EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 21, 2008

Suspect's competency questioned in sexual assault case

By James A. Kimble , Staff writer

BRENTWOOD - A twice-convicted sex offender charged with sexually abusing a boy more than 20 years ago claims he is mentally incompetent to stand trial.

But prosecutors plan to fight assertions by Ronald Aboud, 43, in court this week that he can't be held responsible for assaulting his Windham neighbor between 1984 and 1987, court documents say.

A grand jury indicted the Belmont man late last year after the victim reported the abuse to Windham police. Aboud faces 20 counts of sexual assault.

The latest charges predate an attempted sexual assault that landed Aboud in state prison for seven years. He lured a 5-year-old Salem boy into the woods on Aug. 31, 1992, with the promise of playing cars. The boy's friends were able to convince the youth not to go with Aboud, according to prison records.

It wasn't Aboud's first trouble with the law. He received a suspended prison sentence in Massachusetts in 1989 for indecent assault and battery on a child.

Now, his lawyer, Sarah Blodgett, says an assessment made before the Massachusetts case shows Aboud has already been deemed mentally unfit to face criminal charges. Judge Tina Nadeau will hear arguments Thursday in Rockingham County Superior Court.

Blodgett said even recent assessments support her case. Aboud was classified by one defense expert as having the capacity of a young adolescent, unable to make decisions or rationalize actions like an adult.

A state forensic psychologist who evaluated Aboud in August concluded otherwise. James Adams, the psychologist, decided Aboud was immature and open to suggestion. Things needed to be explained to him many times, Adams said. Yet Aboud could understand "careful and repeated explanations of more complex aspects" of his case, according to Adams' assessment.

Aboud's mental capacity has been questioned many times.

The administrator of the state's Intensive Sexual Offender Program terminated Aboud from the prison treatment program, saying he was unable to complete the work.

Lance Messinger, the program administrator, wrote Aboud may not have been completely honest. He suggested Aboud needed to be placed elsewhere after his prison term.

"He is considered to be an extremely dangerous pedophile and is in serious need of a residential program," wrote Messinger, then the coordinator of the sex offender program.

Aboud acknowledged during a four-month stint in the program that he abused "at least seven other male and female victims whom he offended between the ages of 14 and 28 years old."

He also told treatment specialists he occasionally "hears voices in his head which tell him to hurt little boys," according to Messinger's assessment.

But Aboud was released after completing his maximum sentence, according to prison records.