As James Talbot Answers to Sex Charges, Man Who Accused Him Years Ago Is in the Courtroom
By Eric Russell
Portland Press Herald
December 1, 2017
|Michael Doherty speaks to reporters Friday after James Talbot pleaded not guilty to new sex charges in Maine. Doherty, who sued Talbot alleging sexual abuse in the 1990s, said he attended Friday's hearing because he didn’t want the victim, or his family, to feel alone. Staff photo by Ben McCanna|
When he returned home to Maine recently, Michael Doherty didn’t expect to face the man he says sexually assaulted him back in the mid-’80s.
Doherty, 49, formerly of Freeport, settled a lawsuit 16 years ago with former priest and Cheverus High School teacher James Francis Talbot.
Doherty now lives in Florida.
But on Friday, he was in a courtroom in Portland waiting for Talbot to formally face criminal charges of abuse involving another victim.
Asked why it was important for him to be there, Doherty said he didn’t want the victim, or his family, to feel like they were alone.
“This is all new to them,” he said after the brief hearing. “It’s a tough day, but an important day. This will bring them a little closer to closure.”
Talbot has been charged with gross sexual assault and unlawful sexual contact following an investigation into the alleged sexual assault of a 9-year-old boy at St. Jude Church in Freeport in 1998. In addition to his job at Cheverus, Talbot was a substitute priest at the parish that includes the Freeport church.
This is the first time that Talbot has been charged criminally in Maine, but it was Doherty’s allegations nearly two decades ago that got Talbot fired from Cheverus and opened the door to more victims coming forward, including several who have said they were abused by Talbot when he taught at Boston College High School from 1972 to 1980.
Some of those allegations in Massachusetts led to criminal charges there. Talbot was sentenced to 5 to 7 years in prison in 2005 and Doherty was at that hearing as well.
Doherty said the most recent victim, whom he hadn’t known, reached out to him some time ago, before the man filed a lawsuit in 2016 detailing alleged abuse by Talbot. Doherty said the details of his own experience were strikingly similar. In both instances, Talbot befriended the boys’ families first to build trust.
The biggest difference, though, is that the most recent victim was only 9 at the time he was allegedly assaulted. Doherty was a teenager.
Courtney Oland, Doherty’s sister, also attended Friday’s hearing, as did other members of their family. It was actually Oland who first brought the allegations involving her brother to the attention of the bishop in April 1998. As it turns out, that was the same time Talbot was allegedly abusing the latest victim.
Oland said that timing still gives her pause.
“I still think about why I didn’t speak up sooner,” she said.
When Doherty’s allegations first became public, it was a much different time. Many Catholics refused to believe the claims and Doherty and his family faced scorn in their community for coming forward.
Both Oland and Doherty said they believe there are other victims of Talbot in Maine. They hope if they are, they might be willing to come forward.
Asked whether he thought the Catholic Church has made enough changes to ensure this type of abuse doesn’t happen anymore, Doherty said, “I think it’s been too expensive not to change,” referring to the hundreds of financial settlements that have been made with victims, including him.
Doherty said he hopes Talbot is convicted on the latest charges.
“I don’t think he deserves to live out his life in comfort,” he said.
Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at: