ALFRED — Keith Townsend described his memory of the bottle in Ronald Paquin’s hand – Tanqueray gin.

He described how Paquin made him a drink and then got upset when the liquor made him throw up on the carpet in the trailer at a Kennebunkport campground.

And he described the way Paquin touched him that night and the pain he felt the next morning that later led him to believe he had been sexually assaulted.

Townsend shared those details and others with a jury Tuesday when he testified against the former Boston priest, who is accused of repeatedly sexually abusing him and another boy on trips to Maine in the 1980s. Townsend was 13 years old on that night he recounted from the witness stand.

“I can still taste that drink today,” said Townsend, now 44.

Paquin, 76, was one of the priests exposed in the early 2000s by a sweeping Boston Globe investigation into clergy sex abuse. He is now facing criminal charges in York County, and his trial this week likely is the first in Maine for a priest embroiled in the Catholic Church’s ongoing sexual abuse scandal.


Ronald Paquin has pleaded not guilty to 31 counts against him in Maine.

He has pleaded not guilty to all 31 counts against him, and he sat quietly in his gray suit coat through the first two days of testimony.

Townsend has publicly identified himself in The Boston Globe and other media outlets as the person who first reported Paquin to Maine authorities. Testimony began Monday, when the jurors heard from Paquin’s other accuser. The Portland Press Herald does not name alleged victims of sex crimes without their consent.

The two men outlined similar details about the priest they met at their neighborhood parish in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Both said they became altar boys at a young age. They separately testified that Paquin soon began to spend time with them outside the church, eventually taking them on overnight trips. They described the way Paquin befriended them by giving them alcohol and letting them drive his car without a license. Both had received a civil settlement related to Paquin’s conduct – in Townsend’s case, at least $100,000.


Townsend spoke in a clear voice, occasionally taking a deep breath and once flinching when he described the way Paquin touched him. When the attorneys interrupted his testimony to speak in quiet conference with the judge, he would often look at the ceiling, occasionally closing his eyes and rubbing his jaw.

He told the jury the abuse began when he was 8 or 9 years old. He recalls sitting on Paquin’s lap while the then-priest taught him how to drive around local cemeteries, he said. He described his first memory of coming to Maine with Paquin in 1985, when Paquin allegedly gave him his first can of Foster’s beer and performed oral sex on him.


Soon, Townsend said Paquin was bringing him on regular day and overnight trips to the motel and adjacent campground where he kept a trailer in Kennebunkport. Sometimes other boys came with them. He alleged that Paquin would perform oral sex and other sex acts on him, and it escalated over the years to the night he remembered the gin drink and the pain in his rectum. He told the jury he believes Paquin drugged him with prescription medication that night, and he began to understand something was not right. One of the charges related to Townsend is tied to that alleged rape.

Roger Champagne, one of the Paquin’s two attorneys, questioned Townsend about the dates and frequency of his visits to Kennebunkport. As the lawyer pressed him about the exact number of trips, Townsend bristled.

“The time to me is like one giant block, so identifying different dates and times is very difficult,” he said.

“Certain things come back to you at different times in your life,” he added later. “Driving here today brought back a lot of memories that I can’t talk about.”


Kelly Townsend, the alleged victim’s sister, took the stand briefly Tuesday as well. She said her family was active in Paquin’s parish, and she remembered her younger brother taking frequent trips with the then-priest.


The jurors have also heard testimony this week from people who worked or vacationed at the Kennebunkport campground, where the abuse is reported to have happened. They remembered adolescent boys visiting the campground and motel with Paquin, although none of them said they witnessed any inappropriate conduct.

Sheila Renda of Framingham, Massachusetts, said Tuesday that she used to own a trailer near Paquin’s. She recalled a wooden sign that said “Padre” on the outside of his vehicle, as well as a pink velvet chair on the inside. She said she once wondered aloud to another couple in the campground why the boys stayed at the trailer on a hot summer day instead of going to the beach or the pool. They told her the boys liked to stay inside and play Monopoly.

“They said Father Ron just likes to take these boys out of the inner city and give them a vacation,” Renda said.

The prosecution has not yet rested its case, but testimony ended Tuesday at lunchtime. The trial will continue Wednesday morning.


The defense team has focused most of its questions on the accusers themselves, trying to find inconsistencies in their answers. In her opening statement Monday, one of Paquin’s attorneys had asked the jurors to be skeptical of information that is not specific.


“Let’s call this the ‘ick’ factor,” defense lawyer Valerie Randall said. “When someone is accused of things like Mr. Paquin, we can be quick to make a judgment because it sounds so icky. You want to make a snap judgment about this case. So I’m going to remind you to keep an open mind today as you listen to all the evidence, as you see the witnesses here today, as you listen to their testimony, because Mr. Paquin sits here today cloaked in the presumption of innocence.”

The jurors have not heard any evidence about Paquin’s earlier conviction. He pleaded guilty in Massachusetts in 2002 to repeatedly raping an altar boy between 1989 and 1992, beginning when the victim was 12. He was defrocked in 2004 and imprisoned until 2015, when specialists said he no longer met the criteria to be considered sexually dangerous. Townsend told the Globe that he contacted authorities in Maine after learning Paquin had been released in Massachusetts.

The Globe also reported that Paquin admitted to medical evaluators that he abused at least 14 boys and said he was also abused as a child. Other allegations against him have prompted civil settlements, but no other criminal convictions. In Maine, charges against Paquin and one other Catholic priest have been possible because the statute of limitations for such crimes against a child younger than 16 was eliminated in 1999.

Paquin was indicted in February 2017 on 29 counts of gross sexual misconduct for the allegations in Maine. He was soon arrested in Boston and has been held at the York County Jail ever since. Prosecutors later added two more charges, bringing the total to 31. All are Class A or B felonies.

In September, former Maine priest and Cheverus High School teacher James Talbot pleaded guilty in Cumberland County Superior Court to sexually assaulting a Freeport boy 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. Talbot also received a concurrent sentence of three years for unlawful sexual contact. He had also been convicted once before in Massachusetts and served six years in prison there.



Legal experts had predicted that Talbot would face a challenging trial in the context of the broader sex abuse scandal because jurors are not supposed to have prior knowledge of a case or past experiences that could create bias. During jury selection for Paquin’s trial, the judge and attorneys spent hours questioning dozens of people individually about their knowledge of the church’s broader turmoil and their ability to be fair and impartial jurors.

They asked most potential jurors if they had seen the film “Spotlight,” which tells the story of the Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Boston Archdiocese. Paquin’s case was one of those mentioned in the movie, and Superior Court Justice Wayne Douglas last week instructed the people chosen for the jury not to watch it before or during the trial.

Megan Gray can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemegan

Comments are not available on this story.