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  Priest Found Guilty 1970s Sex Abuse
Acquitted of Some Worcester Charges

By Katherine S. Robertson
Boston Globe
July 12, 1995

WORCESTER — Rev. Joseph A. Fredette was convicted yesterday of sexually abusing a teen-age boy more than 20 years ago, but acquitted of similar charges involving a second youth

After 16 hours of deliberations, a Worcester Superior Court jury of eight men and six women convicted Father Fredette, a Catholic priest, on three charges of unnatural acts. He was acquitted on two other counts, one of unnatural acts and the other of assault and battery.

The assaults allegedly occurred over a three-year period beginning in 1971 while Father Fredette was the live-in manager of Come Alive Inc., a halfway house for juvenile delinquents. Father Fredette left the state in 1974, before any charges were filed. He lived for several years in Canada, most recently at the Hermits of Mercy refuge in New Brunswick. He was extradited to Worcester in 1994 and has been imprisoned since then.

Judge James P. Donohue said he would pronounce sentence today. Father Fredette could receive up to 15 years in jail.

Donohue yesterday denied a defense motion to dismiss charges because one of the jurors had watched a television interview about the case, contrary to the judge's orders, and that might have affected decision-making. "We have some very good appellate issues," said defense lawyer Gail M. Allard. She plans an appeal.

A dozen supporters, many of them members of the Hermits of Mercy, sat in the courtroom, and when the verdict was read an elderly woman in a blue-striped dress began to weep.

"After more than two decades, we gave the victims a chance to tell their stories," said Herbert F. Travers, a special prosecutor assigned to the case. "I very much wanted to see a conviction on some of the charges."

Father Fredette was convicted on charges brought by Gary M. Melanson but was acquitted on the charges lodged by Francis R. Hanault, both 37, who said they had been molested as teen-agers. The conviction, Hanault said yesterday, "indicates to me that it happened. Whether the jury believed me is neither here nor there. They believed one of us. The ghost is gone."

Father Fredette, once a member of the religious order Augustinians of the Assumption, had been a resident director of Come Alive. Melanson, who first made his accusations in 1992, testified that he had first been assaulted after he had taken the hallucination-inducing drug LSD. Melanson is now serving a sentence at the Worcester County House of Correction on a number of charges, including assault of a police officer.

Hanault testified that he had been sexually abused in late 1973 after Father Fredette gave him beer. Like Melanson, Hanault has an extensive criminal record.

In 1974, after a half dozen teen-age boys told police that Father Fredette had sexually abused them, the state Department of Youth Services began an investigation. Father Fredette denied the allegations but was told by state officials in 1974 that funding for the halfway house would be stopped unless he resigned and left the area.

Father Fredette left Massachusetts and went to Canada, where he was given permission to leave the Augustinian cloister and establish the hermitage in New Brunswick.

 
 

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