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Priest Indicted On Sexual Abuse Charges Arrested In Canada

Oct 21, 2002 | AP

A retired priest indicted on 32 counts of indecent assault and battery has been arrested in Canada, following an international extradition request made by the Worcester District Attorney's office in August.

The Rev. Paul Desilets was arrested in Joliette, Quebec, and is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday, according to a statement issued by Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte. He faces the charges in Worcester Superior Court in Massachusetts.

Canadian law enforcement officials could not immediately confirm the arrest.

According to the indictments, Desilets, 78, allegedly abused 18 former altar boys between 1978 and 1984. A 10-year statute of limitations in effect at the time was suspended when Desilets left the state in 1984 and moved to Canada.

He was a parish priest assigned to Our Lady of Assumption Parish in Bellingham from 1974 to 1984.

According to personnel documents released by the Archdiocese of Boston in June, Desilets once told an altar boy he would "burn in hell" if he reported their contact.

The extradition process should not be too complicated because of a Canadian extradition treaty with the United States, Lawyers Weekly USA editor Paul Martinek said.

After Desilets' arraignment in Canadian federal court, Massachusetts will have to ask the U.S. Justice Department to request Canada's Justice Department for extradition, Martinek said. The Canadian federal judge will decide if, when and how to complete the extradition, which has to be finally approved by the Canadian Justice Minister.

Jeffrey Newman, attorney for the alleged victims, said his clients would be extremely relieved to hear that Desilets could be extradited.

"They've waited a long time, he was indicted this summer," Newman said. "Obviously the district attorney has taken this very seriously, because it's complex to go through the treaties between countries. It would have been easy to let it lie low, but they didn't do that."

Desilets had been living at a retirement home in Quebec. He had refused recent requests for comment but in February told The Associated Press allegations against him were "exaggerated."

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