The Missouri Supreme Court has reversed the conviction of Father Thomas Graham, who had been found guilty a year ago of sodomy on a teenage boy some 25 years ago.
The court action stems from an appeal based on a 1969 law that set a three-year statute of limitations on prosecutions in such cases.
The court, in a unanimous decision, noted that there is no statute of limitation only on the prosecution of offenses punishable with death or by imprisonment in the penitentiary for a life sentence. The sodomy case carried a minimum of two years in prison.
Father Graham’s lawyers had originally argued that the statute of limitations applied. A circuit court agreed but a court of appeals reversed that decision and sent the case to trial.
A jury convicted Father Graham last year. A judge, following their recommendation, sentenced him to 20 years in prison.
Father Graham has maintained his innocence. He testified at the trial that no abuse or inappropriate conduct had occurred and said that he and the accuser had a falling out over the accuser’s homosexuality.
The accuser noted that for 30 years he had carried a deep pain that "scarred me for the rest of my life," causing confused emotions and depression.
The archdiocese had investigated the abuse claims when the accuser filed lawsuits and had not substantiated the claims. The lawsuits were dismissed or withdrawn.
Father Graham, 73, was a chaplain at Nazareth Living Center in 2002 when he was placed on administrative leave after a criminal charge was filed. He is a former pastor of St. Alban Roe Parish in Wildwood and St. Bernadette Parish in Lemay.
A statement from the archdiocese said the money posted for Father Graham’s apeal will be refunded to the archdiocese. It added, "The Archdiocese of St. Louis continues to pray for the individual who brought the allegation to the civil authorities, and for Father Graham."