DA Fights to Keep Porter Jailed

By Marc Munroe Dion
Herald News [New Bedford MA]
December 18, 2003

NEW BEDFORD -- Bristol County District Attorney Paul F. Walsh Jr. said Wednesday that he has petitioned Superior Court to keep convicted pedophile and former priest James R. Porter, 68, incarcerated until he is found to be no longer dangerous, if that ever occurs.

Walsh has served Porter with a copy of the petition and a probable cause hearing is scheduled for Jan. 14 in New Bedford Superior Court. If a judge determines there is probable cause to believe that Porter is a sexually dangerous person under state law, the court may order him held until a trial verdict on that point is made.

Under the civil commitment process, Porter has a right to trial by jury on the issue of whether he is a "sexually dangerous person." If he is found to be such a person, he can be held indefinitely, although he has the right to a yearly review of his condition.

Porter pleaded guilty in 1993 to 41 counts of sexual assault against 26 victims and was sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison. With statutory time credits and under sentencing schemes in effect at the time he committed his crimes, Porter is scheduled to be released from prison on Jan. 30.

"If there was ever a sexual offender who sees children as vulnerable prey, who is likely to repeat his horrendous conduct, given the opportunity, James Porter is his name," Walsh said. "He simply cannot be permitted to be free."

To have Porter committed as a sexually dangerous person, Walsh must demonstrate that Porter continues to suffer from uncontrolled sexual impulses that make a return to molesting likely. Walsh said he is prepared to present expert opinion that Porter remains sexually dangerous.

Walsh described Porter as, "just the sort of vicious predator for whom the Sexually Dangerous Person Statute was designed."

Porter sexually abused boys and girls in five states in the 1960s and 1970s.

Porter, who worked in the Fall River Diocese, was transferred to parishes in New Mexico, Minnesota, Texas and Nevada after church authorities grew suspicious of his activities.

Victims have said that Porter molested them while he was working at Sacred Heart Church in Fall River, St. Mary’s Church in North Attleboro and St. James Church in New Bedford.

He was the first American priest to go to prison in what became a widening scandal of clergy sexual abuse throughout the country. He was denied parole for a third time in 2001 while serving his sentence at the Massachusetts Treatment Center for Sexually Dangerous Persons in Bridgewater.

The petition was filed on behalf of Walsh by First Assistant Renee Dupuis who prosecuted Porter originally and by Assistant District Attorney Mimi McMahon who heads sexually dangerous person prosecutions for the District Attorney’s Office.

Frank Fitzpatrick of Cranston R.I., a Porter victim who helped bring Porter to justice said, "I’m glad it’s happening. He should be kept in prison for the rest of his life.

"He’s been doing it so long. There’s no way he would stop," Fitzpatrick said.


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