A plea of not guilty to child rape charges was entered on behalf of suspended priest Ronald Paquin in Haverhill District Court Wednesday, and Paquin was held on $100,000 bail.
Paquin is accused of molesting a 12-year-old boy on more than 50 occasions.
Paquin is also facing a wrongful death suit filed by the family of James Francis, 16, who died in a Nov. 28, 1981, accident after Paquin brought him and three other Haverhill teenagers to a camp in New Hampshire. Francis’ family alleged that Paquin fell asleep at the wheel on Interstate 93 in Tilton, N.H., following a night of drinking and sex.
Paquin was not criminally charged in the incident.
“There was in fact, years of abuse that included fondling, masturbating and general touching. We are here today because there is one count that is in the statute of limitations,” prosecutor Bill Fallon said.
Fallon said that Paquin befriended the alleged victim while he was an altar boy.
“As a result, he became a surrogate father. This is a case where Paquin has had a relationship for more than 14 years with this young man. The young man came forward in mid-March,” Fallon said.
Haverhill District Court Judge Kevin M. Herlihy set bail at $100,000, despite the prosecution’s request for a seven-figure bail.
Fallon said that Paquin was a flight risk and cited out-of-the-country abuse allegations. The prosecutor said that officials were warned Tuesday that Paquin would attempt to leave the country.
“I would suggest, given the penalty that this man is likely to face, the only way we can be assured that this man will face the consequences is by holding him on $1 million cash bail,” Fallon said.
The priest was arrested Tuesday at his Malden, Mass., home after officials received a tip that he would try to flee the jurisdiction. Fallon said that officials observed a moving van and packed boxes outside the home.
Defense attorney Kevin Reddington suggested that Paquin has roots in the community and said that if his client never had any intentions to flee. He requested that bail be set at $10,000.
“The cases have excited a hysteria in the commonwealth. Yesterday, another priest was arraigned and $750,000 was established,” Reddington said. “We do have a presumption of innocence. That has been thrown out the window in these cases.”
At least two of Paquin’s alleged victims were present at the arraignment.
“He’s a predator. He preys on children, He manipulates them. He abuses them. It is very sick,” alleged victim John King said.
Paquin was removed from his priestly duties in 1990 after he was accused of molesting several boys at St. John the Baptist Church in Haverhill, Mass.
Attorney Jeffrey Newman has said that the Archdiocese of Boston had known for at least 10 years that Paquin was accused of sexually molesting minors at the St. Monica’s Parish in Methuen, Mass., and had molested children at St. John’s after being transferred there from Methuen.
Paquin admitted to Boston newspapers that he had “fooled around” but said he hadn’t abused anyone for 12 years and did not consider himself a pedophile.