Judge Oks Trial on Porter's Freedom

By Jessica Heslam
Boston Herald [Massachusetts]
April 27, 2004

Calling the victims' testimony "chilling," a judge ruled yesterday there is enough evidence to hold a trial on the state's bid to keep pedophile priest James Porter locked up as sexually dangerous.

In his written ruling, Superior Court Judge David McLaughlin cited several factors, including a 1996 letter Porter penned from prison to his former wife, in which he confessed that there "always will be" temptations.

"Any fair reading of that letter requires the conclusion that (Porter), at that date, was admitting to deviant sexual urges and a need to control the same," McLaughlin wrote.

The 69-year-old Porter pleaded guilty in 1993 to molesting 28 Bay State children in the 1960s while he was a priest. Porter's prison sentence wrapped up in January, but prosecutors are seeking to keep him civilly committed as a sexually dangerous person.

The judge's ruling came after a two-week probable cause hearing in Taunton Superior Court, where Porter's victims recalled the horrifying abuse and two psychologists testified Porter is likely to reoffend if freed.

McLaughlin wrote that prosecutors had established that Porter suffers from a personality disorder or mental abnormality, which makes it likely he will molest again unless he's locked up.

"The credible evidence of the seriousness of the threatened harm would allow a reasonable jury to conclude that the seriousness is grave," the judge wrote.

McLaughlin called the victim's testimony "chilling" and cited Porter's 2002 expulsion from a sex-offender program for "continued denial and minimalization of his past sexual offenses."

The judge also noted a 1993 taped interview in which Porter estimates the number of victims to be between 50 and 100. Porter will undergo a 45-day evaluation at the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater before the case goes to trial, possibly before a jury.

Peter Calderone, abused by Porter while an altar boy in North Attleboro, said he was pleased with the ruling. "There is a long road ahead, and he is right now where he needs to be," Calderone said.


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