State Wraps up Case for Keeping Ex-Priest Incarcerated

By Gregg Miliote
Pawtucket Times [Taunton MA]
April 13, 2004

TAUNTON -- A day after Catholics around the globe celebrated their holiest holiday weekend, the church's most notorious former priest sat silently in a courtroom as a Pawtucket resident and four other victims pointed to him as the man who not only molested them as children, but also indirectly tortured their adult lives.

The prosecution wrapped up its case Monday for keeping former priest and convicted child molester James Porter detained indefinitely.

Porter's court-appointed attorney, Michael Farrington, will begin his case today in Superior Court with scheduled expert testimony from two psychologists.

Just as the hearings began last week, Monday's testimony focused on Porter's victims and the psychological trauma the sexual molestation caused them later in their lives.

The five victims testified about anger management issues, drug and alcohol dependency problems and intimacy difficulties, all of which required extensive therapy to address.

"Anything that has to do with trust issues is a problem for me to this day," said 54-year-old Pawtucket resident and Porter victim John M. Whalen. "These incidents have weaved through the fabric of my life."

Whalen, like many of Porterís victims, was raped by the ex-priest numerous times in the basement of St. Mary's Church in North Attleboro during the early 1960s.

All five victims described how Porter wrestled with them for fun. But in all cases discussed on the stand Monday, the young victims ended up face down on a red Oriental carpet with Porter on top of them.

Another victim, John Vigorito of North Attleboro, was only molested once, but the effects of that day have stuck with him for life.

"I sat in his lap and he pulled me closer to him," a visibly shaken Vigorito said. "That day had started so well because I remember I got to wear my new shoes and white shorts to school, but everything just fell apart for me."

"I had recurring nightmares," a tearful Vigorito said. "This went on for about 12 years."

Thomas Kulas, a Connecticut resident who was victimized by Porter at St. James Parish in New Bedford when he was 13, said he still feels the effects of Porter's abuse.

"I began shooting dope early on in life," Kulas said. "It even affected the way I parented my children."

Kulas, who also spoke with reporters after his visceral testimony, explained how he ran away to California at age 15 and quickly began abusing drugs and alcohol. His addiction problems lasted for the next 18 years, but his anger remains.

"I still have a problem with authority,"Kulas explained. "I either act like a child or get very angry.

"I was even violent with my children, but my fear now is that he's going to get out and one of these days he'll buy an 8-year-old a Coke.

"If this spares one kid this emotional baggage I have, it's worth it."

Daniel Kiley is a 52-year-old Newton resident who was sexually assaulted by Porter some 20 times.

Kiley said he, like many other children at St. Mary's School, was drawn to Porter because of his interest in sports and in the youngsters as individuals.

"I was one of the kids who wanted to know him," Kiley said. "I wanted to be in that group that knew him well.

"I finally got to know him better when I became an altar boy."

Assuming that Porter was going to help him with his Latin, Kiley went down to the church basement with the priest one Saturday morning.

"He started to wrestle with me and before long, he had me down on the ground," Kiley said. "I was basically pinned. I couldn't move. He kept saying, 'Just wait, don't move. We're buddies.' "

The final victim to testify, who requested that his name not be published, explained why Porter eventually left St. Mary's to eventually abuse children at several other parishes in a total of five states.

"This guy probably wrestled more often than anyone in the entire WWF," the man said. "It was his thing."

The man, identified by the court as Witness X, explained to the court how he attempted to fight Porter off one afternoon at St. Mary's.

"I was fighting like heck to get away, but I couldn't," Witness X said. "This thing haunts me to this day. I have this picture of him with this God-awful look on his face trying to have sex with me."

After that incident, the man recalled running outside and immediately screaming that Porter was an "(expletive) queer."

After the witness's father learned of his son's actions, he pulled the child out of a YMCA class to ask him what was going on.

Witness X told him everything, he said, and his father "took action."

"Porter was removed from St. Mary's shortly afterwards," Witness X said.

The local man, abused by Porter about 20 times, said the impact of these horrific events brought "craziness" into his adult life.

"How could you not be affected by it?" he said. "I had a lot of psychotherapy, which I needed.

"I got into drugs, alcohol and violence. I would go crazy when people laid a hand on me."

Farrington objected unsuccessfully to the testimony of the five victims, saying incidents that occurred 40 years ago should have no relevance in a proceeding to determine Porter's future risk to society.

"This background is already before the court through transcripts," Farrington told McLaughlin.

Farrington spent little time cross-examining the five witnesses. He said he will wait for today's hearing, when two psychological experts will testify.

The pair will attempt to disprove the theories brought forth last week by two prosecution doctors.

Forensic psychologists Carol Feldman and John Daignault both asserted last week that the notorious pedophile is a high risk to reoffend if released and should instead be kept at the Massachusetts Treatment Center until he is no longer sexually dangerous.

Porter, 69, a former Diocese of Fall River priest, was convicted in 1993 of 41 counts of sexual assault against 28 victims.

The infamous child molester who preyed upon young victims in five different states during his days as a priest and a layman is currently being held at the treatment center pending the outcome of hearings that are scheduled to conclude later this week.

Porter may be held under a state law that allows sexually dangerous persons to be detained in treatment facilities indefinitely. He had been scheduled to be released from prison in January.

If McLaughlin finds enough evidence that Porter is a high risk to reoffend, the matter will be bound over for a full trial.