The Boston Herald
Thursday, April 22, 2004
DA decides: Case closed
By Tom Mashberg/Analysis
By declining to pursue a civil commitment hearing against Gerald "Tooky" Amirault, law enforcement officials have dodged the possibility of seeing his day-care sex abuse case retried before yet another a judge at a time when views have changed radically about the nature of such cases.
Amirault was convicted in 1986 of molesting 11 children at the Fells Acres Day Care Center in Malden, run by his late mother, Violet, and sister, Cheryl. Violet and Cheryl were convicted of abuse in 1987.
The case has been appealed numerous times, with a least one Superior Court judge tossing out the convictions. In July 2001, the state Board of Pardons unanimously urged that Amirault be freed, and on Oct. 16 he was granted parole.
Under recent state law, the office of District Attorney Martha Coakley still had an opening to keep Amirault confined by seeking a hearing before a judge to declare him a sexually dangerous predator.
But such a hearing would have opened up the case "to a complete review of the improper tactics used to convict him in the first place," said one legal expert who asked that his name be withheld.
Seth Horwitz, a spokesman for Coakley, said yesterday that a state-certified psychologist was asked by Coakley to review the case file to determine whether Amirault would be a danger to the community upon his release.
The psychologist determined "there was not sufficient basis to affirm that (Amirault) was prone to reoffend," Horwitz said.
"It's our call ultimately - we made the determination after retaining the expert that the commonwealth couldn't meet the burden," Horwitz said. He added Coakley's office took into account the controls placed on Amirault's release by the Parole Board.
But lawyers who follow the case say Coakley's "call" is also informed by the fact the case is highly charged. Many prosecutors and judges say there is no way the Amiraults could have been convicted under modern standards for handling child-abuse allegations.
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