A Catholic priest who served in a Brighton parish decades ago has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two children during the 1970s in Suffolk County, according to prosecutors.
James Randall Gillette, 77, pleaded guilty during a Jan. 2 appearance in Suffolk Superior Court to two counts of unnatural and lascivious acts on a child, according to the Suffolk district attorney’s office.
Gillette was sentenced to five years under house arrest, during which time he must wear a GPS monitoring bracelet. Additionally, he must register as a sex offender, undergo sex offender treatment as ordered by the probation department, stay away and have no contact with the survivors or any witnesses in the case, and have no one-on-one contact with any child under the age of 18 unless the minor’s parents are present, according to the district attorney’s office.
He did not receive any prison time.
Messages left with Gillette’s attorneys were not immediately returned Monday evening. It was not immediately clear where he was living or whether he had been defrocked by the Roman Catholic Church.
According to attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented one of the case’s two victims in a separate civil case against Gillette, the priest was ordained in 1971 and was assigned to St. Michael’s in Union City, N.J. between 1972 and 1974. He was then assigned to St. Gabriel’s in Brighton from 1975 to 1978. After that, he had assignments in Mexico City, Honduras, and Pittsburgh. He also lived in New York.
One of the victims, Anthony Sgherza, a 58-year-old who now lives in Philadelphia, said he was sexually abused by Gillette between the ages of 10 and 13. Garabedian said Gillette abused Sgherza in the St. Gabriel’s rectory in Brighton, and he also alleged in the civil suit that Gillette abused his client outside of Massachusetts. On Monday, Sgherza said he felt “believed, heard, understood, and supported” and said he felt gratitude for those who had worked on the case.
“I feel what was supposed to happen, happened,” said Sgherza of the outcome of the criminal case.
Sgherza’s civil claim against Gillette was settled in 2015 through the Archdiocese of Boston’s compensation program for clergy sex abuse victims. Garabedian said his client is now trying to help others who have endured similar situations.
Sgherza’s civil complaint stated that Gillette’s “explicit sexual behavior and lewd and lascivious conduct with the plaintiff, the plaintiff suffers, has suffered and will continue to suffer in the future severe emotional distress and physical harm manifested by objective symptomatology, including, but not limited to, sleep problems, night terrors, anxiety, sadness, depression, crying, panic attacks, flashbacks and suicidal ideation.”
“Anthony is a courageous sex abuse survivor,” Garabedian said Monday.
In a statement, Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins said that Gillette “used his position of trust and authority to ingratiate himself to his victims and their families in order to gain access to vulnerable targets for his sexual abuse.”
“Even more horrific, he used religion as an entryway into these children’s lives, potentially forever altering their faith,” said Rollins. These are the actions of a predator who deserves every moment of the sentence imposed and every condition.”
Disclosing childhood sexual abuse “can be incredibly difficult,” said Rollins.
“The survivors who came forward and helped us to hold their abuser accountable showed a tremendous amount of strength and bravery,” she said. “I want others to know that, in Suffolk County, victims of all types of crimes will be met with a supportive and compassionate team of prosecutors, advocates, and other professionals in a victim-centered environment.”
Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Boston archdiocese, said Gillette was a priest with the Passionist religious order, and he deferred comment to that group as “they have authority over him.”
The Passionists operated St. Gabriel’s in Brighton where Gillette was assigned, according to Donilon. St. Gabriel’s parish closed in 2006. The order, a Catholic community founded by St. Paul of the Cross, includes more than 2,000 priests, thousands of lay people in 52 different countries, according to the group’s web site.
Messages left with that order were not immediately returned on Monday evening.