Molester Priest Paquin Cuts Deal to Testify in Abuse Civil Lawsuits
By Tom Mashberg
January 1, 2003
A North Shore priest whose seduction and sexual abuse of teen boys spans four decades pleaded guilty yesterday to three counts of oral rape of a child and received a minimum 12-year term after promising to testify in civil cases against the Archdiocese of Boston.
Shackled and speaking in a hoarse whisper, the Rev. Ronald H. Paquin, 60, responded "yes" each of the three times Essex County Superior Court Judge Robert H. Bohn Jr. asked him if he had performed "unnatural acts" on a minor in 1989, when the child was 12 and working an altar boy at St. John the Baptist's in Haverill.
The victim, who is 26 and lives in Peabody with his pregnant wife, was present for the plea.
He read a stinging impact statement, staring at the pallid, thickly bespectacled Paquin and stating "you brainwashed me . . . as your sex slave."
"You are sneaky, sly and dishonorable," he added. "You are disgusting. I am ashamed I allowed you to marry my wife and me."
Of the sentence - which Bohn said took into account the fact that Paquin had no prior record, but also that the priest abused children even after receiving psychological treatment - the victim said, "It's a reasonable sentence, although I might have wanted a longer one."
The drama in a Salem courthouse punctuated a year in which scores of hidden molesters have been identified through church archives, but few of the abusive clerics have faced criminal justice.
Along with Paquin, only defrocked pedophile John J. Geoghan stands convicted, while the Rev. Paul R. Shanley remains out on bail, awaiting trial for rape.
Paquin is the first priest to plead guilty as a result of the 2002 clergy abuse scandal, and the only one to vow to cooperate in scores of civil actions against the church.
His attorney, Kevin J. Reddington, said Paquin "will be a good witness."
Reddington said Paquin was "somber and remorseful for the harm he has done," but some of his victims, including Robert P. Bartlett, 40, of Haverhill, were unmoved by Paquin's show of regret.
"I didn't see any remorse," said Bartlett, who settled a molestation suit against Paquin and the church in 1994 and attended the sentencing with other victims. "He was taking the easy way out, as he always does, to avoid the shame of a trial. He is a serial molester."
Attorney Jeffrey A. Newman of Marblehead, who represents 17 alleged Paquin victims, brought the plaintiff in the criminal case to Essex County prosecutor William E. Fallon last winter after determining he was the sole Paquin victim whose allegations fell within Bay State statutes of limitations. The laws allow for prosecution 15 years after a victim's 16th birthday.
The victim said in an interview he was at first reluctant to go to trial. But the more he learned of Paquin's long career of abuse - laid out in media accounts of the Malden-born priest's personnel file - the keener he grew to testify about years of seduction and rape that began when he was 11 and did not end until he was almost 18.
"I do believe he was molested by a priest," the victim said of Paquin.
Paquin claimed in an interview with the Herald in January he was abused by the late Rev. Bernard St. Hillaire while a youth - acts he said led him to similar proclivities.
"But that doesn't take any of the weight off of him," the victim said. "You can make a choice not to molest other people, not to ruin others' lives. I have made that choice. He could have made it."
In his impact statement, the victim described an elaborate scheme of seduction by Paquin that began in the late 1980s, when he was 11.
He said Paquin asked him about masturbation, then offered him massages, then progressed to molestation and oral rape. All the while, he said, Paquin plied him with liquor and gifts such as skis, jewelry and electronics, molesting him more than 50 times in Massachusetts, Canada, Maine, New Hampshire, Florida and Virginia.
"You created a world for me where I believed that 'it's normal for boys to shower with their fathers,' " the victim said, "a world where 'fathers and sons' are supposed to share these sexual acts.
"Ronald Paquin, you are a sexual predator of exploitable innocents," the victim said. "You abused your title of 'Father.' I am ashamed that that I let you continue to be my friend after all of this. I am ashamed that your brainwashing lasted as long as it did with me."
Paquin will have to serve at least 12 years minus the 238 days he has spent in jail awaiting trial.
His sentence could last 15 years. He is to be jailed at MCI-Cedar Junction.
Newman said he was happy to hear Paquin wanted to cooperate.
"He must have significant information as to what was known to supervisors in the archdiocese," Newman said. "And that includes Bishop (John B.) McCormack," the embattled chief of the Manchester, N. H., diocese and a longtime supervisory prelate in Boston.
"I will explore this immediately," Newman said. "I've always thought the real truth beyond the verbiage of the documents would emerge through the testimony of people like Paquin and Shanley."
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