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What is it with judges in Massachusetts?
I wonder: Does it help get an appointment to the bench in the Bay State if you show insensitivity to the plight of crime victims and demonstrate that you are partial to criminals? Some judges in Massachusetts are so open-minded their brains are falling out.
Consider the recent case of Judge Maria Lopez involving Charles “Ebony” Horton. Horton pleaded guilty to the attempted rape of an 11-year-old boy. Not only did Lopez minimize the serious nature of this crime, she also granted the criminal parole. Lopez sent Horton back to his home in Boston’s public housing community, an environment with a large number of children.
I wish I could simply ignore these kinds of judges because I do not live in Massachusetts. I wish I could believe that their problems are their own to deal with. But I can’t and neither can you because, in case after case, a dangerous sex offender has been freed by Massachusetts judges, with the understanding that the scumbags would just leave the state.
I’m talking about people such as Suffolk Superior Court Judge Walter Steele, who once had the power to keep a dangerous pedophile of the worst imaginable kind, behind bars. In 1991, Nathaniel Bar-Jonah, now a suspected serial killer and cannibal living in Montana, stood before him asking for release. He was then doing time for five felony charges of kidnapping, impersonating a police officer and attempted murder.
Bar-Jonah has most recently been charged with the murder of a 10-year-old boy and numerous other assaults on children. The skeletal remains of at least one child were found scattered around outside his Montana home.
Bar-Jonah, who was called David Brown until the early 1990s, served more than a decade in Massachusetts prisons and treatment centers. He was there for the kidnapping and attempted murder of two boys in Massachusetts in the late 1970s.
At the 1991 hearing before Judge Steele, two psychiatrists said he was still a danger to society, two said he was not. Steele, who must be a gambling man, sided with the two who thought Bar-Jonah would not victimize again. They cited such cockamamie reasons as Bar-Jonah’s improved self-esteem, thanks to a job in the canteen at the Bridgewater, Mass., treatment center where he was held, and courses in journalism and religion.
What the two psychiatrists who argued against his release told Judge Steele was that Bar-Jonah had sexual fantasies about human dissection and cannibalism. Gosh, Judge Steele, don’t you know that when someone tells you who they are you should listen to them? More to the point, when the safety of little kids is at stake, why would you take such a stupid gamble?
If you can believe it, this story gets worse. Just a few months after he was paroled in 1991, Bar-Jonah was arrested again — this time he was charged with attacking a 7-year-old boy in Oxford, Mass. Back to jail, right? Wrong, because of a plea-bargain arrangement with Judge Sarkus Teshonian of Dudley District Court, Bar-Jonah was simply allowed to go to Montana to live with his mother. Did anyone bother to tell Montana authorities he was coming? Nah, why bother? The family of the little boy who Bar-Jonah attacked in Oxford rejected this plea-bargain arrangement numerous times when it was offered. Finally, they have said, it was forced on them.
At the time, Bar-Jonah’s mother promised he would never hurt anybody again. Newsflash: Isn’t this the same lady who raised this wacko to begin with? If she were able to control his behavior, why didn’t she do it when he was younger? More to the point, Bar-Jonah is a grown man and he is the one who should be held responsible for his behavior, not his Mommy.
Also, consider the case of Scott Selinger. In 1997 he was charged with sexually assaulting and beating an 11-year-old boy in Peabody, Mass. After throwing the boy off a cliff, he then whacked him hard in the head with a rock. Serious charges, right? Most people still call it what it is — attempted murder. That’s a charge that, in the best interests of public safety, would be sufficient cause for Selinger to stay in jail while awaiting trial, right? Well, don’t forget, this is Massachusetts.
Prosecutors asked for $100,000 bail. The amount was set much lower at $7,500 by Judge Robert Hayes. Selinger didn’t have the money, so he appealed. Superior Court Judge Robert Welch III reduced bail to a mere $5,000 cash. That’s how much it costs you to walk the streets after being charged with raping and trying to kill a kid in Massachusetts. As part of the bail agreement, Selinger was reportedly encouraged to leave town. He landed in my town, Derry, N.H.
In Derry in September of 1998, a 6-year-old boy got off the school bus only to find his Mom wasn’t home yet — her car had broken down. Selinger found the boy crying on his doorstep and brought him to the nearby woods where he reportedly raped him. Selinger has admitted he strangled the boy with a rope and left him in the woods for dead. Thankfully, the smart little boy was only pretending to be dead. He was found shivering under a bush at midnight.
Hundreds of Derry residents signed a letter I wrote asking Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci to explain how this could have happened. We have never received a response. Two years later, Selinger pleaded guilty to attempted murder in the Derry case. He received 25 to 60 years and is currently awaiting trial for the Peabody, Mass., case.
Judges in Massachusetts give lenient sentencing when they find out the accused is willing to leave the state. This is both selfish and foolish. Why would they do this? To ensure that no angry constituents will be calling their bosses and those who appoint judges, who are elected officials such as Gov. Cellucci. If hundreds of angry citizens from another state should call them, no problem — we don’t elect them.
Well, let me be bigger than that and say that — as a fiscally conservative New Hampshire taxpayer even — I hope Scott Selinger serves his time here and at my expense. I believe he will be dealt with in a far more sensible manner in New Hampshire. If that saves one kid — I don’t care from what state — then I’m happy to have him.
In his recent best-seller, “No One Left To Lie To,” Christopher Hitchens writes about a zoologist’s ideas about the relationship between mammals and reptiles. “The reptile can break into the mammals nest and destroy and eat all of the young and be burrowed into the still warm and living flank of the mother before any reaction is evident. Our anthropomorphic verdict would be,” the zooligist explains, “that reptiles don’t even know they are lucky, while mammals don’t really believe that reptiles can exist.”
Hitchens used this analogy to describe the recent political scene in Washington, but it struck me that the same could be said about how many people don’t see the evil and havoc pedophiles can wreak. When normal everyday people live in this kind of denial, they only cheat their own families out of the protection such knowledge will bring. A judge has no excuse not to realize the potential harm sex offenders may cause.
I don’t insist they read the future, I only insist they face the facts and face reality. No matter what jurisdiction they preside in, because crime knows no state lines, they must take seriously the job with which they have been entrusted. They are the guardians of our society and we cannot afford for them to be asleep at the wheel.
Katherine Prudhomme lives in New Hampshire and is best known as the homemaker who confronted then-Vice President Al Gore with a question about Juanita Broaddrick, the woman who alleges Bill Clinton raped her. She contributes opinion articles to the Manchester Union-Leader and WorldNetDaily.