Mass. Jury Convicts Ex-Priest

United Press International
July 11, 1995

A Superior Court jury returned a guilty verdict in the case of a former Roman Catholic priest charged with sexually assaulting several teenage boys before he fled to Canada more than 20 years ago. The Worcester County jury, after 16 hours of deliberations, convicted Rev. Joseph Fredette on three counts of unnatural acts, the most serious of the charges pressed against him. He was acquitted on two additional charges of sexual abuse with assault and battery. The 63-year-old Fredette is expected to be sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in prison. The jury said its verdict is based on the testimony of just one witness, Gary Melanson, who said Fredette sodomized him over a seven- year period until he was 20. A second witness testified the priest plied him with alcohol when he was 16 and raped him. The defense claimed both alleged victims were lying. Fredette was arrested last year in New Brunswick, where he'd been living quietly for two decades. Fredette, a former member of the Augustinian order, is one of more than a dozen current or former Catholic priests in several New England states who have been accused in recent years of sexually abusing children in their care. The worst offender, James Porter, pleaded guilty last year to assaulting more than 30 youngsters — both girls and boys — as a priest in three parishes in southeastern Massachusetts in the 1960s and early '70s. Fredette fled the country in 1974 just as police were about to arrest him on charges of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old at a halfway house he ran for troubled youths in Worcester under a contract with the state. Massachusetts has a six-year statute of limitations on sex crimes, but Fredette remained liable for prosecution because he fled the state. Fredette founded the Come Alive Inc. center in 1970 after serving as a Boy Scout leader. The home was closed in the mid-1970s.


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