SALEM, Mass. (AP) — A former Roman Catholic priest who raped an altar boy and spent more than a decade in prison will be freed after prosecutors withdrew a civil petition Friday to have him committed as a sexually dangerous person.
Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said he had no choice but to withdraw the petition under state law because two experts who examined Ronald Paquin determined he was no longer sexually dangerous.
"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."
Under the law, anyone found sexually dangerous can be civilly committed indefinitely at a state treatment center even after their prison sentence has ended.
It was not immediately clear Friday when Paquin would be released. Paquin's current attorney, David Erickson, did not immediately return a call Friday for comment.
Now 72, he was one of the central figures in the Boston Archdiocese's sex abuse scandal. He pleaded guilty in December 2002 to child rape charges. Paquin admitted molesting a boy from 1989 to 1992 while assigned to a Haverhill parish, starting when the boy was 12.
Paquin was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison, and he completed his sentence in May.
Although he was convicted of raping one boy, several other people accused him of molesting them. He was later defrocked by the Vatican. At sentencing, Paquin expressed remorse through his lawyer and said that as a teenager, he was abused by a priest.
Michael Emerton, who said he was sexually assaulted by Paquin when he was a teenager in the 1980s, said he was shocked when someone from Blodgett's office called him Friday to tell him Paquin would be released.
"When he was incarcerated, we knew exactly where he was. Now a dangerous predator has been released and has been put back on the streets, and it's our job to be vigilant now, to keep track of him. The responsibility has been shifted to society," Emerton said.
The Associated Press typically doesn't identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Emerton has spoken publicly about it for years.
Jeffrey Newman, who represented the victim in the case, declined to comment.
This story has been corrected to show Paquin expressed remorse at his sentencing, not at a trial.