Convicted Priest Hopes to Avoid Sex-Offender Treatment

By Gary V. Murray
Telegram & Gazette
October 19, 2006

Worchester— An 82-year-old retired priest about to be released from prison after being convicted of molesting young boys more than 20 years ago is too old and too sick to take part in a sex-offender treatment program as ordered by the court, according to his lawyer.

Rev. Paul M. Desilets, known to his victims as "Father Hands," was sentenced in May 2005 to 1 to 1 1/2 years in state prison after pleading guilty in Worcester Superior Court to multiple counts of indecent assault and battery on a child, indecent assault and battery and assault and battery.

The sentence was imposed by Judge Timothy S. Hillman after Rev. Desilets admitted to sexually assaulting 18 male victims from 1978 to 1984, when they were altar boys at Our Lady of the Assumption parish in Bellingham and he was associate pastor there.

In addition to imposing the prison term, Judge Hillman, now a federal magistrate judge, placed Rev. Desilets on probation for 10 years following his release from custody. As conditions of probation, the retired Roman Catholic priest was ordered to have no contact with his victims and no unsupervised contact with anyone under age 18. He was further ordered to undergo any sex-offender counseling deemed appropriate by the court's Probation Department.

Rev. Desilets' lawyer, Dennis J. Kelly, filed a motion yesterday asking that his client not be required to attend a sex-offender treatment program after his scheduled release Monday from the state prison in Shirley. According to the motion, Rev. Desilets plans to return to his religious community in Canada, Les Clercs de St. Viateur, and is "too elderly and infirm" to participate in counseling.

A hearing on the motion was scheduled for tomorrow.

Mr. Kelly said his client has been confined to a wheelchair for many months and takes an array of medications for medical problems that include diabetes, anemia, cataracts in both eyes, episodes of vertigo and momentary loss of consciousness and pain in his right hip and knee resulting from a bout with polio as a child. Rev. Desilets has served his sentence in the assisted daily living section of the health services unit at the prison in Shirley, according to Mr. Kelly.

The lawyer said Rev. Desilets intends to live at the Les Clercs de St. Viateur infirmary residence in Joliette, Quebec, where he will receive all necessary medical care, nutrition and assistance with daily living requirements. Rev. Desilets was extradited from Canada in 2005 after being indicted in 2002.

"Father Desilets' advanced age and infirm physical condition render him incapable of participating in a treatment program. Further, sex-offender treatment would serve no useful purpose because he will not be in a position to have contact with children at the Les Clercs de St. Viateur infirmary," Mr. Kelly wrote in his motion.

The lawyer is also asking that Rev. Desilets' probation be changed from supervised to administrative and that he be allowed to report to his probation officer by mail or telephone. Mr. Kelly said he had spoken to probation officials in Worcester Superior Court and that they did not object to his requests.

Gaunt and unshaven, the retired priest appeared to fall asleep at times during his plea hearing last year, prompting Judge Hillman to ask more than once if he was awake and understood what he was doing. Rev. Desilets responded affirmatively and Mr. Kelly assured the judge that his client was cognizant of what was going on, despite being "a little tired."



Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.