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Spotlight Report

Paquin held on bail after denying he raped altar boy

By Caroline Louise Cole, Globe Correspondent, and John Ellement, Globe Staff, 5/9/2002

Former priest Ronald Paquin is arraigned in Haverhill District Court. (Globe Staff Photo / Tom Landers)
HAVERHILL - Ronald H. Paquin, a former priest who admitted in a Globe interview in January that he had molested boys for many years, was ordered held on $100,000 bail yesterday after pleading innocent to charges that he raped an altar boy he had befriended.

Prosecutors had asked Haverhill District Judge Kevin Herlihy to set bail at $1 million, saying Paquin was a flight risk because a truck containing furniture was outside his home at the time of his arrest Tuesday afternoon. Defense attorney Kevin Reddington sought $10,000 bail, saying that Paquin was selling furniture because he needed to raise money and that he had no intention of leaving the area.

Prosecutors allege that Paquin, 59, while associate pastor at St. John the Baptist Church here, raped a boy more than 50 times between 1990 and 1992, beginning when the child was 12. The abuse often took place in Paquin's car while it was parked in a local cemetery.

Paquin, who stood with his hands clasped in prayerlike fashion during his arraignment, had become something of a father figure to the boy and the alleged sexual assaults were ''analogous to incest,'' said Assistant Essex County District Attorney William Fallon.

''You are looking at a man who not only abused the body but the soul,'' Fallon added.

Although Paquin is charged with raping one child, Fallon said a police investigation revealed that the former priest sexually abused other altar boys he befriended at St. John the Baptist as well as at St. Monica's Church in Methuen. But the statute of limitations for child rape had expired in those cases.

In arguing for a lower bail, Reddington said Paquin had recently undergone surgery and was under medical care and he also was caring for his 86-year-old mother. ''He's not taking off and never intended to take off,'' Reddington said, suggesting that Paquin be returned to his Malden home wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet. Reddington said he believed his client would be able to raise enough funds to make bail.

The clergy sexual abuse scandal has ''ignited a hysteria in the state,'' he said. ''We have in this country a presumption of innocence that has been thrown out the window in these cases.''

In an interview with the Globe in January, Paquin admitted he had molested children but had not done so for 12 years, although prosecutors charge the rapes continued until January 1992. ''I've gone 12 years and haven't abused anyone, so I'm not a pedophile because I'm not a predator,'' he told the Globe.

John J. King, a Methuen man who claims Paquin coaxed him into disrobing when he was 12 years old, called the former cleric ''sick,'' as he told reporters outside the courthouse here of his encounter with Paquin.

King said that in 1977, Paquin cajoled him and a friend into drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana in the basement of St. Monica, saying he was doing a seminary study on the impact of drugs and alcohol on youths.

He said Paquin invited the two boys into the rectory and as he sat in a chair taking notes for his ''research,'' he persuaded them to take off their clothes.

Suddenly realizing something was wrong, the two got dressed and ran away. ''I consider myself one of the lucky ones,'' King said.

This story ran on page A32 of the Boston Globe on 5/9/2002.
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