A Catholic priest who has been removed from the ministry in the Providence Diocese pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a charge of first-degree sexual assault for an incident that allegedly took place in 1981 involving a 13-year-old boy.
Magistrate John McBurney released Kevin Fisette, 66, on $50,000 personal recognizance.
Fisette, of Dayville, Connecticut, appeared in court with his sister. He was not arrested before being arraigned. A grand jury indicted him on the charge on May 26.
Fisette surrendered his passport to the court, waived extradition, and signed an order that he is not allowed to contact his accuser.
Assistant Attorney General Jim Baum asked McBurney to levy a $25,000 surety bond, while Fisette’s attorney, Richard Ratcliffe, asked for him to be released on $25,000 personal recognizance.
June 6, 2022: Grand jury indicts former RI priest on charge of raping a boy
After the arraignment, Ratcliffe said he was happy his client was released, and that he plans to fight the charges contained in the indictment.
Fisette is set to next appear in court on Aug. 9 for a pre-trial conference.
What’s new after the case was dropped in 2009
Fisette was pastor at the St. Leo the Great Church in Pawtucket when a “credible allegation” was reported to state police in 2009, according to Providence Journal archives. He was then removed from the ministry. In 2019, he was placed on the list of credibly accused priests.
The attorney general’s office, in 2009, declined to prosecute the case, citing no evidence of force or coercion and that there was “insufficient credible evidence of concealment or surprise,” as well as inconsistencies in the alleged victim’s statements and questions about his ability to remember things from 27 years ago. In 2009, state police Capt. David Neill told The Providence Journal that investigators thought the case was viable.
In 2019, Fisette’s accuser, reached by phone, said he stood by his account of sexual abuse.
Baum said during the arraignment that Fisette performed oral sex on the 13-year-old victim. Between 2009 and 2022, the case has been been enhanced by testimony from Bishop Thomas Tobin and Monsignor John Darcy about “damning” admissions Fisette made to them.
Other new evidence includes emails between Fisette and the victim that constitute an admission of guilt, as well as statements he made to the state police that implicates him, Baum said.
In an email, Diocese of Providence spokesman Michael Kieloch wrote that Fisette, who was removed from the ministry but never laicized or defrocked, is receiving $2,000 a month from the diocese, plus health and dental insurance coverage.
“In accordance with Canon Law, the binding legal statutes of the Catholic Church, the diocese is required to provide for the basic sustenance of priests, which includes those priests who are removed from ministry and have no faculties such as Kevin Fisette,” he wrote.
Kevin Fisette’s past assignments
Fisette was appointed a deacon in the Our Lady of Victory Parish in Hopkinton in January 1981, and as a chaplain at Rhode Island Hospital in December 1981. He was ordained as a priest in November 1981.
He went on to assignments at St. Mary Church in Cranston from 1982 to 1985; St. Catherine of Siena Church in Warwick from 1985 to 1990; St. James Church in West Warwick from 1990 to 1993; SS. Peter & Paul Church in West Warwick from 1993 to 1997; Holy Name of Jesus Church in Providence from 1997 to 2004; and St. Leo the Great Church in Pawtucket from 2004 to 2009.
Kevin Fisette is the fourth priest charged since 2019
Fisette is the fourth priest to be charged after Attorney General opened an investigation in 2019 into sexual abuse at the diocese and obtained diocese records from the past 70 years.
July 23, 2019: R.I. Catholic Diocese to turn over 70 years of records to attorney general
In November 2021, a grand jury indicted former priest James Silva on 11 counts of sexually assaulting a boy younger than 14 between 1989 and 1990 while he was an administrator in the Office of Ministerial Formation within the Diocese of Providence.
In May 2021, a grand jury indicted former priest Edward Kelley in a 1983 rape in North Smithfield. He has since been found incompetent to stand trial, according to the news release.
In November 2020, John Petrocelli was indicted on three counts of first-degree child molestation and nine counts of second-degree child molestation from his time as an assistant pastor at Holy Family Parish in Woonsocket between Nov. 6, 1981, and Oct. 3, 1990.