Alleged hostage taker filed molestation suit

In a 2002 complaint filed from prison, Leeland Eisenberg said he attempted suicide after being molested by a Catholic priest

By Salon Staff

Published December 1, 2007 1:27AM (EST)

Leeland Eli Eisenberg, the man arrested tonight after taking hostages at Hillary Clinton's campaign office in Rochester, N.H., appears to have served time in prison for aggravated rape and filed a lawsuit in 2002 alleging that he had been molested 20 years earlier by a Catholic priest in Massachusetts.

The suit alleged that Eisenberg was 21, "homeless and living in abandoned cars in a local junk yard" when he sought help at a Catholic parish in Westford, Mass. A priest offered him work at the parish in exchange for room and board until he could get back on his feet, the lawsuit alleged.

While Eisenberg was living and working at the parish, the lawsuit alleged, a second priest would frequently take him to dinner, buy him drinks, then return to the parish afterward for more drinks. The priest would then "bring out a box of pornographic material, sit behind Plaintiff on a couch, pull out pornographic pictures and magazines and insist the Plaintiff look at the pornographic materials. [The priest] would then sexually molest the Plaintiff."

The lawsuit alleged that the priest molested Eisenberg at a "peep show" in Boston and attempted to "rape" him after he'd been picked up drunk by local police. After that incident, the lawsuit alleged, Eisenberg fled the parish and, a short while later, attempted to kill himself by jumping off a bridge in Ayer, Mass.

In his lawsuit, Eisenberg alleged that Cardinal Bernard Law, the archbishop of Boston, knew or should have known that the priest had molested other young men. According to ABC's Jake Tapper, Law put the priest on administrative leave in 1992, but didn't remove him from his job as a local parish business manager until 2002.

At the time he filed the lawsuit, Eisenberg was serving a 12-to-20-year sentence for a 1986 incident in which he forced a woman to perform oral sex on him at knifepoint outside of a Holiday Inn, according to a report in the Lowell Sun at the time.

We don't know yet how or whether Eisenberg's suit was resolved; the priest denied Eisenberg's allegations at the time, and people familiar with Eisenberg's past expressed doubts about his credibility.

A call late Friday evening to the law firm that handled the case has not been returned. Coincidentally, it is the same firm -- Greenberg Traurig -- that employed disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff at the time.

Another strange political coincidence: While in prison on the rape charge in 1996, Eisenberg received a mailer from the presidential campaign of Bob Dole soliciting opinions from "key people like you who we felt would be most representative of all voters living in Concord." Eisenberg forwarded the mailer to the Boston Herald, which ran a short story about it. Eisenberg's suggestion to Dole: "Require politicians to be legally responsible for their campaign pledges and prosecute those promises which result in perjury, fraud, deceit and deception to national trust."

Salon Staff

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