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Prosecutor details case against Episcopal priest

Accused of abuse over a decade

The Rev. Paul LaCharite (right) was arraigned in Somerville District Court. With him was his laywer, David Meier.

Aram Booghosian for The Boston Globe

The Rev. Paul LaCharite (right) was arraigned in Somerville District Court. With him was his laywer, David Meier.

Over the course of a decade, the Rev. Paul LaCharite repeatedly called a young boy into his office at the St. James Episcopal Church in Somerville and sexually assaulted him, prosecutors said in court Monday.

The assaults stopped only after LaCharite, 65, left the church in 2005, but last week the victim went to police and told them about the assaults, said Danielle Stice, a Middlesex prosecutor.

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LaCharite was arraigned Monday in Somerville District Court on charges of assault with intent to rape a child and three counts of indecent assault and battery on a child. He was arrested Friday afternoon.

“Father LaCharite is devastated by these allegations,” said David Meier, his lawyer, speaking outside the court. Moments earlier, inside the courthouse, Meier pleaded not guilty on his client’s behalf, adding that LaCharite “vehemently” denies the charges.

“The last time he was contacted by the alleged victim, who is now 26, was about two years ago and that was to baptize the alleged victim’s first child,” Meier said.

After he retired and left St. James, LaCharite became a member of the Old North Church, where he was a priest associate and delivered Sunday sermons.

“He has been suspended pending the results of the investigations,” said Church Vicar Stephen Ayres, in a telephone interview. “We are cooperating fully with this investigation and have launched our own investigation into this matter.”

Meier told Judge Maurice Flynn that LaCharite does not have a criminal record and has been a pillar of his community for more than three decades.

The allegations against LaCharite surfaced last week, Meier said, when the accuser told his wife he had been sexually assaulted by the priest when he was a child, and the couple contacted police.

Meier said the man is going through a “difficult” divorce, and questioned his motivation and credibility.

Prosecutors said in a statement Friday that the victim and his family were longtime parishioners of St. James.

Flynn impounded the police report and Somerville police refused to release it, saying it doesn’t fall under the guidelines of a public record.

Stice detailed some of the allegations based on the police report in court, however. She said the first alleged sexual assault was when the victim was 7 or 8 years old. LaCharite called the boy into his office and started hugging him and squeezing his buttocks. The priest attempted to kiss the boy, had him sit on his lap, and touched his genitals, Stice said.

On one occasion, when the boy was about 11, LaCharite allegedly touched him inappropriately and said, “You’re supposed to say that feels good.’’

LaCharite is from Ottawa and was ordained by the Anglican Church of Canada, which is that country’s equivalent of the Episcopal Church, said Tracy Sukraw, spokeswoman for the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

In 1980, LaCharite was received into the Episcopal Church in the United States, and was rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ogdensburg, N.Y., until 1983.

In 1986, he became a librarian at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, and from 1989 to 2005, served as priest at the Somerville church.

Although he retired from active ministry, he delivered sermons occasionally at the Old North Church, Sukraw said.

When LaCharite was arrested Friday, he was held on $25,000 cash bail. Bail was posted on his behalf and he was released pending Monday’s arraignment.

Flynn, citing the defendant’s ties to the area, reduced the bail to $10,000 and ordered LaCharite to return to court on Oct. 22 for a probable cause hearing.

Brian Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com Follow him on Twitter @GlobeBallou.
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