State Finds Convicted Former Haverhill Priest Not ‘Sexually Dangerous’

Ronald H. Paquin.

Ronald H. Paquin, 72, a former associate pastor at St. John the Baptist Church in Haverhill, will not have to remain behind bars.

Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett withdrew its petition to keep Paquin in prison as a “sexually dangerous person” when experts who examined him could not conclude the former priest poses a threat.

“Our contention is that Mr. Paquin poses a danger to the community,” Blodgett said. “Unfortunately, we have no further legal options available to hold Mr. Paquin.”

Paquin pleaded guilty to three counts of rape of a child in December, 2002, and was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in state prison. The rapes took place in Haverhill between 1989 and 1992, beginning when the victim was 12 years old.

Under Massachusetts General Law, the commonwealth may file a civil commitment petition to hold a person believed to be sexually dangerous upon completion of their prison term. A Judge must find probable cause after which the person is evaluated by two independent “qualified examiners.” If at least one of the qualified examiners finds the person sexually dangerous, the state may proceed to a trial at which it must prove that the defendant meets the criteria for sexually dangerousness beyond a reasonable doubt.

A probable cause hearing took place over the course of two day in early August. Essex Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Kirshenbaum presented testimony from Dr. Gregg Belle, a forensic psychologist specializing in sex offenders. Judge James Lang found probable cause on Aug. 20, and Paquin was then evaluated by two qualified examiners. Neither of them found him sexually dangerous.

Paquin, who was represented by Attorney David Erickson, was the first priest to admit guilt in a molestation case during the Boston Archdiocese’ sex abuse scandal. Paquin began his career at St. Monica’s Church, Methuen, in 1973.