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Ex-swim coach accused of abuse appears in court

Paul A. Collins pleaded not guilty in Cambridge District Court Monday to charges of child sexual assault that allegedly occurred at the Arlington Boys & Girls Club in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Jessica Rinaldi for The Boston Globe

Paul A. Collins pleaded not guilty in Cambridge District Court Monday to charges of child sexual assault that allegedly occurred at the Arlington Boys & Girls Club in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

MEDFORD — When the young boy joined the Arlington Boys & Girls Club swim team in the late 1970s, his coach was Paul Collins, who also dated his family’s neighbor and would sometimes fill in as baby sitter.

On those occasions, when the boy went to sleep, Collins would sit at his bedside and “begin rubbing his back and chest,” according to allegations detailed in court documents released Monday. ­Collins would then massage the boy below the waist and tell him he should not talk about it to anyone else.

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It was, he told the boy, “our ­little secret.”

The boy, now a middle-aged man, is one of four adults who in recent weeks have accused Collins of sexual assault, part of an expand­ing investigation into child abuse at the youth club. The men came forward after club officials announced in February that another former employee, William Sullivan, had allegedly sexually abused children at the club ­between the 1970s and 1990s. ­Sullivan is deceased.

Judge Roanne Sragow spoke with probation officer Katherine Seoana during the arraignment.

Jessica Rinaldi for The Boston Globe

Judge Roanne Sragow spoke with probation officer Katherine Seoana during the arraignment.

On Monday, two days after being arrested in his Long Island home, Collins, 62, was arraigned in Cambridge District Court on charges of sexually assaulting the boys and ordered held on $250,000 bail. Collins pleaded not guilty to the accusations, but prosecutors said he had admitted to sexual contact with two accusers and told investigators he may also have had contact with the other two.

Prosecutors said Collins, who left Massachusetts in 1980 after being fired from the youth club, had lived in a number of states before settling in New York and told authorities he had been “looking over his shoulder for the past 33 years.”

Collins is charged with rape of a child by force and three counts of indecent assault and battery on a child. The accusers, now in their mid-40s, all met Collins at the Arlington Boys & Girl Club.

In court, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said Collins was fired from the club and quickly left town after he was confronted with allegations of raping a child. The club did not notify police.

In late 2011, a former club member made an abuse allegation about Sullivan; the club inves­tigated, and in January ­informed Arlington police of additional allegations of past abuse. When the club publicly ­announced the allegations, ­other potential victims were ­encouraged to notify authorities.

Club officials earlier said they have been cooperating with investigators “in recognition that no child should ever experience the trauma of abuse of any kind.” They did not comment Monday.

The complaints against Collins detail a grim pattern of abuse, with Collins allegedly preying on the boys when they were alone, sometimes in their own homes.

In police reports redacted to protect the privacy of the accusers, one man recalled that ­Collins, who was friends with his family, stayed at his home one summer while he recovered from surgery.

One night, he woke up to “find Paul in bed with him” and performing a sexual act. The boy, who had finished his freshman year of high school, punched Collins in the head, and Collins quickly packed his things and left.

The next morning he told his mother, who was “devastated and furious.” His father went to the club to speak with the club director, and “a decision was made that Collins would leave town immediately,” the document states.

In July 1980, Collins was treated for a possible overdose that medical records described as a suicide attempt, court ­records show

At the time of Collins’s ­alleged offenses, the statute of limitations on such charges was six years. But because Collins left the state and did not return, the time did not expire.

Collins is also accused of earlier molesting that boy’s brother, who joined the swim team when he was 7. In April, he told investigators that when he was 11 or 12, Collins invited him on a weeklong trip to Hampton Beach, N.H, with two other boys. There were only two bedrooms, one with just one bed, and Collins asked him “Why don’t you sleep with me?” ­Collins then allegedly fondled the boy.

He remembered Collins saying: “Don’t worry. I’m not going to molest you.”

Saying he was sick, the boy had his parents come get him, cutting the trip short.

After the club’s February announce­ment about past abuse, one of Collins’s accusers began having “night terrors,” his girlfriend told authorities.

“She said he has become increas­ingly angry since he told her about the abuse,” the report stated.

A public defender assigned to represent Collins said he has no criminal record and that no other allegations of improper behavior have been made against him. When he was ­arrested he was working in ­human resources at a hotel.

His hands cuffed at his waist, Collins stared down through most of the court proceedings, looking dazed and showing no emotion. If he posts bail, Collins is ordered to have no contact with children under 16 and must wear a GPS monitor. He is due back in court June 17.

The man who said Collins assaulted him while baby-
sitting recalled that his mother once asked him about Collins, after she heard a rumor about why he had been “run out of town.” She asked him whether Collins ever did anything to him. But he never told her.

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.
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