ALFRED — A York County jury will return Thursday to continue deliberations in the trial of a former Boston priest who is accused of repeatedly sexually abusing two boys on trips to Maine in the 1980s.

Ronald 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 scandal.

A small man with round glasses, Paquin decided Wednesday not to testify in his own defense, so the jurors never heard his voice. As they filed out of the courtroom to begin deliberations Wednesday afternoon, he sat quiet and unmoving, as he had throughout the three-day trial.

Now those 12 people must decide whether to believe the pained testimony of the two men who made the allegations against their childhood priest. Jurors deliberated for more than two hours before they were sent home for the night.

During closing statements, Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Heimbach recounted the evidence that he said supported the charges against Paquin. He repeated some of the graphic and specific details from the alleged victims’ statements – like the can of Foster’s beer that one man said Paquin gave him the first time he touched him on a trip to Maine, or the taste of the Tanqueray gin the other man described from a night he said he was raped. Heimbach also reminded the jury of testimony from two employees and one visitor who remembered Paquin and the boys he brought as guests to the Kennebunkport campground and motel where the abuse allegedly took place.

“You now know this case is about a priest who planned, plied and perpetrated,” Heimbach said. “This is a case about a person in a position of authority and respect who planned progressively more manipulative and tangled relationships with two altar boys.”

ARGUING ‘REASONABLE DOUBT’

Ronald Paquin decided not to testify in his own defense Wednesday. During the proceeding, he sat still and quiet, as he had throughout the three-day trial.

Defense attorney Roger Champagne told jurors that the graphic statements of the two men were not enough for a conviction. He said most of the testimony in the trial was “fluff” to distract from the general lack of physical evidence and eyewitness testimony that places these specific boys in Maine in the 1980s. He also said their statements were contradictory – for example, because they both described regular trips to the campground in the same period but said they were not there together.

“The testimony from these two accusers can be compelling, but I don’t know how persuasive it is without something else,” Champagne said. “Does it rise to proof beyond a reasonable doubt? I submit to you that it does not.”

Heimbach returned to that question in his rebuttal.

“The state submits to you, the answer is yes, it can,” he said. “As I said to you before, the testimony of a victim of gross sexual misconduct alone – that one victim – if it is not so contradictory, unreasonable, incredible or so lacking in common sense, can serve to establish every element of the offense regarding that victim beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The jury began its deliberations around 3:45 p.m. Two hours later, they emerged to ask the judge a question about the difference between several charges in the indictment. While all the charges are related to gross sexual misconduct, two are more specific in the type of sex act alleged. Satisfied by the judge’s explanation, the jurors returned briefly to their room. At 6 p.m., the judge agreed to dismiss them for the day. They will return at 9 a.m. Thursday.

SEVEN OF 31 COUNTS DISMISSED

The last witness to speak before the closing arguments was Kathy Harvey Brown, a clinical social worker who is the coordinator of the Cumberland County Child Advocacy Center.

The defense objected to her testimony, but the judge allowed her to speak on the narrow subject of delayed disclosure. Superior Court Justice Wayne Douglas ordered, however, that the prosecutor could not ask her about research specific to clergy members or other offenders in positions of power.

Harvey Brown told the jury that only one-third of child sex-abuse victims on average disclose what has happened to them while they are still children. Men in particular wait years to report abuse, she said, and research shows that as little as 15 percent of males report abuse while they are children.

Most men do not disclose until they are in their 30s and 40s, and even then, Harvey Brown testified that it takes time to gather all the facts.

“I often talk about it like a bucket,” she said. “You have a trickling faucet and it takes time to fill up that bucket until you get all of the information.” After her testimony, the defense team made a last-minute effort to dismiss the case, arguing that the state did not present the evidence necessary to support the charges against Paquin.

In particular, defense attorneys said there was not enough evidence related to the role of alcohol. Some of the charges specifically allege that Paquin used intoxicants to impair the boys involved, and the state said in particular that there was not enough evidence related to the role of alcohol. They repeated that argument to the jury in closing statements.

“There was no testimony suggesting Mr. Paquin was forcing alcohol upon him,” defense attorney Valerie Randall said.

Justice Douglas ultimately dismissed seven of the 31 counts, but he decided to send the rest to the jury. During the lunch break, Paquin made the final decision not to testify in his own defense.

The jurors had received no evidence so far about Paquin’s prior conviction for similar crimes. 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.

Those facts might have been revealed to the jury if Paquin had testified.

“Just because the defendant takes the stand does not mean that evidence will come up,” Douglas said as the defense team weighed its options. “If he opens the door through his testimony, it may come up.”

In Maine, charges against Paquin and one other former Catholic priest have been possible because the statute of limitations for such crimes against a child younger than 16 was eliminated in 1999. The other man – longtime Cheverus High School teacher James Talbot – pleaded guilty in September to sexually assaulting a Freeport boy in the 1990s.

Legal experts had predicted that Talbot would face 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. 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.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemegan

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