Defrocked Priest Appeals Conviction for Sex Crimes in Maine
By Megan Gray
February 12, 2020
A former Catholic priest is appealing his conviction for sexually abusing a young boy on trips to Maine in the 1980s.
|Ronald Paquin was sentenced last year in York County Superior Court to serve 16 years in prison. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer|
Ronald Paquin, now 77, was found guilty in 2018 of 11 counts of gross sexual misconduct. A York County jury acquitted him of similar charges related to a second boy. A judge sentenced him last year to 20 years in prison with all but 16 years suspended.
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 and was defrocked in 2004. Once he was released, he was indicted on criminal charges in Maine, and he was arrested in 2017.
Paquin is now incarcerated at the Maine State Prison in Warren, and he did not attend oral arguments Wednesday at the Maine Supreme Judicial Court hearing in Portland.
His attorney, Rory McNamara, raised multiple issues on appeal, but the justices focused on two during the hearing Wednesday.
McNamara argued first that the trial judge should have required the prosecutor to disclose the victim’s criminal history to the defense attorneys, saying that information was not available to the defense attorneys, but should have been available to the prosecutor through a federal database. The details of the victim’s criminal record were not disclosed during the trial or the appeal hearing.
“Due process will require a new trial in this case if whatever is in those records creates a reasonable probability of a different result,” McNamara said.
The justices questioned whether the defense had actually requested that information during the trial phase and what the impact of a ruling on that matter might be.
“This would require, in fact, that the prosecutors seek and obtain the criminal history record for every single person who is going to testify in any criminal proceeding,” Chief Justice Leigh Saufley said at one point.
“No,” McNamara replied. “We’re here about the complaining witness in a case where the complaining witness’ testimony is uniquely important.”
McNamara also said the judge should have barred an expert witness from testifying that male victims of sexual abuse often delay disclosure.
York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan answered questions about the timing of the victim’s disclosure to Maine officials. McGettigan, who was one of the prosecutors at Paquin’s trial, said her office called the expert to explain the decades-long delay between the abuse and the trial. The victim whose allegations resulted in a conviction contacted the Maine Attorney General’s Office in 2011, she said.
“If the victim said, ‘I told my uncle the week after it happened and he just ignored it,’ would this expert’s testimony still be relevant?” Associate Justice Joseph Jabar asked.
“I think it would be, just because of the age of the case,” McGettigan answered.
The justices do not have a timetable to make their decision.