Former Mass. Priest Pleads Innocent to Abuse Charges

By Adam Gorlick
Associated Press, carried in [Worcester MA]
April 25, 2005

WORCESTER, Mass. --A retired priest extradited from Canada to face sex abuse charges pleaded innocent Monday to molesting altar boys at a Bellingham parish in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Rev. Paul M. Desilets, 81, was returned to Massachusetts last week after he dropped an appeal of his extradition before Canada's highest court.

Desilets, who is diabetic and suffers from an illness caused by childhood polio, participated in the arraignment by videoconference from the Worcester County Jail.

He did not speak and his lawyer entered innocent pleas to 16 counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14, 10 counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14 and six counts of assault and battery.

The judge ordered him held on $100,000 bail and scheduled a court appearance for May 13.

District Attorney John Conte said he was trying to work out a plea deal that would include jail time and that he has discussed it with some of Desilets' alleged victims.

"We have talked to nine victims," he said. "Most are in agreement with what we are about to do."

Desilets' attorney, Paul Mastrocola, declined to comment after the arraignment.

Desilets was indicted in April 2002 on charges of molesting 18 altar boys between 1978 and 1984 at Our Lady of Assumption Parish in Bellingham. He had been living in Canada since 1984, when he moved to a retirement home for clergy in Joliette, Quebec.

He was arrested there in October 2002 at the request of U.S. authorities, and a Canadian judge's extradition order was upheld by the Quebec Court of Appeal in February. The case moved on appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, but Desilets abandoned the appeal on April 7.

Bellingham police Sgt. Richard Perry, who headed the investigation, said Desilets' alleged victims "are happy that he's here, but the battle still isn't over.

"I wont be satisfied until it's completed," he said.