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    Expert testifies that local priest who raped child remains a danger

    Ronald Paquin appeared in court in 2002.
    TOM HERDE/GLOBE STAFF
    Ronald Paquin appeared in court in 2002.

    A forensic psychologist for the state Department of Correction testified Friday that a former Catholic priest who was at the center of the abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese more than a decade ago remains a dangerous sexual predator who should stay in prison even though he has completed his sentence.

    “He targeted adolescent boys that he felt were disadvantaged, came from disadvantage homes,” said Gregg Belle, a private forensic examiner who specializes in reviewing sexual offenders and does contractual work for the state prison system.

    Belle told a Superior Court judge that the former priest, Ronald H. Paquin, “readily acknowledges he has always been sexually attracted to teenage boys.”

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    Paquin, now 72, had pleaded guilty in 2002 and was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in state prison for repeatedly raping a Haverhill altar boy between 1989 and 2002. There were at least 50 incidents of assault. Paquin completed his sentence, for three counts of rape of a child, in May.

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    Though Paquin was convicted of raping one boy, he was accused of sexually assaulting as many as 18 others.

    The Globe Spotlight investigative team reported in 2002 that the archdiocese received at least 13 complaints alleging sexual abuse by Paquin between 1990 and 1996, yet allowed him to continue to serve.

    Before his sentence ended, Essex County prosecutors sought to keep Paquin civilly committed under the state’s sexual predator laws, which require them to prove that Paquin remains a danger if he is released. If that happens, he could be held for life at the Massachusetts Treatment Center at the Bridgewater Correctional Complex, where he is currently being held.

    The first step in the civil commitment process began Friday in what is known as a probable cause hearing, in which prosecutors must show there is true reason to believe Paquin remains a danger.

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    If Essex Superior Court Judge James Lang agrees, Paquin would then be subjected to a trial in which a jury or judge would formally decide — based on further expert testimony — if he is too dangerous to be released into society. Friday’s hearing was continued to Aug. 18 so that another expert can testify.

    At least one person who says he was victimized by Paquin supported the process Friday.

    “It’s a good thing that someone wants to keep him where he needs to be. I mean, the man was a monster. . . . He befriended people. He used it as power, his position to take advantage of people like me when I was young, and I don’t think that’s fair. And it’s good to see that someone is still picking up the ball and keeping him where he needs to be,” said Wayne Raymond, 58, originally from Haverhill, who said he was an altar boy at a Catholic church in that city when Paquin began to assault him in the late 1960s, when Raymond was about the age of 11.

    Belle, who testified for state prosecutors, said that Paquin developed what is known as a “grooming” practice, in which he would earn the trust of his victims. He would bring them on vacation, financially support their families — in one case he bought a victim a motorcycle — and he would ply them with alcohol. He would then talk to them about masturbation, and would engage in sex acts with them, saying it was an educational lesson.

    Paquin told Belle and other mental health examiners that he was sexually assaulted by his own church priest when he was a teenager. He has said he was continuing what he thought was an accepted practice, and that he was educating his victims about sex.

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    But Belle told the judge Friday that Paquin does not seem to take responsibility for what he has done and that, at age 72, he remains a predator who is still attracted to young boys.

    “He has a very difficult time accepting responsibility for his actions, and his behaviors,” Belle testified, noting the number of his alleged victims. “Presently, he does not view himself as a sex offender.”

    Milton Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia@globe.com.