ALFRED — The man took a sip of water from a white paper cup, and as he put it down on the witness stand in the York County courthouse, his hand was shaking.

He was the first person to testify Monday in the trial of former Boston priest Ronald Paquin, who is accused of sexually abusing two boys repeatedly on trips to Maine in the 1980s.

The man told the jury that Paquin befriended him when he was an altar boy and in religious classes at their parish in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He said Paquin took him out for meals, let him drive his car without a license and took him on trips around the country.

“He tried to be like a pal,” the man said.

He also said Paquin told dirty jokes that quickly led to sexual contact, which allegedly occurred in multiple locations, including a motel and campground in Kennebunkport. He told the jury that Paquin urged him to perform oral sex and other sex acts on Paquin, and Paquin also performed those acts on the boy. The abuse allegedly began when the man was as young as 12 or 13 years old and continued through his teenage years. His parents were divorced, the man said, and Paquin used that to manipulate him.

“He said no one would care for me as he does,” the man told the jury.

The accuser has not been publicly identified, and the Portland Press Herald does not name alleged victims of sex crimes without their consent.

Paquin, 76, was one of the priests exposed in the early 2000s by a sweeping Boston Globe investigation into clergy sex abuse. He is now facing criminal charges in York County, and his trial this week likely is the first in Maine for a priest embroiled in the Catholic Church’s ongoing sexual abuse scandal. He has pleaded not guilty to all 31 counts against him.

Ronald Paquin is flanked by his attorneys Roger Champagne, left, and Valerie Randall as York County District Attorney Nicholas Heimbach shows a photo taken in the 1980s.

During opening statements Monday, attorneys for both sides outlined the week ahead for the jurors.

Assistant District Attorney Justina McGettigan said they would hear from the two men who have accused Paquin of sexually abusing them when they were teenagers, as well as people who worked at the Kennebunkport motel and campground where the misconduct allegedly took place. She said the two men would describe how Paquin befriended them as altar boys, took them on trips and gave them alcohol to build their trust.

“All of this while the defendant was a religious figure in their lives,” McGettigan said.

NO SNAP JUDGMENTS, JURY TOLD

Valerie Randall, one of two attorneys representing Paquin, alluded to the #MeToo movement that has brought to light allegations of sexual misconduct from years past, comparing them to those presented in this case. She asked the jurors to be skeptical of information that is not specific.

“Let’s call this the ‘ick’ factor,” Randall said. “When someone is accused of things like Mr. Paquin, we can be quick to make a judgment because it sounds so icky. You want to make a snap judgment about this case. So I’m going to remind you to keep an open mind today as you listen to all the evidence, as you see the witnesses here today, as you listen to their testimony, because Mr. Paquin sits here today cloaked in the presumption of innocence.”

Paquin sat flanked by his two attorneys during the first day of testimony. Wearing a gray suitcoat and black pants, he used a cane when he walked into the courtroom. The judge addressed him before the jury entered the courtroom, asking whether he had chosen to go to trial rather than accept a plea offer from the state. In a quiet voice, the former priest answered yes.

Throughout the day, the attorneys interrupted testimony nearly a dozen times for quiet conferences with the judge, especially while the accuser was on the stand. The prosecutors asked him about trips he took to Maine with Paquin. He described the motel and trailer where they stayed in Kennebunkport, and he recalled a car accident on an icy road when Paquin let him drive. The defense team questioned him about a civil suit from the early 2000s, and he said he received an $80,000 settlement from the Boston archdiocese. He became agitated when Paquin’s lawyers read specific memories from his statements during the civil case, and at one point he needed a break from the questions.

“I’ve done a lot of work in therapy,” he said. “Maybe things have been forgotten since 2003 so I can move on with my life.”

Former priest Ronald Paquin listens to witness testimony on Monday, the first day of his trial on 31 sex charges.

The jurors also heard brief testimony Monday from two people whose family owned and worked at the former Beachwood Resort and the Salty Acres Campground in Kennebunkport, where Paquin kept his trailer.

The final witness of the day was Kennebunkport police Detective David Breault, who investigated the case. He said there were few documents or records that still exist from the 1980s that could have helped his investigation, but he did find the report from the crash that the alleged victim remembered.

SETTLEMENTS, PRIOR CONVICTION

The testimony did not include any evidence about Paquin’s earlier conviction. He pleaded guilty in Massachusetts in 2002 to repeatedly raping an altar boy between 1989 and 1992, beginning when the victim was 12. He was defrocked in 2004 and imprisoned until 2015, when specialists said he no longer met the criteria to be considered sexually dangerous.

The Boston Globe reported that Paquin admitted to medical evaluators that he abused at least 14 boys and said he was also abused as a child. Other allegations against him have prompted civil settlements, but no other criminal convictions. In Maine, charges against Paquin and one other Catholic priest have been possible because the statute of limitations for such crimes against a child younger than 16 was eliminated in 1999, and the state attorney general at the time said sex crimes committed against children after 1987 could be prosecuted at any time in the future.

Keith Townsend, who now lives in New Hampshire, told The Boston Globe that he was one of Paquin’s victims and that he contacted authorities in Maine after learning Paquin had been released in Massachusetts. Townsend is expected to testify later in the trial.

Paquin was indicted in February 2017 on 29 counts of gross sexual misconduct for the allegations in Maine. He was soon arrested in Boston and has been held at the York County Jail ever since. Prosecutors later added two more charges, bringing the total to 31. All are Class A or B felonies.

In September, former Maine priest and Cheverus High School teacher James Talbot pleaded guilty in Cumberland County Superior Court to sexually assaulting a Freeport boy in the 1990s. Talbot, 80, was ordered to serve three years in prison. The full sentence on a charge of gross sexual assault was for 10 years, with all but three years suspended. Talbot also received a concurrent sentence of three years for unlawful sexual contact. He had also been convicted once before in Massachusetts and served six years in prison.

Legal experts said Talbot would have faced a challenging trial in the context of the broader sex abuse scandal because jurors are not supposed to have prior knowledge of a case or past experiences that could create bias.

BAN ON WATCHING ‘SPOTLIGHT’

During jury selection for Paquin’s trial, the judge and attorneys spent hours questioning dozens of people individually about their knowledge of the church’s broader turmoil and their ability to be fair and impartial jurors. They asked potential jurors if they had seen the film “Spotlight,” which tells the story of The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Boston Archdiocese. Paquin’s case was one of those mentioned in the movie.

When 16 people were finally chosen to serve as jurors and alternates, Superior Court Justice Wayne Douglas included in his instructions a ban on watching “Spotlight” before or during the trial.

Megan Gray can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemegan

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