Priest Gets up to 60 Years for Altar-Boy Sex Assaults

By Jody Record
Union Leader (Manchester, NH)
October 10, 1998

DOVER A Roman Catholic priest received a 30- to 60-year sentence in the New Hampshire State Prison yesterday for sexually molesting two altar boys at St. Peter's Church in Farmington where he served for eight years.

The Rev. Roger A. Fortier showed no emotion yesterday as Strafford Country Superior Court Judge Bruce Mohl handed down the sentence for eight counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and two counts of felonious sexual assault. Fortier was found guilty of the charges in July.

Letters written by parishioners supporting Fortier for his contributions to the community proved to work against the 52-year-old clergyman when Mohl made his decision.

"Because he was so trusted, he had access to these young boys . . . The good he has done, I find to be an aggravating factor, not a mitigating one," Mohl said. "He doesn't show the slightest bit of remorse, he hasn't apologized to the victims, their families, his community, his church. I find it shocking."

Several members of the victims' families were in court to hear the decision, along with the younger victim. Also on hand, sitting opposite the families, were supporters of Fortier. None of them spoke in his defense.

The absent victim's stepfather addressed the judge prior to sentencing, saying that even though a jury had declared Fortier guilty, he still found it hard to believe he had committed the crimes.

"He was a friend to me; he was loved by all my family. . . He used me as a weapon to get to my son," he said. "My son, for the first time in his life, has to count on medication to make it day to day. . . He so wanted to be an altar boy and now he won't even go to church."

The younger victim also approached the judge, standing by his mother's side while reading briefly from a prepared statement.

"He turned my life into a living hell," the boy said flatly. "The kids at school are cruel to me. . . I hope he will admit his guilt."

A third victim who came forward after Fortier's arrest last October and whose allegations have not resulted in charges, took the stand Friday to say he had been sexually assaulted by Fortier in Derry in 1981. Stephen Jeffco, Fortier's attorney, used the man's past criminal record in an attempt to discredit his account.

County Attorney Lincoln Soldati called Fortier an "evil man" who had betrayed not only the families of his parish but his faith.

"He had a choice," Soldati said. "He chose the most vulnerable in his community to prey upon. He still chooses denial."

Fortier was arrested last October after the 14-year-old victim told his mother the priest had been molesting him at the rectory of St. Peter Catholic Church on Central Street where the boy often spent weekends.

The second victim came forward shortly thereafter and said Fortier had sexually assaulted him between February 1994 and June 1995. Fortier was suspended by the Catholic Diocese of Manchester after his arrest.

It took Mohl less than five minutes to make his decision yesterday. Before announcing the sentencing he admonished Fortier for his violations of trust.

"I have had many sex offenders come before me in this court. I find Roger Fortier to be the most insidious defendant I've seen," Mohl said.

Fortier made no comment during the proceedings.


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