The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Witness opposes Porter's release

Psychologist cites deviant thoughts

By John Ellement, Globe Staff, 4/7/2004

TAUNTON -- A forensic psychologist warned yesterday that James R. Porter will molest children again if freed because the former Catholic priest still has deviant thoughts.

John R. Daignault testified on behalf of Bristol County prosecutors that Porter should remain locked up to protect society. The district attorney's office is trying to convince Superior Court Judge David A. McLaughlin that there is probable cause to believe that Porter is a "sexually dangerous person" who should remain at a state treatment center once his criminal sentence is completed.

In 1993, Porter pleaded guilty to molesting more than two dozen children when he was a priest in the Fall River Diocese in the 1960s. He has nearly completed his sentence but prosecutors want him declared sexually dangerous and civilly committed to the Massachusetts Treatment Center.

Daignault said his review of some 2,000 pages of Porter's criminal history, church records, psychological assessments, prison records, and statements from some of Porter's victims led him to conclude that Porter has a personality disorder and still harbors deviant thoughts.

Using a complicated statistical tool created by researchers on sex offenders, Daignault said that Porter should be considered among those most likely to reoffend.

"He presents a very high risk of a likelihood that he will engage in future sexual offenses unless confined to a secure facility," Daignault testified.

Porter has been serving his sentence at the treatment center since 2000. During that time, Daignault said, Porter failed a relapse prevention program and has been cited by corrections officers for making physical contact with other inmates.

Under cross-examination by Porter's court-appointed attorney, Michael F. Farrington, Daignault acknowledged that in the majority of the cases he has reviewed, prosecutors have hired him to testify that sex offenders about to be released from prison remain sexually dangerous.

He also agreed that someone who has not committed a crime in more than five years is a far less serious threat to society.

During two hours of cross-examination, Daignault repeatedly sparred with Farrington over his knowledge of research on sex offenders reoffending and the basis for his specific conclusions about Porter.

Watching from the rear of the courtroom was Peter Calderone, who was molested by Porter in the 1960s when Porter was assigned to a North Attleborough parish. In court on Monday, Calderone testified against release, disagreeing with Farrington's assertion that the 69-year-old Porter is no longer a threat to children.

"His problem is that he is a pedophile," said Calderone, an Army combat veteran of Vietnam, who agreed to be publicly identified. "It's not something that turns off at 50, or 60, or 70 years. . . . He's a devil."

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