Porter Trial Conference Set for Wednesday

By Gregg M. Miliote
Herald News
July 16, 2004

NEW BEDFORD -- James Porter, the former Diocese of Fall River priest whose sexual molestation case sparked the nationwide controversy over sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, will be back in court next week for a brief scheduling conference to determine when and where he will stand trial on accusations that he is still a sexually dangerous predator who must be remanded to a mental health facility indefinitely.

Porter, 70, was set to appear in court Thursday for the scheduling matter, but the hearing was postponed until Wednesday.

An official with the Bristol County District Attorney's Office said this week that prosecutors are attempting to contact the Superior Court's regional management administration to try to get a judge assigned to the case.

"The trial should take a while," the official said.

Porter is currently residing at the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater, where he recently completed a mandatory evaluation by two qualified examiners.

He will remain at the treatment center, at least until his trial is completed. But if the jury during the upcoming sexually dangerous person civil commitment trial decides he is still a real threat to the community, he will be held at the center for an indefinite stay.

The former priest, who admitted to molesting more than 100 boys over three decades, was convicted in 1993 of 41 counts of sexual assault against at least 28 Massachusetts victims.

After serving 10 years at a state prison and the treatment center, Porter was set to be released this past January.

But before he could get out of jail and reintegrate into society, prosecutors filed a sexually dangerous person petition with the court.

The petition meant Porter could not be released until a judge or jury found him to be no longer sexually dangerous.

His first shot at freedom came this past April when he sat through nine days of gut-wrenching testimony at a probable cause hearing to determine if the matter should go to trial.

He was eventually denied that freedom when a Superior Court judge found the commonwealth had presented probable cause for a trial, meaning Porter had to undergo the 60-day evaluation and remain incarcerated at the treatment center until the upcoming trial was completed.

Porter's attorney, Michael Farrington, has recently said the trial will likely begin sometime this fall.


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