Saturday, March 15, 2003
Amirault bid for release rejected
by David Weber
Reversing its own recommendation 13 months ago that
convicted child rapist Gerald "Tooky" Amirault be freed from prison, the state Parole Board
unanimously recommended yesterday that Gov. Mitt Romney deny Amirault's
new petition for commutation.
Romney accepted the board's recommendation and denied the
In the written opinion sent to Romney, the Parole Board
members said Amirault, 49, becomes eligible for parole from his 30-to-40-year prison
sentence in December and already is scheduled for a hearing in October.
The board said Amirault's "compelling need has been
substantially diminished (by the upcoming hearing) and therefore, the rationale to recommend the
extraordinary remedy of executive clemency is no longer present."
Amirault was convicted in 1986 of raping and molesting
children at the family-run Fells Acres day care center in Malden.
In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, Romney said, "In
light of Mr. Amirault's approaching parole eligibility date, and the fact that he will receive a
parole hearing before the commutation process can likely be completed, I have
decided to accept the board's unanimous recommendation."
Amirault's attorney, James Sultan, said he was disappointed
by the bureaucratic nature of the board's latest decision in the controversial Fells
Acres Day Care case.
"Gerald Amirault is an innocent man who has already served
17 years in prison for crimes he didn't commit. Each day he remains behind bars adds to the
terrible injustice which he and his family have suffered. He should have been
released long ago," Sultan said.
On July 6, 2001, the Parole Board voted 5-0 to recommend
that Amirault's sentence be commuted. The board's primary reason for its vote to commute
was that Gerald Amirault's sentence was unfair in comparison to the 8-to-20-year sentences
received by his mother, Violet Amirault, and sister, Cheryl Amirault LeFave, who also were convicted of child rape and
abuse charges in the Fells Acres case.
In the 2001 recommendation, three of the five voting members
also expressed doubt about the validity of the child victims' testimony against Gerald
Amirault: "It is clearly a matter of public knowledge that, at a minimum, real
and substantial doubt exists concerning (his) conviction."
But in February 2002, acting Gov. Jane Swift disregarded the
Parole Board recommendation and denied Amirault's commutation petition, saying she felt
Amirault, who has maintained his innocence, had not done enough to rehabilitate himself.
Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley, whose office
prosecuted the Fells Acres case, repeatedly has pointed out that the Supreme Judicial Court upheld
Amirault's conviction twice and that each succeeding legal maneuver by
Amirault reopens painful wounds for the victims.
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The Boston Globe
Saturday, March 15, 2003
Amirault loses plea for commutation
By John Ellement, Globe Staff
In a move that keeps Governor Mitt Romney from becoming
entangled in the notorious Fells Acres Day School case, the Advisory Board of Pardons said
yesterday that the prison sentence of convicted child molester Gerald Amirault
should not be commuted and Amirault should seek freedom through a standard
parole hearing later this year.
Despite the setback, Amirault's attorney, James L. Sultan
Jr., predicted that Amirault will prevail before the State Parole Board this fall and will be freed 17
years after he was convicted of raping and sexually molesting nine children at
the family-run Malden school.
But when he appears before the Parole Board, Amirault will
not admit any wrongdoing. "He's never going to admit guilt," Sultan said of Amirault, the last
of his family still behind bars. "I'm completely confident he will be paroled this
In a statement, Romney said he would abide by the board's
decision: "I have said in reviewing the Amirault case that I would seriously consider the views of
the Advisory Board of Pardons. In accordance with their regulations, the Board
has unanimously voted to deny Gerald Amirault's commutation petition because of the closeness of his parole eligibility
date. In light of Mr. Amirault's approaching parole eligibility date, and the fact that he will receive a parole
hearing before the commutation process can be completed, I have decided to
accept the Board's unanimous recommendation."
Amirault will be eligible for parole in December.
Amirault, along with his mother, Violet, and his sister,
Cheryl, were convicted following a highly publicized investigation by the Middlesex district attorney's
office. His mother and sister were released from prison in 1995. Violet
Amirault died in 1997.
The Amirault trials, during which child witnesses described
talking robots and the public torture of animals, contributed to a national debate about the
reliability of testimony from children, and the prosecution of sexual abuse of
Even if Gerald Amirault is paroled, a state law could slow,
or even prevent, his release. Under the sexually dangerous person law, prosecutors can seek to
have inmates being freed from prison after serving sentences for sex crimes
committed to a special hospital for an undetermined length of time, including
The request that Amirault be designated a sexually dangerous
person would have to come from the Middlesex district attorney's office. Yesterday, a
spokeswoman for District Attorney Martha Coakley said it was premature to
speculate as to whether a request would be made to designate Amirault as a
sexually dangerous person.
If Coakley moves for such a designation, Sultan said he
wants Amirault released on bail. "As long as Gerald Amirault is home with his family, we would
welcome the opportunity to retry this case in 2003," Sultan said.
Sultan's confidence in the parole board would seem warranted. In 2001, the
Parole Board - acting, as it did yesterday, in its dual role as the Advisory Board
of Pardons - voted 6-0 to commute Amirault's sentence, but former acting
governor Jane Swift rejected the recommendation.
The parole board's makeup has since changed, but the three
strongest advocates for Amirault's release - who concluded that "real and substantial
doubt exists" about his guilt - remain.
A fourth advocate for his release, Maureen E. Walsh, is now
chairwoman of the six-person panel.
"I have no reason to believe that the board will take a
different position," Sultan said.
The father of one of the victims, Paul Bennett, said
yesterday that both he and his daughter will speak against Amirault's release unless Amirault apologizes
and admits his crimes.
"If he comes before the Parole Board and admits guilt, we
want an apology to the victims from him. If he does this, then we will most likely, or probably, just
let the Parole Board, as professionals, handle it within the system," Bennett
said in a telephone interview. "If he does not admit guilt ... then we
will definitely put up a strong defense against him getting paroled."
But Bennett, who testified against Amirault at the 2000
commutation hearing, acknowledged that Amirault may be paroled nonetheless.
"We know he still could get out. When [the board] makes
their decision, it's going to have to be something they have to live with - especially if they make
the wrong decision," he said. "The parole board is made up of pretty sharp
people. I don't think they will make the wrong decision."
Neither state law nor board history mandates that an inmate
admit guilt in order to be released. The Supreme Judicial Court has also ruled that an
admission of guilt is not required for parole.
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