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Charged Priest Gets Appeal Option

Jan 11, 2003 | Framingham Metro West Daily News The Assumption Parish priest accused of molesting 18 altar boys between 1974 and 1984 was given 30 days to appeal his extradition to Massachusetts, where he faces 32 charges of sexual abuse, according to a statement from Worcester District Attorney John Conte.

The Quebec Superior Court in Montreal, Canada, ruled yesterday the Rev. Paul M. Desilets, 79, can appeal his transfer to Massachusetts, where he faces charges in Worcester Superior Court that he molested 18 altar boys in the 1970s and early '80s.

The ruling, said one of his victims, is just another delay in an already prolonged process.

"It shouldn't have taken this long whatsoever," said Joseph Fleuette of Bellingham, whom Desilets allegedly molested several times a week for years at the Pulaski Boulevard parish.

"It just seems like our northern brothers are dragging their feet on this," he said.

Fleuette suspects Desilets will use his age and health as reasons to stay in Quebec.

"He's going to play up for sympathy in Canada, but he didn't have sympathy for the kids he molested," he said.

Yesterday was Desilets' third court appearance in Quebec since his arrest last October.

Canadian law officers arrested Desilets as a result of the district attorney's extradition request to the U.S. Department of Justice. The request was based on evidence discovered in an investigation by Bellingham Police Detectives Richard Perry and Christopher Ferreira, which was then presented to a grand jury in April and May 2002. The Worcester County grand jury then indicted Desilets on 32 counts of sexual abuse.

If he does not appeal the extradition, and is sent back to the United States, Desilets will face 16 counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14, 10 counts of indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or older, and six counts of assault and battery.

In his statement, Conte said the court's decision yesterday is part of the extradition process under the treaty between the United States and Canada.

But Fleuette doubts Desilets will ever set foot in Worcester Superior Court.

"I'm not sure at this point if he'll ever come down," he said.

Even if he's prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, Fleuette says it won't solve the sex abuse crisis plaguing the Catholic Church. The solution, he said, must come the Catholic Church since it allowed the crimes to occur.

Desilets, a priest of the Order of the Clerics of Saint Viator in Quebec, served as priest at Assumption Parish in Bellingham from 1974 to 1984.

His attorney, Dennis J. Kelly of Burns and Levinson in Boston, and Jean A. Savard, attorney for the Clerics of St. Viator, could not be reached for comment.

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