PITTSFIELD, Massachusetts (Reuters) - A New York man convicted of raping two altar boys while he was a Roman Catholic priest was sentenced to spend more than 20 years in prison on Wednesday.
Gary Mercure's "ghastly, incomparable acts" inflicted immeasurable suffering on his victims, said Judge John Agostini in handing down the sentence in Berkshire, Mass. Superior Court in Pittsfield, Mass.
Mercure, 62, was convicted last Thursday of raping two altar boys during day trips to Massachusetts in the 1980s.
A jury found him guilty of three counts of forcible rape of a child and one count of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14.
He was sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison for the rape charges and three to five years prison for the indecent assault and battery. He had faced the possibility of life in prison.
Prosecutors said Mercure, of Troy, New York, took the boys from his Queensbury, New York parish to remote locations in Massachusetts in 1986 and 1989 and sexually abused them.
Several men who were once altar boys from the parish testified they were repeatedly assaulted by Mercure in New York as well as Massachusetts.
Despite the vintage of the complaints, Massachusetts' statute of limitations allowed Mercure to be prosecuted. He could not be tried in New York because too much time elapsed.
The silver-haired Mercure showed little reaction in court but smiled slightly as he was taken away in handcuffs.
He had a 34-year tenure in the Diocese of Albany, from 1974 to 2008, when the diocese removed him from the ministry.
He is technically still a priest, as only the Vatican has the official power to defrock a priest. Bishop of Albany Howard Hubbard said on Wednesday he will recommend to the Vatican that Mercure be defrocked now that he has been convicted.
Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday bizarrely said that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is not allowed to bring criminal charges against him.
Writing on his Truth Social platform, the former president posted yet another caps-heavy tirade against Bragg's investigation into his 2016 hush-money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
"The Rogue prosecutor, who is having a hard time with the Grand Jury, especially after the powerful testimony against him by Felon Cohen’s highly respected former lawyer, is attempting to build a case that has NEVER BEEN BROUGHT BEFORE AND ACTUALLY, CAN’T BE BROUGHT," Trump wrote.
In fact, charges were brought against former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards after prosecutors alleged that he used campaign donations to cover up an affair he was having while on the campaign trail.
Trump concluded his rant with an attack on Bragg's priorities as Manhattan DA.
"If he spent this time, effort, and money on fighting VIOLENT CRIME, which is destroying NYC, our once beautiful and safe Manhattan, which has become an absolute HELLHOLE, would be a much better place to live!" he fumed.
Bragg has not yet formally indicted Trump, despite Trump's claims over the weekend that he would be arrested on Tuesday of this week.
In the 19th century, Charles Darwin was one of the first to notice something interesting about domesticated animals: different species often developed similar changes when compared to their ancient wild ancestors.
But why would a host of seemingly unrelated features repeatedly occur together in different domesticated animals?
In a new paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, we argue that currently popular explanations aren’t quite right – and propose a new explanation focused on big changes in the way domesticated animals live. Along the way, our theory also offers insights into the unexpected story of how we humans domesticated ourselves.
Shared changes under domestication
The most commonly shared change is tamer behavior. All domesticated animals are calmer than their wild ancestors naturally were.
That’s probably not very surprising. Ancient humans would’ve preferred docile animals, and likely selected breeding stock for tameness.
But other common changes don’t seem at all useful to humans – or to the animals themselves. Like shorter faces, smaller teeth, more fragile skeletons, smaller brains, and different colors in skin, fur, and feathers.
The second hypothesis complements this first one. It suggests selection for tameness causes the other features because they’re all linked by genes controlling “neural crest cells”. These cells, found in embryos, form many animal features – so changing them could cause several differences at once.
More than selection for tameness
However, our new research suggests these two ideas oversimplify and obscure the complex evolutionary effects at play.
For one thing, there are problems with the famous Russian fox experiment. As other authors have noted, the experiment didn’t begin by taming wild foxes, but used foxes from a farm in Canada. And these pre-farmed foxes already had features of domestication syndrome.
What’s more, the experimenters didn’t only select for tameness. They bred other foxes for aggression, but the aggressive foxes also developed domestication syndrome features.
So, it seems domestication syndrome might not be caused by humans selecting animals for tameness. Instead, it might be caused by unintended shared effects from the new domestic environment.
A new hypothesis for domestication syndrome
Crucially, it’s not just new forces of selection, such as a human preference for tameness, that matters. The removal of pre-existing selection is just as important, because that’s what naturally shaped the wild ancestors in the first place.
For example, domesticated animals are often protected from predators, so wild traits for avoiding them might be lost. Competition for mating partners is also often reduced, so wild reproductive features and behaviors could decline, or disappear.
Domesticated animals are also usually reliably fed. This might alter certain features, but would certainly change natural metabolism and growth.
Caged rats have also been seen to develop signs of domestication syndrome. Oxana Golubets / Unsplash
In effect, we argue there are multiple selective changes at work on domesticated animals, not just “selection for tameness”, and that shared shifts in evolutionary selection would often cause shared changes in features. Even across different species.
Our new hypothesis highlights four ways that selection shaping wild animals is often disrupted by domestication. These are:
less fighting between males
fewer males for females to choose between
more reliable food and fewer predators, and
elevated maternal stress, which initially reduces the health and survival of offspring.
Several of these might resemble “selection for tameness”, but using this one term to describe them all is misleadingly vague, and obscures other changes in selection.
So how did we domesticate ourselves?
Well, one current theory is that sociable “beta males” began cooperating to kill alpha bullies. This changed how competition worked among males, leading to fewer big and aggressive males.
But our hypothesis suggests other effects also played a role. For example, our early ancestors evolved the capacity for shared infant care. In our chimpanzee relatives today, sharing care of an infant would likely trigger extreme stress for the mother – but our ancestors adapted to this increased stress and gained an effective survival strategy.
Adapting to the increased maternal stress that accompanies separation from infants (either for shared care or domestication) may be one of the drivers of ‘domestication syndrome’. Shutterstock
More reliable food access due to group foraging and sharing, plus collective defense against predators, might also have made us more sociable, more cooperative, and more complex, while promoting other changes commonly seen in non-human domesticated animals.
Whatever the specific drivers in each species, recognizing multiple selective pathways better explains the domestication syndrome, and reaffirms the complexity of evolutionary effects shaping all life on Earth.
In the early Eighties, when “High Tech” was still written with quotation marks and the region was starting to become known as The Silicon Valley, tennis buddies Bob Medearis and Bill Biggerstaff took their idea for a new bank to a poker game in Pajaro Dunes. Their wives and children would be joining them at their Monterey Bay beachfront rentals the next day, but Friday night the two men gathered their close friends, made a big dinner and explained the plan to open a bank specifically for tech companies. They would call their customers “clients” and name their business after the region’s trendy...