SALEM — A prosecutor painted the Rev. Richard J. McCormick Friday as a ruthless predator who singled out a boy for repeated sexual assaults when he ran a summer camp in Ipswich in the 1980s, in crimes that so terrified the child he hid underneath his older brother’s bed to try and escape.
Essex Assistant District Attorney Kate MacDougall summarized the evidence that prosecutors have used to charge the Roman Catholic priest with five counts of rape for crimes allegedly committed in 1981 and 1982.
“Eventually it only stopped because the victim would either leave the grounds during the night and hide in the woods or in the fire escape or would sometimes go into the older boy’s bunkroom and hide under a table or the bunk so that the defendant could not get to him,’’ she said during McCormick’s arraignment.
McCormick, 71, the former provincial of the Salesian Brothers of Don Bosco for the eastern United States and Canada, already has been sued by nine men who alleged he molested them when they were boys.
Five of those men said they were molested by McCormick while he worked at Salesian facilities in Massachusetts in the 1960s and 1970s, according to their lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian.
McCormick pleaded not guilty to the charges in Essex Superior Court in Salem Friday. Judge Timothy Feeley set bail at $1,000 cash and ordered a member of McCormick’s religious order to supervise him when he returns to his home in New Rochelle, N.Y., where the Salesians are headquartered.
In court, MacDougall said McCormick had no prior criminal record. Garabedian, who represents the man McCormick allegedly victimized as a child in Ipswich, said in a phone interview that the Essex County investigation marks the first time the alleged sexual predator has faced criminal charges.
“What’s significant is that from 1986 to 1991, he was the Eastern Provincial leader of the Salesians,’’ said Garabedian, who has represented hundreds of alleged victims of clergy sex abuse. “I know of no other person in such a high position being indicted for sexually molesting children.”
Garabedian said that McCormick, while serving in a diocese in Gary, Ind., in the 1970s, took a boy on a trip in Rome and sexually molested him there. Garabedian later represented that man in a civil suit against McCormick.
“That case could not be criminally prosecuted because the federal law applied to only females and not males at the time,’’ Garabedian said. “And because of the statute of limitations, many of the cases could not be criminally prosecuted.’’
Prosecutors say the 27-year statute of limitations in Massachusetts did not expire because McCormick was out of the state, which suspends the statute.
McCormick was arrested by Ipswich police in New Rochelle Thursday and agreed to return to Massachusetts with Ipswich police officers to face the charges, prosecutors said.
Attending Friday’s arraignment was the Rev. Steve Dumais, the current vice provincial for the Salesians order in New Rochelle, who told the court he would be McCormick’s custodian when he returns to New York.
“Our whole reason is to work with young people, especially the poor. So these charges are very egregious,’’ Dumais said. “The reality of it is that it’s sad, certainly, that one of our own has been arrested and charged with a criminal complaint. We are doing our very best to support the work of the authorities the best we can.’’
In court, the prosecutor said the boy’s father was not present in his life and that McCormick chose him because he knew that.
The boy first drew McCormick’s attention when he was 11 years old during the summer of 1981, prosecutors said. The boy and his brother attended the camp for disadvantaged boys at a now-defunct site on Route 1A in Ipswich.
“The Commonwealth would suggest that he in part was singled out because he was someone who did not have a father who was active in his life,” MacDougall said.
During the summers of 1981 and 1982, McCormick allegedly started fondling the boy, but then escalated his behavior, allegedly raping the child in an office at the camp.
MacDougall said McCormick would wait until the boys were in bed in a dormitory at night and would then get the boy.
McCormick, who showed no emotion during his arraignment, is is due back in court Oct. 23.
According to Dumais, McCormick is not allowed to exercise his religious functions outside of the Salesian home where he has been living since 2009. Dumais said McCormick is assigned maintenance and cooking tasks and has no contact with anyone, especially children, without the approval of his religious superiors.
At that time of the alleged Ipswich attacks, Garabedian said, McCormick held the position of vocation director at the Don Bosco Retreat Center in West Haverstraw, N.Y.
McCormick was elevated to provincial of the order for the Eastern United States in 1986, a position he held until 1991.
Garabedian declined to identify his client, pointing to the criminal charges McCormick now faces. He said he was contacted by the man about 18 months ago, and that he referred him to law enforcement authorities to allow them to investigate McCormick.
Garabedian said records show that McCormick worked in the 1990s and into the early 2000s at both Don Bosco Technical High School in Boston and St. Dominic Savio Preparatory High School in East Boston.