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Victims testify of Porter assaults

TAUNTON -- A former altar boy said yesterday that defrocked priest James Porter raped him in a church dressing room in the early 1960s and later molested him in his hospital bed while he was recovering from pneumonia.

Thomas Kulas, 52, of Torrington, Conn., was one of five Porter victims who testified on day six of a Superior Court hearing on prosecutors' bid to keep the convicted pedophile locked up as a sexually dangerous person.

He said Porter would follow the altar boys into a basement dressing room after Mass at St. James Catholic church in New Bedford. It was there that Kulas said he was raped by Porter. He was about 12 at the time.

After that, "I was deathly afraid of him. He struck the fear of God in me," he said. "I would run downstairs as soon as Mass was over and I'd hide. Your heart's pounding, praying that the door you were hiding in wasn't going to open."

Porter, 69, was a priest in the Fall River Diocese who was convicted in 1993 of molesting 28 children. He completed his prison term in January, but prosecutors petitioned to have him committed indefinitely to the Massachusetts Treatment Center for sexual offenders in Bridgewater.

Kulas said Porter molested him several other times, including once in his hospital bed, where the former priest fondled him. He said he turned to alcohol and drugs to escape the memories and was a heroin addict by 16.

"I went straight to the darkness," said Kulas, who is now a substance abuse counselor. "You don't know what it's like to drag this baggage around with you. If I can spare one kid this baggage. . . . I don't know what my life would have been like had this not occurred."

Porter's lawyer, Michael Farrington, said the testimony was outdated and irrelevant. "No matter how you want to look at it, it was 40 years ago," he said outside court.

Another victim, Daniel Kiley, 52, of Newton, testified that he was molested by Porter in the early 1960s at a parish in North Attleborough. Kiley said he was drawn to Porter at first because he was an enthusiastic priest in his 20s who surrounded himself with young parishioners.

"I was just one of the kids who wanted to get to know him," he said. "It was very cool to be noticed." Kiley said he was 11 or 12 when Porter offered to tutor him in Latin and invited him to the church rectory on a Saturday. Porter took the boy down to the basement and molested him, he said.

After six days of prosecution testimony, Porter's defense was expected to begin presenting its case today. Judge David McLaughlin will decide whether there is enough evidence to hold a trial on the state's request to keep Porter locked up.

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