PORTLAND, ME — A former Massachusetts priest is appealing his 2018 sexual abuse conviction after serving less than one year of a 16-year sentence in a state prison in Maine.
Attorney Rory McNamara, who represents Ronald Paquin, 77, argued before justices in Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court on Wednesday that a key witness in Paquin’s trial failed to disclose his previous criminal record to the prosecution during the proceedings. McNamara claims the disclosure could have impacted both the credibility of the witness and Paquin’s subsequent right to a fair trial.
“My client feels like his right to have a fair trial is affected by the state’s failure to turn over what criminal records history was available,” McNamara said. “This case is uniquely about credibility, it was about allegations nobody witnessed 35 years ago.”
“Due process will require a new trial in this case if whatever is in those records creates a reasonable probability of a different result.”
Paquin, who was the centerpiece of the 2015 film “Spotlight,” was found guilty of 11 counts of gross sexual misconduct in November 2018. Prosecutors allege Paquin assaulted two boys aged 14 years or younger during a camping retreat in Kennebunkport in the 1980s. He had previously been convicted of rape and molestation of a minor in Massachusetts in 2003 and served 12 years at MCI-Walpole. Paquin was released in 2015.
Keith Townsend, the key witness in Paquin’s 2018 trial, said he contacted Maine authorities prior to his 2015 release.
“I told them I was ready to testify against Paquin if I had to,” Townsend said in 2017. “If I have to get up there to protect other people I will, as this is not about me anymore. It’s about other victims getting the help they deserve.”
McNamara claims Townsend should have been barred from testifying in court that male victims of sexual abuse often delay disclosure.
“We’re here about the complaining witness in a case where the complaining witness’ testimony is uniquely important,” said McNamara.
Paquin has previously indicated he himself was a victim of sexual abuse. His attorneys read a statement at his 2019 conviction in which he wrote he “spent years pretending that I was living a happy life with no problems.”
Paquin, who is currently incarcerated at the Maine State Prison in Warren, did not attend the preliminary oral arguments on Wednesday. His appeal is expected to last several months.
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