James Talbot, a former Roman Catholic priest and longtime teacher at Cheverus High School in Portland, pleaded guilty Monday to charges that he sexually assaulted a boy in Freeport in the 1990s.

Talbot, 80, was ordered to serve three years in prison. The full sentence on a charge of gross sexual assault was for 10 years, with all but three years suspended. He also received a concurrent sentence of three years for unlawful sexual contact.

Former Cheverus High student Michael Doherty, who reported that James Talbot abused him in the 1980s, drove from Florida to attend Monday’s hearing and show support for the victim.

The victim and his parents made emotional statements during the hearing at the Cumberland County Courthouse. More than 20 people, including other men who were sexually abused by Talbot, sat quietly as the family spoke. Several wiped tears from their faces. The Press Herald does not name victims of sexual abuse without their consent.

Now 30, the young man glanced only briefly at Talbot when he walked to the podium.

“I remember painfully dreading every Sunday in pure terror, knowing that I had to go to church that day,” he said. “To this day, I remember the steps leading inside the church as if they were guiding me to hell.”

In a steady and clear voice, the man described the depression and suicidal thoughts he experienced when he later realized what had happened to him as a child. He said he has relied on counseling and the support of his family to process Talbot’s crimes.


“Now I know that I have a lot to give this world, and one of them is standing up to James Talbot and seeing him behind bars,” he said.

In individual statements, the victim’s parents talked about the way Talbot befriended their family at St. Jude Church in Freeport, where he was a visiting priest. They praised their son for his courage and strength.

“Talbot and the whole church abandoned me and my family, and I still asked, ‘Why have you forsaken me?’ ” his mother said, tears in her eyes. “Shame on you, James Talbot. You are no father of mine.”

The victim’s father turned from the podium and looked at Talbot directly.

“You’re a monster,” he said. “I don’t know how else I can tell anybody this. I hope you rot in hell, and I hope you die in jail.”

Talbot spoke only to enter his plea and answer the judge’s questions.


“No, Your Honor,” he said, when the judge asked him if he wanted to make a statement to the court.

Allegations against Talbot go back at least four decades. He taught at Boston College High School from 1972 to 1980, then transferred to Cheverus in Portland. He remained there until 1998, when former Cheverus student Michael Doherty came forward to say that Talbot had abused him in the mid-1980s. Talbot was fired from the school about two months after the accusations were brought to the bishop.

Doherty settled his lawsuit in 2001, and his case prompted others to come forward. By 2003, 14 men had settled lawsuits totaling more than $5.2 million.

Most victims, including Doherty, could not pursue criminal charges because the statute of limitations had lapsed. Then, in October 2005, Talbot pleaded guilty to raping and sexually assaulting two students decades before in Boston. He served six years in prison and has been living since then at the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri, a Catholic Church-run residential facility for troubled or former priests. He has been laicized by the Vatican, which means he is no longer a priest.

This is only the second time Talbot has been prosecuted. New criminal charges were possible because Maine’s statute of limitations for such crimes against a child younger than 16 was eliminated in 1999 – as long as the statute of limitations had not already expired. A Cumberland County grand jury indicted Talbot on the two felony charges last year.

Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Ackerman described the state’s case against Talbot during Monday’s hearing. She said Talbot had baptized the victim as an infant and later administered his other sacraments in the Catholic Church.


The prosecutor said the victim was 9 years old when Talbot took him out of religious classes at St. Jude and brought him to another room in the church where they were alone. The boy confessed to the priest that he had sworn and felt badly about it, and Talbot rubbed the boy’s crotch as he consoled him.

“He recalled he was looking out the window and recalled seeing a bird out that window and wishing he could fly away like that bird,” Ackerman said.

Ackerman said that on another occasion, the victim remembers Talbot performing oral sex on him in the church. As he got older, the victim became withdrawn and later told his sister what Talbot had done to him as a young boy. He sought counseling and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Talbot settled a lawsuit with the victim last summer. He was then indicted on the criminal charges and pleaded not guilty in December. He posted $50,000 cash bail and returned to Missouri. Jury selection in his trial was scheduled to begin Monday morning in Cumberland County, but Talbot changed his pleas instead.

Legal experts had said a trial would have been challenging in the context of the broader sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, because jurors are not supposed to have prior knowledge of a case or past experiences that could create bias.

Superior Court Chief Justice Roland Cole said he took the unusual step of meeting with the attorneys to talk about the potential difficulties of jury selection in this case.


“There’s no question that we would have had a great deal of difficulty because of the various factors involving this defendant’s particular case and factors outside of his control, in regard to recent reporting both nationally and internationally of issues with the Catholic Church and priests committing criminal acts,” Cole said.

Both attorneys indicated they wanted to arrange a plea, but disagreed on the potential sentence. During Monday’s hearing, defense attorney Walter McKee asked for eight years with all but 18 months suspended, arguing that Talbot’s age and the security at the church facility in Missouri should mitigate the sentence. The prosecutor asked for 15 years with all but eight suspended, saying the crimes warranted more time in prison. The judge’s sentence was a compromise.

“There is, as expressed by the prosecutor, no true, just sentence that can adequately reflect the pain that has been done and trauma caused to the victim here and his parents,” Cole said.

Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston attorney who has represented some of Talbot’s victims and was featured prominently in The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series that uncovered the Catholic Church abuse scandal in Massachusetts and beyond, said church leaders should take more responsibility for Talbot’s conduct.

“Although the prison sentence today will not help clergy sexual abuse victims gain full closure, the sentence may help some victims try to at least somewhat heal,” he said in an email statement Monday.

Diocese of Portland Bishop Robert Deeley released a statement that said justice had been served and encouraged any other survivors of abuse to come forward.


“I pray that today’s proceedings provide continued healing and peace for victims/survivors. I can think of nothing worse than this incomprehensible abuse,” Deeley said.

At least two of the people in the courtroom were men who have publicly spoken about the abuse Talbot inflicted on them years ago. One was Doherty, who brought the first civil case against him. He drove from Florida to attend the hearing because he wanted to show support for the victim.

“Not enough, of course,” Doherty, 50, said of Talbot’s prison term. “But every day he’s in is a day he’s not on the street.”

The other was Jim Scanlan, one of the victims from Boston College High School whose report of abuse led to the first criminal charges against Talbot. He did not publicly discuss the abuse until late 2015, after viewing the movie “Spotlight.”

Scanlan, 57, said he attended one of Talbot’s parole hearings in Massachusetts in 2009, and he heard his abuser make a startling confession that he had victimized as many as “88 or 89” children in his life. It wasn’t clear how many of those were in Maine, and the Massachusetts Parole Board has said it could not provide minutes or a transcript or an audio recording of that hearing.

Scanlan said he told the victim Monday that he should feel proud.


“He got up and spoke the truth about the animal (Talbot) is,” Scanlan said.

When the judge finished his explanation of the sentence, he nodded to the bailiffs.

“He’s in custody,” Cole said.

Everyone rose as the judge exited. Talbot also stood, and a bailiff snapped handcuffs around his wrists. As he was escorted out, flanked by the two court officers, the crowd in the courtroom began to clap.


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