A judge has postponed sentencing for a former Catholic priest convicted of abusing a young boy on trips to Maine in the 1980s.

Ronald Paquin, 76, was found guilty in November on 11 of 24 counts of gross sexual misconduct. A York County jury acquitted him of similar charges related to a second boy.
Paquin was one of the priests exposed in the early 2000s by a sweeping Boston Globe investigation into clergy sex abuse. He served more than a decade in prison in Massachusetts for repeatedly raping an altar boy between 1989 and 1992, beginning when the victim was 12.

His sentencing in the latest case was scheduled for Tuesday. But his defense lawyers filed a motion last week to request a mental evaluation for Paquin.

“Based upon recent correspondence from Mr. Paquin suggesting a limited understanding of – or confusion about – the process in which he finds himself, Counsel is hereby raising the issue of competency and seeking an evaluation by the State Forensic Service,” attorney Valerie Randall wrote in her Feb. 25 motion.

Superior Court Justice Wayne Douglas granted that request on Feb. 26. The sentencing has been delayed, and the next event scheduled in the case is a status conference with the judge later this month. Randall said an exam had not been scheduled as of Friday, but it must take place within 21 days of the court order because Paquin is incarcerated.

He is currently being held at the Cumberland County Jail.

The delay outraged Keith Townsend, who has publicly identified himself as the victim in this case. He said he was writing a statement to read at the sentencing and called the York County District Attorney’s Office with a question the same day the motion was filed. They told him then that the sentencing had been postponed.

“Where’s my rights?” Townsend said in a phone interview. “It seems to me this guy has had the right to due process and then some. This has taken its toll on me. I just feel like I’m being victimized again.”

Townsend is now 44 and lives in Seabrook, New Hampshire. He testified in sometimes graphic detail at the trial about the abuse that began when he was as young as 8 or 9.

He said other victims of clergy sex abuse have been watching this case, and he worried about how they would react to yet another delay.

“People have to believe that the criminal justice system is all we have left,” Townsend said. “We don’t have God because he stripped us all of that.”

York County Assistant District Attorney Justina McGettigan declined to comment on the reason for the delay in sentencing.

“We want to make sure that this matter is fully investigated, so that when the sentence is imposed, it is a just and fair sentence,” McGettigan said.

She said she can understand Townsend’s frustration.

“I can totally understand why he feels frustrated with the delays,” she said. “He’s waited a long time for this, to face Mr. Paquin, and we have kept him updated, but it is perfectly reasonable for him to feel like it’s time for sentencing.”

Randall said defense attorneys have an obligation to raise concerns about competency at any stage in a case.

“We want to make sure at every step at this trial, Mr. Paquin is being treated fairly, and he is able to participate,” Randall said. “That is our legal obligation, our ethical obligation, to do that as defense attorneys. We have to do what we have to do.”

Court documents show Paquin’s attorneys also filed a motion for a new trial shortly after his conviction. Before jury selection, they had asked the judge to exclude all mention of Catholicism or priests from the trial, saying it would be unfairly prejudicial because of the church’s broader sex abuse scandal. The judge denied that request, and the parties spent hours during jury selection weeding out people with bias against the Catholic Church. The motion for a new trial raised that issue again, but the judge again denied it.

Paquin pleaded guilty in 2002 in Massachusetts to 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.

Less than two years later, he was indicted on 29 counts of gross sexual misconduct in York County. Prosecutors later added two more counts, bringing the total to 31. Seven were then dismissed during the trial. Paquin was believed to be living in a Boston homeless shelter when he was arrested in February 2017.

The Globe reported that Paquin admitted to medical evaluators that he abused at least 14 boys and said he also was 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 – as long as the limited period had not already expired.

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, 81, 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 also had been convicted once before in Massachusetts and served six years in prison.

 

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