchai via telephone from prison.  As we spoke, I could not help but ponder some of the powerful accounts of radical conversion and new life revealed to us in Sacred Scripture.  His story feels like some of those.  Upon encountering God, Abram became Abraham, Simon became Peter, and Saul – who once persecuted Christ – became Paul.

    Pornchai Moontri has become “Max” – short for Maximilian – in honor of his Patron Saint, a fellow prisoner and traveller on this road, Saint Maximilian Kolbe.  It was this new name that caused me to want to write of Max again after reading Father Gordon MacRae’s wonderful recent post on These Stone Walls:  “PatronSaints:  Knock, Knock, Knockin' on Heaven’s Door."

    It tells the story of how St. Maximilian Kolbe inserted himself into the life of this wrongly imprisoned priest and then, through him, into the life of Pornchai Maximilian Moontri.  It is a breathtaking and remarkable account of Divine Mercy, and required reading during the Jubilee Year of Mercy that commences on December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

    Knowing what I know now about Pornchai’s present life and its stark contrast with a tragic past – much of which you can view at the powerful new site, Mercytothe Max – I had some trepidation about broaching some tough subjects, but my concern was premature.  We spoke at length about the trauma and trials of the past, and we ended up agreeing that much of this is a story yet to come.

    So we dwelled mostly on the present and future.  I had lots of questions for Pornchai about the daily life he and “Father G” lead in trying circumstances.  Like a good reporter, I was trying to uncover who these two men really are and how they live and cope with the day to day trials of decades of imprisonment.  Pornchai spoke candidly about their day to day life and the lives of the other prisoners who have become part of their orbit.

    Some of this was painful to hear.  Some of it was very funny.  But in the end, I could use little of what I learned.  These guys will never be fodder for the usual news media or any of the mundane and shallow media that most consumers of the news have come to settle for.  They live on another plane of existence than most, and it is not easy to describe in words.




    BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HUNGER AND THIRST FOR JUSTICE
    One response of Pornchai struck me hard, however.  I have learned a lot about prisons in America. One hard truth is that state prisons virtually starve prisoners, and then sell food to them at a profit.  In the New Hampshire prison, the food budget has been slashed year after year, and the daily caloric intake for those who cannot purchase food is on the level of bare sustenance.

    The prison commissary where our friends may purchase food and supplies once per week has a four-page list of basic food items, hygiene and medical supplies, postage and writing supplies, and even some clothing that prison inmates must provide for themselves.  I wondered how someone like Pornchai, with no solid roots in this country, could possibly endure and cope with prison in these circumstances.

    Pornchai brushed aside the question, but I got my answer from another inmate who asked that I not use his name.  He told me that the prison commissary was closed for three weeks in November, and that everyone in the unit where our two friends live ran completely out of food, coffee, postage, and other necessities.  The inmate said that Father G and Pornchai gave much of the food they had to others with nothing, and by the end of the second week, Pornchai had nothing but two packages of Ramen noodles left, and another week to go before they could purchase any food.  He said Father G and others were going to bed hungry each night, and they kept this to themselves.

    But the inmate who wrote to me also told me that there was a new inmate in that unit who was living in the overflow bunks in the recreation area of this overcrowded prison.  This man is diabetic, and one night had seizures from hypoglycemia. The prisoner said that Pornchai – called “Ponch” by other inmates – brought this man the last two packages of Ramen noodles he had, and told him to come and get hot water for them whenever he needed them.

    I asked Pornchai why he did this.  He seemed embarrassed that I had learned of it, but finally said, “I’ve been hungry and know what it’s like.  It’s what St. Maximilian would have done.  It’s what he would want me to do.”  He didn’t seem to want me to write about this, but of all the struggles he copes with day to day for 24 years in prison, this incident seems the one that best defines him.  This is the guy the justice system up there just described as showing inadequate “evidence that you have made a substantial and sustained effort to lead a positive and productive life.”

    I asked Pornchai – “Max” – if he was discouraged by the recent denial of his Clemency Petition for commutation of his sentence after 24 years in prison. After all, I just read this week that the maximum sentence in the U.S. federal prisons for inmates convicted of that same crime is 23 years, and Pornchai has already surpassed that. He said that he plans to try again next summer, but what he really wanted to talk about was Pope Francis.

    Max told me that he and Father Gordon MacRae both listened to Pope Francis address a jointsession of Congress during his recent visit to the United States, and Max was very excited to hear the Holy Father mention Thomas Merton.  Max said that Thomas Merton wrote a prayer that a reader of These Stone Walls printed and sent to him last year.  He said that this prayer has become the defining sense of his life, past, present and future. Max said that this is now his prayer for the Year of Mercy.  I struggled to contain my emotions as Max read it to me:

     My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” (Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude)






    So our friend Pornchai is now Pornchai-Max, and I for one welcome the addition.  At some point – hopefully a year from now if justice and mercy prevail – he will be released from the prison to which he was consigned at age 18.  At that point, he will be detained elsewhere until his deportation to Thailand, a country he has not seen since childhood.

    Last year Felix Carroll and Marian Press published a wonderful book, Love, Lost, Found, with a chapter that chronicles the story of Porchai Moontri and his Divine Mercy conversion.  The Divine Mercy apostolate in Bangkok has become very interested in Pornchai-Max, and plans to receive him when he arrives.  But he will have to start his life over and that is no easy task.  As this coming Year of Mercy commences, lets make this a mission of mercy.

    If you, or anyone you know, wants to help restore a life and future for Pornchai, gifts to a fund for him can be sent via the Pay-Pal link at the Home Page of TheseStone Walls.  Simply mention in your message that your gift is to be used for the support of Pornchai Moontri and it will be marked for this purpose by his Godmother, Charlene Duline, who manages that Pay-Pal account.  You may also make checks out to Pornchai Moontri and mail to me at:
                Pornchai Moontri
                c/o Ryan A. MacDonald
                P.O. Box 68732
                Indianapolis, IN 46268-0732

    To assist in the support of both Fr. Gordon and Pornchai you may use the same PayPal link above or  address your check to:
                Fr. Gordon J. MacRae
    P.O. Box 205
                Wilmington, MA 01887-0205


    Inquiries can be sent to me at macdonaldryan8@gmail.com.

    Thank you for reading.  Let the Year of Mercy commence!


    Love, Lost, Found:  17 Divine Mercy Conversions by Felix Carroll is available at Amazon.com


    Thursday, September 24, 2015

    A Small Glimmer of Justice Found in The Fisher's Net Awards



    These Stone Walls is a finalist for Best Social Justice Site


    These Stone Walls, the blog of falsely accused priest Fr Gordon MacRae, is a finalist for The Fisher's
    Net Award for Best Social Justice Site, an ironic achievement given that justice is denied this priest.


    In the sometimes dark forest of Internet research, I came upon a ray of light one day, an online endeavor called The Fisher's Net Awards.  It's an international effort to recognize the finest website or web presence, in any of ten categories, that best represents the mission and teachings of the Catholic Church.  According to The Fisher's Net Awards website, "nominees must exemplify excellence in online media utilising creative use of design and technology or exceptional content."

    I went to The Fisher's Net Awards site and did some exploring.  While there, I decided to nominate These Stone Walls for the category of "Best Blog."  I thought it would go nowhere, and nowhere is exactly where it went. There are some 20 million blogs and thousands of them describe themselves as Catholic blogs.  I thought the sheer volume of competition would overwhelm my nomination of the blog of a priest unjustly in prison.

    The nominations for this award closed on September 8 so I went back there to have a final look. Sure enough, These Stone Walls was missing from the long list of finalists in the "Best Blog" category.  I spent some time reviewing the sites listed, and voted for the Catholic blog I thought best fit the criteria for exceptional content even though it wasn't the one I nominated.

    Then I opened up a few other categories to scroll through their list of nominees.  When I looked at the nominees for "Best Social Justice Site," I was startled to see These Stone Walls listed among the five finalists. I voted again, thinking I might be in a tiny minority.

    A week or so later, I began to come across some social media buzz about this category so I went back to it.  I was shocked to see the voting tally for These Stone Walls stretch all the way across the page with more than 70% of the votes.  I can only attribute this outpouring of support to one thing:  among the hearts of Catholics, there are many who recognize the need to bring some small glimmer of justice to the story behind These Stone Walls.

    This is not the first public acclaim that the consistently exceptional content at These Stone Walls has produced.  But it is the first main stream Catholic recognition on an international scale.  Please lend your support to this endeavor by visiting The Fisher's Net Awards, by reviewing the nominees, and by voting in each of the ten categories listed there. Please also spread word of this effort among your social media contacts.

    And if you deem it worthy, please join the votes and voices of many in recognition of These Stone Walls, a voice in the wilderness that raises the bar in the Catholic online world.  You can vote only once in each category, and voting closes on December 1, 2015.





    Monday, September 29, 2014

    A BOMBSHELL OF INJUSTICE IN KEENE, NEW HAMPSHIRE!

    It's true that there has been a cover-up in the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal, but it's not the one you think.  It happened 20 years ago in Keene, New Hampshire.


    Every time I write about this story, my Inbox fills with messages from readers stunned and appalled by the facts of the 1994 trial of Fr Gordon MacRae.  A minority pose questions such as "How do you know he is innocent?" to which I usually reply, "What makes you think he may not be?" Then the tirades begin, but they never answer my question.


    Those who labor to suppress this case of false accusation preface their answers with statements like, "Priests did terrible things and bishops covered it up!" "We all know these priests are guilty," and "The Catholic Church is a child raping institution!" (from a SNAP member).  The prevailing logic here is that Father MacRae went to prison in 1994 for the sins of the Church, the sins of the bishops, and the sins of the priesthood.  For many silent Catholics who just want to move on from The Scandal, that is okay.  It is not okay.
    In the trial of Father MacRae, the sole evidence was the word of Thomas Grover, a 27-year-old, 220-pound man with a criminal rap sheet for assault, theft, forgery, and narcotics charges - all kept from the jury by Judge Arthur Brennan.  Grover had a long history of drug abuse, and gained nearly $200,000 for "telling a lie and sticking to it," as his ex-wife describes his testimony. His ex-wife also says, today, that he punched her and broke her nose before the trial. 
    And yet throughout this case, with all these factors in plain sight of everyone but the jury, not one  person questioned whether this man might be lying for money.  Not the zealous detective who today reportedly responded to the question of injustice with one of his own: "Why didn't MacRae just take the plea deal?"  Not the two prosecutors, one of whom was fired after this trial while the other later committed suicide.  Not Judge Arthur Brennan who sent this priest to prison for decades while citing evidence that no one has ever seen, evidence that never existed.

    Nor was the possibility of lying for money ever openly considered by anyone in the Diocese of Manchester when they wrote six-figure checks to pay Grover and his brothers off.  By the time it was all over, Thomas Grover, Jonathan Grover, David Grover and Jay Grover - all "remembering" their claims in the same week over a decade later - emerged from the case with combined settlements of over $650,000.  MacRae took, and passed, two pre-trial polygraph (lie detector) tests in this case.  Thomas Grover and his brothers never assented to take a polygraph.
    Read the rest of this riveting story:  "Bombshells and Black Ops in the Father MacRae Case"