BOONVILLE — A former priest accused of sexually assaulting young boys in the 1980s was in Cooper County Circuit Court on Wednesday for a hearing to decide if the statute of limitations on the alleged crimes had run out.
Gerald Howard is charged with three counts of forcible sodomy, three counts of attempted forcible sodomy and one count of kidnapping for incidents that were alleged to have occurred between 1983 and 1988. One charge of kidnapping was dropped because it was established that the alleged crime took place outside of Cooper County jurisdiction.
Howard was the priest at the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Boonville in 1983 and 1984. He was formerly a priest in New Jersey where he was charged with sexual contact with a minor in 1982 and pleaded guilty.
Barbara Dorris, outreach director at the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said earlier that Howard was placed briefly in a rehabilitation facility by church officials before he returned to the priesthood in Boonville in the fall of 1983.
On July 16, Howard's defense filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him, based on an argument that the statute of limitations on the crimes had lapsed.
The motion read in part: "These prosecutions should be barred by the statute of limitations as Defendant's ability to investigate and mount a defense has been severely damaged by the delay in prosecution, a delay of over 20 years without a reasonable explanation."
The prosecution argued there was an exception to the statute of limitations in the case because Howard allegedly used intimidation to hide his crimes and had been residing in another state.
On Wednesday, Cooper County Prosecuting Attorney Doug Abele called three of the alleged victims to testify.
The witnesses — signified in court as "John Doe 1," "John Doe 2" and "John Doe 3" to protect their identities — described their abuse and offered the date they think the crimes occurred.
McAllister, 42, testified that he was 13 when he started being abused by Howard.
During McAllister's testimony, muffled sobbing could be heard in what was an otherwise silent courtroom.
Howard is being held on $1.5 million bond.
Cooper County Circuit Judge Robert Koffman is expected to rule on the motion at the end of November.
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