Ex-priest in Boston sex abuse scandal released from prison

FILE - In this Feb. 7, 2005 file photo, defrocked priest Paul Shanley, a figure in the sex scandal that rocked the Boston Roman Catholic Archdiocese, stands prior to the reading of a verdict in his trial at Middlesex Superior Court in Cambridge, Mass. Shanley was convicted of raping and fondling a boy at his Roman Catholic church during the 1980s and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Shanley is due to be released Friday, July 28, 2017. (Mark Garfinkel/The Boston Herald via AP, Pool, File)

BOSTON (AP) — A defrocked priest at the center of Boston’s Roman Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal was released from prison on Friday and settled into an apartment across the street from a children’s dance studio.

Paul Shanley, who had been convicted of raping a boy in the 1980s, moved to the town of Ware, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) west of Boston, after being released from the Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater, where he completed a 12-year sentence. Shanley, 86, used a cane and was helped by a man as he arrived in Ware, followed by a group of reporters and photographers.

His new home in a multiunit building is across from a recently opened dance studio that teaches children as young as 2. The studio’s owner, Arielle Lask, said she plans to install “state-of-the-art” security systems and to make sure every child leaves the studio accompanied by an adult.

“It’s awful that he’s even on the streets of Ware,” Lask told The Boston Globe. “Whether it’s across the street or down the road, there are children everywhere.”

As a condition of Shanley’s 10-year probation, he has been ordered to have no contact with children under age 16.

Ware police Chief Shawn Crevier said Shanley has registered as a sex offender and posters will be displayed around town notifying the public that Shanley is living in the area, which is typical procedure for the police department.

“We’re going to do what we need to do to make sure the citizens are protected and his rights are also protected,” Crevier said.

Shanley will be at least the third sex offender living on his street, he said.

Prosecutors sought to hold Shanley beyond his criminal sentence under a law that allows civil commitment of people deemed sexually dangerous. But two psychologists hired by the state found he did not meet the legal criteria to hold him.

A lawyer who represented Shanley in his criminal appeal said he’s confident Shanley will not harm anyone. But attorney Robert Shaw Jr. said he understands the reaction from those who opposed Shanley’s release from prison.

“I’m sure that law enforcement will ensure that the community feels safe, and I have every expectation that they are going to fulfill their obligation and be certain that Paul Shanley also remains safe,” Shaw said.

The state’s sex offender registry designates Shanley as a Level 3 offender, considered the most likely to reoffend. But the two psychologists cited Shanley’s advanced age and his health issues and concluded his likelihood to reoffend is low.

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represented dozens of men who say they were abused by Shanley, said the evaluations were incomplete because the psychologists didn’t interview Shanley. Instead, they reviewed police reports, prosecutors’ files and Shanley’s church personnel file containing numerous sexual abuse complaints against him.

“Paul Shanley should be in a hospital being treated and not in the outside world where he can easily gain access to innocent children,” Garabedian said.

Both psychologists found Shanley meets the psychiatric criteria for pedophilic disorder. But they said research suggests recidivism rates for people of his age are extremely low. They also cited Shanley’s health issues, which were blacked out from the reports, and the fact his last reported offense was in 1990.

Shanley was a street priest who ministered to alienated youths in the 1960s and ’70s. Dozens of men came forward decades later and said Shanley had molested or raped them. He was defrocked by the Vatican in 2004 and was convicted of raping a boy at a Newton parish in 2005.

The archdiocese said this week it will not provide Shanley with financial support or benefits. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said he will review the standards for civilly committing convicted sex offenders who have served their prison sentences.

Reporting by the Globe’s Spotlight team helped break open the priest sex abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston in 2002. The reporting uncovered how dozens of priests in the archdiocese had molested and raped children for decades while church higher-ups covered it up and shuffled abusive priests from parish to parish.

A movie about the Globe’s reporting, called “Spotlight,” won the 2016 Academy Award for best picture.

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Associated Press writers Collin Binkley and Bob Salsberg contributed to this report.