Ex-Priest and Alleged Pedophile Neil Doherty Back in Jail

Father Neil Doherty -- whose long, sordid story was recounted in a 2008 New Times cover story -- was arrested last night in Palm Beach County. Doherty is an alleged serial abuser of children who has been walking free while awaiting trial since his 2006 arrest. Police apprehended Doherty because he "failed to comply with pretrial-release conditions," according to State Attorney's Office spokesman Ron Ishoy. Just how Doherty failed to comply is unknown; according to Ishoy, he may have left the area unlawfully or initiated contact with his victims, among other infractions.

In 2005, the parents of "John Doe" -- who, in our story, was referred to as "Sam" -- brought a civil suit

against Doherty and the Archdiocese of Miami. The specifics of the complaint are horrific. "Doe" was befriended at age 9 by Father Doherty after the two met when Doe was playing in a field beside the priest's church, St. Vincent's, in Margate. Doe plied the boy with cigarettes and liquor and drugged him with Qualuudes -- early in their friendship, Doe passed out on Doherty's couch and awoke with a bleeding anus, according to the suit.

Father Doherty allegedly continued plying the boy with booze and drugs throughout his adolescence, and when Doe developed behavioral problems in high school, Father Doherty kept him out of trouble and recommended that Doe receive counseling -- from Father Doherty.

All of Father Doherty's alleged victims reported similar treatment, and there were many such victims -- Doe's civil suit against Doherty and the archdiocese was one of four, all of which have been settled. Yet long before any suits were filed and even before Father Doherty began grooming John Doe, the archdiocese had good reason to believe Doherty was a sexual predator. Circumstantial evidence suggests that Doherty turned a blind eye or even facilitated drug use among the young residents of a halfway house in 1971, and it is known that Doherty spent much of the early '70s sharing a bedroom with an adolescent male. The archdiocese received letters from parishioners concerned about the situation, and rather than investigating those letters, the archdiocese assigned Doherty to St. Anthony's Church in Victoria Park in Fort Lauderdale, giving Doherty access to the several hundred children and adolescents attending St. Anthony's School next door.

There, Doherty met several of the boys who would later claim to be his victims. His relationships with those boys would lead to further complaints lodged with the archdiocese, which led to further archbishop indifference; Doherty allegedly finished off the '70s cruising Biscayne Boulevard "in his priestly collar, reaching out to boys allegedly for sex under the guise of ministry," according to CBS4. By the time Doherty was assigned to St. Vincent's in Margate, all of those in a position to do something about the Father's predations had decided to ignore them.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Brandon K. Thorp