Prosecutor says Australian cardinal's convictions must stand

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A prosecutor argued in Australia's highest court Thursday that Cardinal George Pell’s convictions for child sex abuse should stand and what may be his final appeal should be rejected.

Pope Francis’ former finance minister and the most senior Catholic ever convicted of child sex abuse, Pell is serving six years in prison for molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral while he was the city’s archbishop in the late 1990s.

Australia’s High Court on Wednesday heard Pell's lawyers argue that an apparently truthful victim was not enough to dispel reasonable doubt about guilt and the verdicts could not be supported by the whole of the evidence.

Prosecutor Kerri Judd on Thursday opened her arguments on why the 78-year-old cleric’s appeal should be dismissed.

Pell was convicted by a unanimous verdict in December 2018 and a Victoria state appeals court rejected his appeal in a 2-1 decision last August. Prosecutors have told the High Court the appeals court's rejection was correct.

The prosecution case relied on the evidence of a former choirboy, now aged in his 30s with a young family.

The state appeals court had found that his evidence was not a “catalogue of impossibilities,” as Pell’s lawyers had argued, but a catalogue of uncertainties and possibilities.

The hearing is expected to end late on Thursday. The seven judges will effectively hear Pell’s appeal in its entirety before they technically decide whether they will even hear his appeal.

They could decide he does not have permission to appeal, they could deny or uphold his appeal, or they could send the case to be reheard at the Victoria Court of Appeals.

It is not known when the judges will deliver their rulings.

Pell is serving his sentence at the maximum-security Barwon Prison near Geelong, southwest of Melbourne. He hasn't traveled to Canberra for his appeal hearing.

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