Defrocked Priest, 76, Sentenced to Spend 16 Years in Prison for Sexually Abusing Boy in Maine
By Megan Gray
May 24, 2019
|Ronald Paquin enters York County Superior Court in Alfred on Friday. He was sentenced to spend 16 years in prison for abusing a young boy on trips to Maine in the 1980s. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette|
A former Catholic priest will spend 16 years in prison for abusing a young boy on trips to Maine in the 1980s.
Ronald Paquin, 76, was found guilty in November on 11 of 24 counts of gross sexual misconduct. A York County jury acquitted him of similar charges related to a second boy.
Paquin was one of the priests exposed in the early 2000s by a sweeping Boston Globe investigation into clergy sex abuse. He pleaded guilty in 2002 in Massachusetts to repeatedly raping an altar boy between 1989 and 1992, beginning when the victim was 12. He spent more than decade in prison there and was defrocked in 2004.
York County Superior Court Justice Wayne Douglas sentenced Paquin on Friday to 20 years in prison with all but 16 years suspended. Upon release, Paquin will be subject to three years of probation and required to register as a sex offender.
“These were the actions of a man who held a special position of power and trust, a sacred trust, a man looked to for spiritual and personal guidance, support, comfort and intercession, a man privileged to hold that role,” Douglas said. “He breached that trust. He abused that privilege and, worse, he used that position to exploit this child and this child’s family for his own selfish and depraved motives.”
Keith Townsend, who has publicly identified himself as the victim in this case, read a typed statement in court in a clear voice. He said the abuse he suffered caused him to struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism, drug addiction, depression and suicide attempts for decades.
“With my life in so much turmoil and filled with so many near-death experiences, I could not even ask God for help,” Townsend said. “I asked myself, if there is such a powerful loving God, how can he let this happen to me and my friends? And by a person who claimed to be his representative on Earth? At the darkest times in my life, whether it be in a solitary jail cell or in an intensive care unit from an overdose, I had no one to turn to, not even my God.”
Now 45, Townsend said he is sober and rebuilding his life with a wife and two children. But he told the judge that his childhood priest has never shown remorse for his actions, and he asked for closure for himself and other victims of clergy sex abuse.
“It took a lot of soul-searching and digging deep within myself to be able to come forward with this case,” he said. “It has not only helped me in my recovery, but also opened a door to the other victims of abuse. To finally come out from the shadows and see you are not alone. You are not silenced. You are human just like everyone else. This will continue to be my life’s mission for as long as I hold breath in my body.”
Defense attorney Valerie Randall delivered a brief statement written by Paquin. He first thanked the judge and the prosecutors for their work on his case.
|In a written statement, Ronald Paquin said he was angered to read “that I lack remorse or sympathy for my past actions.” Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer|
“It makes me angry when I read in the sentencing memorandum and the newspapers that I lack remorse or sympathy for my past actions,” his statement said. “In over 30 years, I never told anyone, nor was it evident in my life, that I was sexually abused with many who were a part of my life. I kept my hurt feelings within until I was able to trust someone who became my best friend. I kept those hurt feelings for so long, pretending that I was living a happy life with no problems. When you are used to keeping the difficulties and strong feelings that life deals you within you, it is extremely difficult to express outwardly what you feel.”
The judge recalled this statement when he explained his sentence later in the hearing.
“I do not detect from Mr. Paquin either an acceptance of responsibility nor an expression of remorse,” Douglas said.
Douglas said he did consider it a mitigating factor that Paquin claims to have himself been sexually abused by a priest at his family’s church.
“It is emblematic of the toll taken both on him and on his subsequent victims of the historic cycle of abuse that has gone unacknowledged and unaddressed by the church until recent times, and even now not fully sufficiently addressed,” Douglas said. “But it doesn’t excuse the conduct.”
Paquin did not react as the judge spoke. He wore a tan jail uniform and walked with a cane. The defense team had requested a sentence of 10 years with all but three years suspended, which is the same sentence negotiated in a plea deal in a similar case with a former priest in Cumberland County.
Randall cited Paquin’s age and health problems as reason to reduce the amount of prison time, and she noted that Paquin has served nearly 18 years total between his sentence in Massachusetts and his time awaiting trial in Maine.
But the judge did not consider those to be reasons to lessen the sentence. He said the Maine Department of Corrections could adequately treat Paquin, and he pointed to other cases in which elderly defendants who are convicted of sex crimes received similar sentences.
Randall expects Paquin to appeal both his conviction and his sentence.
“What Mr. Paquin had hoped additionally is that the judge would consider his low risk of recidivism and that prison may not be the most appropriate place for someone of his age,” she said.
The state had asked for 20 years in prison, the maximum sentence possible under the law at the time the crimes were committed. The prosecutors said they were satisfied with the judge’s decision, and they praised Townsend for his statement to the court.
“The judge gave his thorough consideration, and it addressed all of the concerns the state had,” Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan said.