April 05, 2006

Family says Coonan not abusive

Worcester Telegram & Gazette


DUDLEY— After the Rev. Joseph A. Coonan appeared at Dudley District Court for a pretrial conference yesterday, his sister told reporters that she and her mother want 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, involves charges of domestic assault and battery, assault and battery on a person over 65 years of age, and one count of intimidating a witness. It was continued to May 16 for a status hearing. Rev. Coonan, represented in court by his lawyer, Joseph D. Early Jr., declined to comment.

Rev. Coonan, the pastor of St. John’s Church in Worcester placed on administrative leave in 2002, was arrested Feb. 28 after his mother, Mabel G. Coonan, 77, told police her son “had engaged in an argument” with her and her daughter. She said her son tried to choke her, according to police reports. Ms. Loiselle told police her brother pulled her hair and grabbed the phone from her hand when she threatened to call police.

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

Yesterday, Ms. Loiselle attributed her brother’s mood swings to drops in blood sugar as a result of diabetes. She said her mother, who suffers from dementia, has made a previous call to 911 over a situation with a neighbor that didn’t warrant it.

“She doesn’t even remember what happened,” Ms. Loiselle said, referring to the Feb. 28 incident.

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. She said her brother has continued to live with them at their Oxford apartment after the alleged incident.

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

Posted by kshaw at April 5, 2006 06:57 AM