Dying in Prison in the ‘Live Free or Die’ State
July 13, 2022 by Charlene C. Duline
Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by noted author, Charlene C. Duline. Retired from a distinguished career as a diplomat and Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. State Dep’t, Ms. Duline served the United States in several nations across the African Continent, in the East Pakistan and Panama, and at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. She holds degrees in journalism and political science from Indiana University and a Master’s degree in International Public Policy from the John Hopins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Former NH Detective James McLaughlin, the shady detective who was instrumental in pursuing lie after lie about Father Gordon MacRae, sending him to a long prison term in 1994. He was recently prominent on the ‘Laurie List’ for “Falsification of Records “and/or evidence.” Over 28 years of wrongful imprisonment in the New Hampshire State Prison, MacRae has consistently asserted that the case against him was built on lies, cheating and distortions aided and abetted by a dishonest police officer.
I am outraged by the State of New Hampshire! Every citizen in the State should be! Recent news articles by Damien Fisher and Nancy West in InDepthNH.org have pulled the shroud of secrecy from a grave injustice. Few People in that State knew about a list formally called the “Exculpatory Evidence Schedule,” now better known as the “Laurie List.” The list was revealed on December 21 by the New Hampshire Attorney General as a result of litigation filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire and the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism … which remains a litigant seeking the full publication of that list.
The court ordered release of the list of compromised police is based on a Supreme Court decision holding that if favorable exculpatory evidence has been with held by the prosecution in a criminal case, the burden shifts to the state to probe beyond a reasonable doubt that the undisclosed evidence could not have affected the outcome of a trial.
If such a violation occurred and the state failed to meet its burden, a defendant, therefore, has been denied his right to present all favorable proofs and is entitled to a new trial to have his convictions vacated forever.
Former NH detective James McLaughlin, the shady detective who was instrumental in pursuing lie after lie about Fr. Gordon MacRae, sending him to a long prison term in 1994, was prominent on the ‘Laurie List’ for “Falsification of Records” and or evidence.
Over 28 years of wrongful imprisonment in the New Hampshire State Prison, MacRae has consistently asserted that the case against him was built on lies, cheating and distortions, and was aided and abetted by a dishonest police officer.
Just as Innocence Project founder Barry Scheck predicted in his 2003 book, ‘Actual Innocence‘: ” those assertions have since been ignored or explained away at higher levels of the justice system by judges with a clear bias in favor of police and against defendants – and this defendant in particular.“
Judge Arthur Brennan, the first New Hampshire judge to hear this case, told jurors to “disregard inconsistencies” in accuser Thomas Grover’s testimony.
As the Wall Street Journals’ Dorothy Dorothy Rabinowitz wrote in ‘The Trials of Father MacRae’ , they had much to disregard.
In addition to new evidence and witnesses that other judges declined to hear, much of MacRae’s failed 2012 Habeas Corpus petition was about Keene, New Hampshire sex crimes detective James McLaughlin and the shady tactics he employed to generate claims, prosecute, and convict MacRae in 1994 paving a path to lucrative settlement deals from the Catholic Diocese of Manchester.
Now it turns out that Officer McLaughlin was sanctioned on a secret Attorney General’s list for “falsification of records” in 1985, nine years before the trial of Father MacRae. Judge Joseph Laplante, the New Hampshire federal judge who heard MacRae’s Habeas Corpus petition, ignored all of this and allowed none of these witnesses to testify under oath.
Few people know that Fr. MacRae was offered two plea deals before his trial and one during trial. He was told that if he would plead guilty he would receive only one year in prison. This honest man turned down the plea deals. The lengthy criminal rap sheet of 27 year old Accuser Thomas Grover.
Accuser Thomas Grover includes multiple arrests for forgery, theft, burglary, drugs, and assault. He broke his future ex-wife’s nose when she questioned his perjury.
The jury has never heard any of this.
Neither did they hear that Accuser Thomas Grover several times received financial payments from his personal injury lawyer, advances on his expected windfall in his accompanying civil lawsuit – a practice that is forbidden by the rules of professional conduct for lawyers.
Grover was awarded almost $200,000 for crimes that never took place.
There are pictures of him dancing with stacks of $50.00 bills.
At the trial, Judge Arthur Brennan warned MacRae that if he took the stand in his own defense, the judge would open the door for Thomas Grover’s brothers to testify to their own false claims in related civil lawsuits.
Father Gordon MacRae was the only person never heard from in this trial.
In a flimsy 1996 appeal represented by a public defender (because MacRae’s diocese refused to help him), MacRae was not even allowed to be present. At three attempts at a Habeas Corpus appeal before state and federal courts since this trial, neither MacRae nor any witness for his defense were permitted to give testimony.
At no time has any court official allowed a single word from this defendant.
The man who actually controlled the Diocese of Manchester during much of MacRae’s sentence was Monsignor Edward J. Arsenault, , now known as Edward J. Bolognini.. He violated Church law by never telling Father MacRae, despite repeated requests, what the Ciocese conveyed to the Holy See in Rome about this matter.
Arsenault (Bolobnini) was later dismissed from the priesthood after pleading guilty to stealing almost $300,000 frin tge duicese abd tge estate if a deceased priest. He reportedly spent the money in the company of a much younger gay musician.
At the time of his nearly $300,000 embezzlement, Arsenault held a $170,000 per year position as Executive Director of the St. Luke Institute for troubled priests in Maryland. He served only two years of a 20 years of a 20 year prison sentence before being released and his sentence vacated when an unnamed third party paid his entirue restitution. Now a convicted felon with a new name, he today administers a lucrative contract for the city of New York.
I believe that Father MacRae’s Bishop and Diocese own him apologies for their abandonment of him, their presumptions of guilt, their refusals to visit or even correspond with him for 28 years in prison where Father Gordon MacRae remains a priest. He offers Mass in his cell each week, and has been instrumental in saving lives and souls.
One of them is the life and soul of my Godson, Pornchai Moontri, a conversion story beautifully told by Marian Helper Editor, Felix Carroll in the great Divine Mercy book, Loved, Lost, Found.
Editor’s Note: Charlene Duline’s Godson, Pornchai Moontri, now residing in Bangkok, Thailand recently posted a Linkedin article about his own perspective on this story to wide acclaim. His article should not be missed. Please see: “Independence Day in Thailand” by Pornchai Maximillian Moontri.
COMMENT: Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights July 13, 2022 Bill Donohue highly recommends this article by Charlene Duline on new evidence that has emerged that the lead investigator in Fr. MacRae’s case had a record of falsifying records. Read the article