Foley has no legal case, priest's lawyer insists

Published October 28, 2006

ROME - The lawyer for a Catholic priest who acknowledged fondling former Rep. Mark Foley when Foley was a teenager said Friday there are no grounds for a legal case against him.

"Father Anthony Mercieca believes that nothing that happened between him and Mark Foley ... could provide solid grounds for legal action against him," lawyer Alfred Grech said in an e-mail. "He ... considers the aggressive and unfavorable exposure as being unfair and unjustified."

Foley, a 52-year-old Florida Republican, resigned from Congress last month after the disclosure of sexually explicit computer messages he sent to teenage male Capitol pages. His lawyer later said Foley was an alcoholic, gay and was molested as a boy by a clergyman.

Mercieca, who is retired and lives on the Maltese island of Gozo, was quoted by media in Florida as saying he fondled Foley and was nude with him on occasion while serving at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lake Worth in the 1960s. But in a phone interview with the Associated Press last week, he insisted their association "wasn't sexual."