A former Catholic priest who was at the center of the sexual abuse crisis in the Boston Archdiocese could remain in custody even though he has completed his prison sentence, as Essex prosecutors push for him to be declared a dangerous sexual predator.
Ronald H. Paquin pleaded guilty in 2002 and received a 12-to-15-year sentence for repeatedly raping a Haverhill altar boy between 1989 and 1992. He completed the sentence for three counts of rape of a child in late May, officials said, but remains in confinement until his status is resolved.
Facing the possibility that Paquin would be released, Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office is moving to have the 72-year-old Paquin declared a “sexually dangerous person.” Blodgett filed a petition to keep Paquin locked up in the spring, before his sentence actually ended, the district attorney’s office said.
Such a designation allows for indefinite civil commitment at the Massachusetts Treatment Center at the Bridgewater Correctional Complex, where Paquin is currently being held.
The first step in the complex legal process to keep Paquin locked up begins Friday in Essex Superior Court, where prosecutors will ask a judge to hold him pending a mental health examination.
If the judge agrees, two experts will evaluate Paquin for evidence of a “mental abnormality or personality disorder” that makes him likely to commit new sex offenses if released.
If one of the experts, called qualified examiners, finds evidence of abnormalities, Paquin would face a trial in which a jury or judge will formally decide if he is too dangerous to be released into society.
The civil commitment remains in force for “one day to life’’ under state law, but can also be reviewed annually.
The Globe reported in 2002, citing archdiocese documents, that the church received 13 complaints alleging sexual abuse by Paquin between 1990 and 1996, but that he was still approved by the archdiocese’s leader at the time, Cardinal Bernard F. Law, to return to parishes.
Prosecutors said in 2002 that Paquin’s crimes were among at least 50 sexual assaults involving a Haverhill boy while Paquin was an associate pastor at St. John the Baptist Church in Haverhill.
The boy was 12 at the time of the first sexual assault, prosecutors have said. The incidents allegedly took place in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.
Paquin’s history also includes an alleged drunken driving crash that killed Haverhill teenager James M. Francis in 1981.
Globe correspondent Alexandra Koktsidis contributed to this report.
John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@ globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.