Ex-priest Paquin's conviction upheld in Maine

Maine's highest court has upheld convictions on 10 of 11 counts for a defrocked ex-Haverhill priest who was sentenced to prison for sexually abusing an altar boy during trips to Maine in the 1980s.

Ronald Paquin, 77, had already served more than 10 years in prison in Massachusetts. Last year, he was ordered to serve another 16 years in prison in Maine after his conviction in late November 2018 on 11 of 24 counts of gross sexual misconduct.

Paquin served at St. John the Baptist Church in Haverhill from 1981 to 1990, and St. Monica Church in Methuen from 1974 to 1980.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that two counts violated Paquin’s constitutional double jeopardy protection against being punished twice for the same crime, and the court vacated one of the counts.

But the court dismissed other arguments, including the defense contention that the victim’s criminal record should have been presented, along with questions about expert testimony about victims of sexual crimes.

Paquin was released from prison in 2015 after completing his sentence in Massachusetts and then was taken into custody in Maine.

Testimony against Paquin in the Maine case included allegations that he lured young victims with alcohol and allowed them to drive his car without a license on trips to Maine. Victims alleged the abuse went on for years.

He was charged with abusing two boys on his trips to Maine, but the jury convicted him of counts involving only one of them.

Paquin was portrayed in the movie "Spotlight" about the Boston Globe investigation into abuse by Roman Catholic clergy and his case was a critical piece of a sexual abuse scandal that consumed the Archdiocese of Boston.

One of Paquin's victims, 46-year-old Keith Townsend, testified before sentencing that Paquin's abuse sent him into a spiral of depression and drug abuse, and caused him to question his faith in God. The Gazette does not normally identify victims of sexual abuse, but Townsend identified himself as the victim and gave permission for his name to be used.

Later, Townsend said he was satisfied with the sentence and that he hoped it would motivate more victims to name their abusers.

"I just want to say that ... decision is a big win for survivors of abuse everywhere," Townsend said. "I hope it empowers more victims to come forward and see that you are not alone and justice will prevail."

— Mike LaBella

 

Dunkin' employee tests positive for COVID-19

The Dunkin' shop on Plaistow Road is back to making the doughnuts after an employee tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, a company representative said.

The 20 Plaistow Road shop near the New Hampshire border closed for 48 hours from April 21 to 23 for a deep cleaning "out of an abundance of caution," said Dunkin' Brands Group spokesperson Michelle King.

The infected employee last worked on April 18 and was in self-quarantine last week, according to King, who added that no other workers have shown coronavirus symptoms.

“At Dunkin’, the safety and well-being of our guests, franchises and their restaurant employees is our No. 1 priority,” King said. "Dunkin’ Brands has stringent food safety and hygiene standards, and all of our franchisees remain vigilant to help minimize exposure and emphasize the importance of restaurant employees not coming to work if they are ill.”

The shop worked in conjunction with the Haverhill Board of Health to disinfect the location after learning about the employee's diagnosis, and has been deemed to be in "full compliance with CDC, local and state public health guidelines," King said.

— Allison Corneau

 

Pressure builds for mail-in voting

State officials are being pressured to allow more voters to cast their ballots by mail amid concerns the COVID-19 outbreak will dampen participation in elections.

Voting rights and public interest groups are urging the state to switch as much as possible to voting by mail for the state primary in September and general election in November.

Their concern is that voters at the polls will risk spreading the highly contagious virus, or they will stay home out of fear of getting sick.

"We need to offer people a variety of ways to vote safely, so that everyone's vote is counted," said Mary Ann Ashton, co-president of the Massachusetts League of Women Voters, which is one of the groups pressing for expanded access.

On Beacon Hill, lawmakers are considering several plans to allow early voting by mail ahead of the fall elections if a state of emergency remains in effect.

One proposal would allow voters to request a mail-in ballot that could be mailed back or dropped off at city or town halls. Ballots would have to be received by election clerks before polls close on Election Day.

Another proposal would mail ballots to all of the state's registered voters at least 18 days before a primary or general election.

None of the proposals would prohibit voters from casting a ballot in person on Election Day.

It's not clear if bans on gatherings or social distancing directives will still be in place in the fall. Lawmakers say the state needs to plan for that possibility.

State Rep. Paul Tucker, D-Salem, said given the public health concerns, the state must give voters more options.

"As long as it can be done in a safe and secure way, to prevent fraud, I'd be in support of it," he said.

State Rep. Lenny Mirra, R-West Newbury, said he too supports expanding ballot access, especially given the virus concerns, but he also said safeguards must be in place.

"Some of the proposals involve just mailing out ballots to every voter, and a lot of people have concerns about that," said Mirra. "The voter rolls aren't always accurate."

Another issue is unenrolled voters, who account for 56% of the state's nearly 4.6 million registered voters. They are required to choose a Republican or Democratic ballot — or one from another major party — in the state primary.

Massachusetts already allows voting by mail ahead of elections held before June 30. Voters can also request absentee ballots by mail for the fall elections, but they must have an excuse, such as a disability.

Lawmakers updated the law recently to allow voters who have COVID-19 or who are at heightened risk of infection to qualify as disabled.

Secretary of State Bill Galvin, the state's top election official, is working on his own plan to expand voting options, which would also require legislative approval.

Several states hit hard by the pandemic, including New York and New Jersey, have expanded voting-by-mail options. Dozens of others are considering similar changes.

In New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu has endorsed the idea, saying the state will hold its election by mail in the fall if health risks are still a concern.

Ashton said there are concerns about shifting entirely to voting by mail. States that do so "have been perfecting the system for some time," he said.

"Going from where we are right now to 100% mail-in vote is going to be a heavy lift and may result in people being disenfranchised if we're not careful," she said.

Federal grants are available to help expand voting-by-mail options, supporters say, which could help cash-strapped cities and towns cover the added costs.

Democrats across the country have been pushing to expand voting by mail in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have run into GOP opposition.

Republican President Donald Trump has pushed back against efforts in Congress to allow voting by mail, saying the process is "corrupt" and could lead to fraud.

But Erin O'Neill, a professor and head of the political science department at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, said voting-by-mail fraud is nonexistent.

"The problem with our elections is that most people don't vote," she said. "There's also no evidence that voting by mail favors either Republicans or Democrats."

O'Neill says there will be logistical challenges to expanding voting by mail, but she said it wouldn't require a radical overhaul of the election system.

"There's really no excuse not to do it," she said. "You shouldn't have to feel nervous about your health when you go to cast a ballot."

— Christian M. Wade

 

Sheriff: Inmate returned to jail by judge brought drugs with him

A man who was ordered back to jail last week after a judge discovered he had been released to live in a senior housing complex is now facing new charges after Middleton Jail staff discovered he was attempting to smuggle drugs into the facility, officials said.

Eric Jalbert, 31, who was held on $50,000 bail awaiting trial in a fentanyl trafficking case, had been released on personal recognizance on April 14 after his lawyer told a Salem Superior Court judge that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and he would be living with his mother.

The judge was not told that his mother lived in the Fairweather Apartments in Beverly, a privately-owned subsidized complex for people over 62 or with disabilities — a population considered to be at high risk of complications from the virus — or that he'd only be allowed to live there for two weeks.

A probation officer also discovered that Jalbert, who was wearing a GPS bracelet, had been coming and going from the complex.

In a body scan conducted when Jalbert turned himself in at the jail on the afternoon of April 21, officials discovered 15 strips of Suboxone, a small bag of marijuana, and a small bag of tobacco, jail spokeswoman Gretchen Grosky said.

He is now facing two counts of introduction of contraband to a correctional facility, and one count each of possession of a class B substance and possession with intent to distribute a class B substance (Suboxone), which were filed by the Essex County Sheriff's Department in Salem District Court.

An arraignment date has not been set.

— Julie Manganis

 

COVID-19 kills 10 at memory care unit

Ten residents who lived in the memory care unit at The Residence at Salem Woods in Salem, New Hampshire, died recently after an outbreak of COVID-19, according to an April 25 letter to families from Senior Executive Director Shari LaRoche.

LaRoche wrote, “We have not received confirmation of the cause but anticipate that complications from the COVID-19 virus played some role.”

New Hampshire Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette announced an outbreak at the 84-apartment community April 16. She said 21 residents and four staff members in the memory care wing tested positive.

The state tested the whole wing after staff noticed patients getting sick, spokesman Ted Doyle explained the same day. There were no deaths at the time, he said.

However, an April 22 letter to families announces the loss of eight residents between April 9 and April 22. An update two days later mentions two more deaths.

The first letter reads, “we have had 13 associates test positive through today,” the majority of which were concentrated in the memory care unit.

“Some of those associates are completely asymptomatic and are continuing to work in our Reflections (memory care) neighborhood caring for our residents,” the letter reads.

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human services provided resources Tuesday to test “all of our independent and assisted living facility residents,” LaRoche followed up with families April 25.

Requests for comment were not immediately returned by Doyle or staff at The Residence at Salem Woods.

— Breanna Edelstein

 

Gloomy summer looms as pandemic cancels U.S. festivals, trips

Thelma Uranga is sprucing up her back deck in Chicago, hoping to host some small gatherings to take the place of the summer's usual neighborhood festivals built on music, food and time with friends.

"People look forward to summer because winter tends to feel like an eternity," said Uranga, 38. "We were just getting to that point where things kick off."

Instead, she and many others are "mourning summer 2020" as cancellations pile up because of efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

From Cape Cod to California, festivals are being nixed, businesses in tourist havens are looking at empty reservation books, and people who have been cooped up through a dismal spring are worrying summer will bring just more of the same.

As the weather warms, some already have begun venturing outside in larger numbers, despite guidance to stay home. Government officials say they aim to manage public health risks in a way that allows for a gradual return to normal, but with the course of the outbreak still unknown, nobody is sure what summer will bring.

On a typical summer day, the Ship Bottom Brewing beer house on New Jersey's Long Beach Island is packed. Bartender Bridget Barlet isn't expecting anything close to that this season.

"I'm scared even if we do open up, it just won't be the same, especially if distancing rules are continued," she said. "A lot of people will still be too nervous to venture back into what life as usual used to look like."

Youth baseball leagues are holding out hope they will get in a sliver of a season, water parks are unsure if they will be able to open, and restaurants are wondering if it's worth welcoming dine-in customers when social distancing guidelines would slash the numbers they can host at one time.

Little League coach Noah Rouen, 45, of Plymouth, Minnesota, a father of four boys, is hoping there might still be time for a shortened season. After all, he said, 95% of baseball is played without anyone getting within 6 feet of anyone else.

"Those games under the lights, that's something special for the kids," he said.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy has not indicated when his state's beaches and casinos will reopen. He said this week that he hoped there would be "some semblance of normal" at the shore this summer but gave no indication when those decisions might be made.

Along Virginia's coast, a long list of festivals have already been canceled, and the usually bustling Virginia Beach oceanfront sits quiet and empty.

The now-scrapped Something in the Water music festival, organized by musician and producer Pharrell Williams, should have wrapped up Sunday. Late May's Patriotic Festival, which celebrates the military community, has also been called off.

"It's surreal and sobering," said Mike Standing, 50, a Virginia Beach restaurateur and hotel owner. "Our losses will probably take five years to regain."

Some destinations are taking measures themselves to manage the risks.

At Tony Gore's Smoky Mountain BBQ & Grill in Sevierville, Tennessee, which opened to dine-in guests Monday, each diner faced the same infrared thermometer gun required of the employees clad in masks and gloves.

"You've gotta start somewhere, is the way I look at it," said Keith Carter, the restaurant's general manager. "You've gotta start getting the business back and start getting the economy headed back in the right direction."

Tennessee officials, who allowed restaurants to reopen in 89 of the state's 95 counties starting Monday, have said they are discouraging travelers from out of state and have yet to release guidelines for tourist attractions, such as Dolly Parton's Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge where hundreds of furloughed employees are waiting to get back to work.

Cities and towns across the country also are sorting out what the pandemic will mean for municipal pools, beaches and summer camps.

Can the virus be spread in chlorinated pools? Will day-campers have to remain 6 feet apart while playing? New Haven, Connecticut, Mayor Justin Elicker said he and his staff are working on getting answers — but it's not easy.

"If businesses open, then parents or guardians will have to work," Elicker said. "So, we want to be able, as much as we can, to provide opportunities for care and meaningful activities for young people. The challenge is how to do that while at the same time ensuring the safety of the young people."

Children appear to be among the least affected by the virus, but experts warn that people of all ages can likely play a role in transmitting it. For most, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with health problems, it can cause more severe illness and lead to death.

In Southern California, the Orange County Fair was canceled Monday for the first time since World War II. Last year, the summer staple drew nearly 1.4 million visitors for its livestock shows, carnival rides, fried food and big-name concerts.

"This is the worst news, just devastating," chef Linda Johnsen said.

Since 2013, Johnsen has owned Filomena's Italian Kitchen and Market in Costa Mesa, a few blocks from the fairgrounds. She estimated that her revenue jumps between 40% and 60% during the three-week exhibition.

Chuck Rage owns a hotel and a resort in Hampton, New Hampshire, and leases out several businesses on the beach. All his businesses are shuttered due to the state's stay-at-home order, but he's hopeful a summer season can be salvaged, even if it's a bad one.

The one thing that isn't missing is pent-up demand, Rage said.

"I have gotten phone call after phone call," Rage said. "All my regulars that come every year: 'I need my Hampton Beach time. I need to come to Hampton Beach. I am sick of being in this house.'"

Pat Eaton-Robb, Associated Press 

 

 

 

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