Acting Gov. Jane Swift faces one of the most difficult decisions of her brief term in office with
the legal hot potato tossed to her by the state Parole Board in its recommendation
to commute the sentence of Gerald "Tooky" Amirault.
There is no one, it seems, without an opinion in the Fells Acres Day Care case. We do know
that today the allegations of child sexual abuse would have been handled far differently. The
manner in which the youngsters involved were questioned by "experts" has been long since
But it is also difficult to discount that there are victims,
now adults, who still consider themselves victims. And there is no disputing that their pain is still very real.
This is one of those rare cases where the guilt or innocence
of Gerald Amirault is simply unknowable. And it wasn't the job of the Parole Board to revisit that issue. "In the end this is
a case of simple, fundamental fairness," the board wrote in issuing its recommendation late
Amirault's sister, convicted in the case, was freed in 1999.
His mother Violet, owner of the day care center, was freed on bail after serving 10 years in prison, while a retrial request
was pending. She died in 1997 of stomach cancer. And so after serving 15 years of a 30-to-40
year sentence Amirault remains the only one convicted in the case who is still in prison.
In its 5-0 ruling the Parole Board noted that the case was "replete with inconsistent and
conflicting judicial opinions concerning whether justice was done."'
If Swift has lingering doubts about whether Amirault remains
a danger to the community, she can follow the recommendation of two Parole Board members who in a separate opinion
thought Amirault should undergo mandatory sex offender treatment.
But the board's main recommendation is correct. This isn't about guilt or innocence. It's