April 04, 2006

Charges against priest "nothing," sister says

Worcester Telegram & Gazette

By Rushmie Kalke

DUDLEY— After Rev. Joseph A. Coonan appeared at Dudley District Court for a pretrial conference today, his sister told reporters that she and her mother are looking to drop the domestic assault and battery charges against him “because a whole lot was made out of nothing.”

Standing outside the courthouse with the help of crutches after reconstructive leg surgery, Patricia Loiselle said that reading about the incident in newspapers was like reading about someone else’s life.

The case against Rev. Coonan, 58, involving charges of domestic assault and battery, assault and battery on a person over 65 years of age and one count of intimidating a witness, was continued to May 16 for a status hearing. Rev. Coonan declined to comment today.

Rev. Coonan, the pastor of St. John’s Church in Worcester placed on administrative leave in 2002, was arrested on Feb. 28 after his mother, Mabel G. Coonan, 77, told police that her son “had engaged in an argument with her and her daughter.”

She said that Rev. Coonan tried to choke her, according to police reports. According to Ms. Loiselle’s statement, Rev. Coonan pulled his sister’s hair and grabbed the phone from her hand when she threatened to call the police.

In Rev. Coonan’s statement to police he said only a verbal argument had occurred.

Today, Ms. Loiselle attributed her brother’s mood swings to drops in blood sugar as a result of diabetes.

She said that her mother has made a previous call to 911 over a situation with a neighbor that didn’t warrant it and suffers from dementia.

“She doesn’t even remember what happened,” Ms. Loiselle said.

When asked about Rev. Coonan’s consumption of beer that evening as reported in the police records and her mother’s statement that his drinking had been an ongoing problem, Ms. Loiselle said the family had been celebrating Mabel Coonan’s birthday and Rev. Coonan had something to drink.

Rev. Coonan has continued to live with them at their Oxford apartment after the alleged incident, she said.

“We get along great. We are a close family,” Ms. Loiselle said.

Posted by kshaw at April 4, 2006 08:45 PM