BOSTON, May 29, 2014 — This month, dozens of high level Massachusetts politicians enjoyed immunity in exchange for their testimony in the corruption, bribery, and racketeering trials of various legislators and family court probation officers. Several of their co-conspirators have already been convicted and jailed for running an organized through their State offices.
The fall out from the court corruption scandals has left Massachusetts leaders saddled with important unanswered questions about the human toll organized crime may have taken on the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable families.
Are the Probation Department’s ineffective “offender rehabilitation” programs paid for with the blood of Massachusetts taxpayers? How can Massachusetts do a better job of empowering competent, honest workers?
In order to answer these questions, we need to have a real conversation about Jennifer Martel’s murder, and why these same corrupt courtroom cronies repeatedly failed to save her life.
Most men voluntarily engage in safe, loving relationships with their families. But Martel’s murderer was not most men, he was a repeat violent offender and the son of a well connected Red Sox sportscaster.
“There is a revolving door at the courthouse, and it is preceded by a red carpet walkway for people of influence” says former prosecutor Wendy Murphy, who for decades has worked on criminal cases in the same Massachusetts courts that repeatedly let Jared Remy off the hook and rewarded him for committing violent crimes.
Remy’s final arrest last summer may have initiated the only peaceful time some of his victims may have ever known. His sentencing this week to a term of life in prison without the possibility of parole for Martell’s murder marked perhaps the first time in history that the Massachusetts court system has created a meaningful plan to protect the public from one of the system’s best customers.
At the time of Martel’s murder, Remy’s record was virtually clean. By September 2011, Remy’s privately bankrolled defense attorney Peter Bella had convinced Massachusetts judges to close a staggering 18 cases charging Remy with dozens of traffic, violence and/or drug related related offenses. Only twice in 20-years did the courts find Remy guilty, and on ten occasions, the courts outright dismissed the charges against him. Remy was also granted six continuances without findings (CWOF’s) that resulted in dismissals.
According to Bella, there was no “pay to play” scandal involved with Remy’s case because his client never received any special treatment from the courts. In other words, the Remy case was just some deadly business as usual in the Massachusetts courts.
Instead of providing Remy’s crime victims with safety and recovery support, the courts provided the offender himself with therapy and protection. The sole beneficiaries of the State programs Remy was enrolled in appear to be the vendors who provided him with services.
According to former prosecutor Murphy, the system is not broken, it’s running exactly the way it’s creators intended.
“If there’s a sign of hope that arises from Martel’s vicious murder,” says Murphy, “let it be that the public takes a closer look at the gushing flow of money from DC that literally rewards violent male offenders with cash, therapy and training programs AFTER they get in trouble with the courts for assaulting the crime victims who live with them.”
TO END SYSTEMIC GREED AND CORRUPTION, FEED THE BEAST WITH TAX DOLLARS?
Two days before Martel was murdered, Remy was arrested for assaulting Martel, causing Martel to take out a restraining order against Remy. Once again, the Middlesex DA’s office and the Probation Department ignored Remy’s criminal history and immediately released him on $40 bail. According to the arrest report, on August 15, 2013, Remy stabbed Martel to death in front of their 4-year-old daughter while fighting off onlookers, bringing an abrupt end to the 20-years long State sponsored violent crime spree which had gone practically undetected.
In the days following Martell’s murder, an audit of the Middlesex DA’s response to the Remy case and determined that no comprehensive overhaul of the office was needed. By the time the new year arrived, two more children, a mother, and an elderly woman would be slaughtered in Middlesex County by the male offenders they lived with.
To say the justice system should have foreseen such Martel’s tragic demise is to is to assume wrongly that the officials who presided over Remy’s cases did not know what the financial forecast was. Bloody with a touch of cash.
The 2010 arrests of several Probation Department leaders and legislators operating an organized crime ring from their State offices should have caused the courts to audit every court vendor and every case the corrupt court officials had been involved with. But that’s not what happened.
Just three months before Martel’s murder, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced that both the State’s Probation Department and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) would be getting a fresh start. Then DCF Commissioner Ed Dolan was appointed as Chief of Probation, and Olga Roche became the Commissioner of the State’s child protection agency. Neither agency offered effective help to Martel or her child in the days leading up to her death when she approached the courts for help.
Both agencies are now embroiled in corruption scandals.
Last month, Roche resigned from her post with DCF under pressure from legislators who expressed concern over various DCF funding misappropriation scandals involving several now dead children under the agency’s supervision, as well as their treatment of Justina Pelletier, a sick Connecticut child who continues to languish in the Massachusetts foster care system.
Today Massachusetts released a report advocating for more funding, staff, training for the State’s troubled offender-friendly child welfare agency.
Walk into any given courtroom and what you will likely find is over a century’s worth of education and training that has already been obtained by the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney. To say that the highly trained professionals who were appointed onto Remy’s cases over the years were too vapid to recognize the haven of corruption they worked in for years, or that they lacked the qualifications to properly identify a troubled violent career criminal like Remy would be an insult if levied against any idiot off the street with even half their experience.
Massachusetts employs some of the smartest and most qualified judges and agency leaders I have ever had the privilege of crossing paths with. This is because the greater Boston region is home to the best universities in the world known for training some of the greatest legal scholars and activists the mankind has ever known. It is often from the region’s talented pool of scholars that the Massachusetts courts cherry pick the job applicants who go on to become the State’s future leaders.
The vast majority of professionals working in the Massachusetts courts are probably honest, hardworking, and really care about the troubled families on their caseloads. But in a corrupt system, cash is king, honest workers don’t always get a seat at the table, and the crooks get paid to ignore your arguments.
Feeding the beast is not the answer. Perhaps it’s time for someone other than the usual suspects to perform an audit on the way these agencies do business to ensure that oversight, transparency, and accountability will follow.
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