April 22, 2005

Indicted priest due to return today

Telegram & Gazette


WORCESTER— Unless there is a last-minute hitch, the Rev. Paul M. Desilets will be extradited from Canada to Massachusetts today to face multiple charges alleging he sexually abused boys and young men when he was assigned to Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Bellingham.

Sgt. Richard Perry of the Bellingham Police Department, who has handled the investigation since two men came to see him on Jan. 18, 2002, said he has been told that Rev. Desilets is expected to fly into Logan International Airport in Boston this afternoon. He will be met by officers from the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department.

“I have been told he is going directly to the Worcester County House of Correction,” Sgt. Perry said yesterday. “I won’t relax until he is here.”

District Attorney John J. Conte said yesterday that he was told by the U.S. State Department that Rev. Desilets, who previously appealed to the Canadian Supreme Court to stop his extradition, abandoned the appeal April 7 and will be returned to Massachusetts.

He will be arraigned Monday in Worcester Superior Court on 32 indictments, Mr. Conte said.

“It was a long road,” he said yesterday of his office’s work to get the priest returned to Massachusetts from Canada.

Rev. Desilets, who is 81 and said to be in poor health, fought the extradition through the courts. Mr. Conte gave credit to William Butler and Jeffrey Travers, assistant district attorneys, for their work in bringing the extradition to completion. Mr. Butler had worked on the extradition several years ago of the Rev. Joseph A. Fredette, who fled Worcester for Canada after Worcester police filed criminal charges alleging he sexually abused boys in his care at the Come Alive program during the 1970s, Sgt. Perry said.

Rev. Desilets was indicted by a Worcester County grand jury in 2002 on 16 charges of indecent assault and battery on a person under 14, 10 charges of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14, and six charges of assault and battery. The charges are based on allegations made to police and the district attorney’s office by 18 men from the Bellingham area. Sgt. Perry was joined in the investigation by Christopher Ferreira, also a detective for Bellingham police, and Trooper Thomas Ryan, formerly of the Massachusetts State Police detective unit assigned to Mr. Conte’s office.

Rev. Desilets, a member of the Order of St. Viateur, was priest at Our Lady of the Assumption until he left for Canada in 1984. He was under the jurisdiction of the Boston archdiocese, but the criminal charges were handled by Mr. Conte’s office because Bellingham is within his jurisdiction.

The priest was found living in a retirement home in Joliet, Quebec, when Canadian police arrested him in October 2002 at the request of American officials in connection with the Worcester County indictments. Sgt. Perry said the first two victims reported the alleged abuse in 2002 and as the information was reported by media, other victims contacted Bellingham police. “This was my baby,” Sgt. Perry said.

Mr. Conte said Rev. Desilets served in Bellingham from 1974 to 1984. He thanked the Department of Justice for helping in what he called a “complicated matter.” He began the extradition process on Aug. 22, 2002, by making a formal request to the Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs.

Posted by kshaw at April 22, 2005 05:23 AM