Defrocked and disgraced priest Paul Shanley will be freed Friday after serving a 12-year sentence for child rape.

“He still claims that he’s not a child molester," said Dennis O’Connor, who says when he was 14 or 15, he was one of Shanley’s victims. "We all know that if you've got an issue, the first point of moving forward is acknowledging your issue. He hasn’t acknowledged his issue.”

Two men in suits stand at a podium, looking somber. One is speaking into nearly a dozen microphones that are attached to the podium.
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian (right) and attorney Carmen Durso, pictured in 2017.
Craig LeMoult GBH News

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents victims and their families, argues that even at age 86, Shanley is still a danger to the community.

“It’s not a maybe, he’s going to be doing it," Garabedian said. "He's molested hundreds of children. There’s no doubt in our minds.”

Shanley is expected to be released as a level-three sex offender, the category considered to be most likely to re-offend, requiring him to be on a public registry. But Garabedian says Shanley can apply to have that level reduced. 

“There is nothing preventing Paul Shanley from doing that. Nothing. Now, if we have two experts who found him not to be a sexually dangerous person, I think he can go out and find some expert who's going to say he shouldn't be a level-two, he should be, by the way, a level-one, so that his whereabouts will not be public.”

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said they can’t civilly commit Shanley without expert testimony that he meets the requirement as a sexually dangerous person. But the DA hired two doctors described as qualified examiners, who both concluded that Shanley doesn’t meet that criteria. The doctors haven’t yet formally filed their report with the DA’s office, so their reasoning is unknown. But Attorney Carmen Durso, who also represents victims, said he thinks age was a factor, and he criticized that consideration.

“The standards they are applying, they’ve got to be changed," Durso said. "If a Paul Shanley can walk out of prison after his conviction because these standards don't apply to him, then I don't know who’s going to be stopped from walking out the door.”

Rodney Ford (right), the father of a victim, and attorney Carmen Durso.
Craig LeMoult/WGBH News

Rodney Ford’s son Greg was one of Shanley’s victims. “Every parent has to be vigilant with their kids if they see Paul Shanley in their neighborhood,” Ford said.

During the press conference in Durso’s office, Ford said there’s nothing more that can be done but to harass Shanley. He was asked what he’d do if they ran into each other.

“If I ran into Shanley, as a father, what he did to me, my son …" Durso trailed off, and Attorney Carmen Durso stepped in and spoke quietly to him. “But you would not hurt him,” Durso said to him.

“I would hurt him,” Ford replied.

Ford later clarified that he has no plans to go after Shanley, saying it would mean his kids wouldn’t have a father anymore.

“It wouldn’t be worth it," he said. "I have those thoughts. What father wouldn't have those thoughts — that destroyed his son. I have to be real and tell you that. But I’m not going to physically go after Paul Shanley.”

The DA’s office says Shanley will be monitored on probation for 10 years and is prohibited from contacting children under 16 years old.