The Boston Herald
Saturday, October 18, 2003
Parole board votes to free Tooky
by Tom Mashberg
Gerald "Tooky" Amirault, the inmate at the center of the infamous Fells Acres child care abuse case, could be home to Malden in time to walk his daughter down the aisle after the Massachusetts Parole Board yesterday granted him an April 2004 release date.
"I could never have conceived of my wedding without him," Katie Amirault, 23, the younger of Amirault's two daughters, said after getting the news. "He just called me and said, `I'll be there baby!' It's so exciting. Through all his years in prison, he's been a great dad."
But while the board's ruling elated Amirault's family and supporters, it infuriated Amirault's accusers and their kin, who believe a jury properly convicted him of abusing eight preschoolers in 1986
Jennifer Bennett, 22, of Malden, one of the children who testified against Amirault, said she was "horrified and disgusted" by the parole board's recommendation.
Her father, Paul Bennett, added: "As far as we're concerned, he should not be getting out. He's never admitted his guilt. The jury's verdict was a proper one."
The three-member state parole board, in a unanimous recommendation, said "justice has been served" by Amirault's time in jail.
It noted he received a 5-0 Pardon Board recommendation for commutation of his 30- to 40-year sentence in July 2001. In February 2002, Acting Gov. Jane Swift declined the recommendation.
"Although Mr. Amirault stands convicted of serious offenses, it appears that justice has been served by his 17 years of incarceration," the Parole Board said.
Patricia Amirault, Gerald's wife, said she learned of the ruling when her husband called from Bay State Correctional Center in Norfolk.
"He said, `Well, the Red Sox may have blown it, but I just got my parole,' " she said. "It's bittersweet. It's a homecoming we've all been waiting for. But he never should have been convicted of these absurd charges in the first place."
Patricia Amirault said her husband did not acknowledge guilt when he went before the parole board Oct. 1. The three-member parole panel, consisting of former Norfolk prosecutor John P. Kivlan and board members Daniel M. Dewey and Joyce Hooley, said no evidence has surfaced to suggest Amirault would be a danger.
"In deciding whether his release is warranted, the board notes that his prior criminal history is minimal and his overall institutional record of adjustment is good," the board wrote in its decision.
Barbara Standke, 47, of Tewksbury, whose son, Brian Martinello, was a Fells Acres victim, said she "knew he would be freed one day."
"What can I say?" she said. "My son is still suffering to this day."
Amirault will be required to have an approved home plan, undergo mandatory drug and alcohol testing, have "no contact or association with victims or families of victims," and no unsupervised contact with children under 18.
By statute, Middlesex District Attorney Martha A. Coakley has six months to petition for Amirault's civil commitment as a "sexually dangerous person." She said, "Although we opposed this action ... we were aware that the time would come when Mr. Amirault would be considered for parole."
Attorney James L. Sultan, who fought for Amirault's release, said, "I would be shocked" if Coakley "petitioned for commitment here."
Amirault is among the last of those accused of child abuse during a rash of day care-related child molestation scandals in the 1980s to remain in jail. A jury found him guilty after several days of deliberations amid testimony from child witnesses that he performed ritual animal sacrifices during the abuse.
Amirault's sister, Cheryl Amirault LeFave, and his late mother, Violet Amirault, who owned the day care center, were convicted of similar charges in a separate trial.
They were both paroled in 1995.
Donna Bennett, an aunt of victim Jennifer Bennett, said yesterday: "He's served a lot of time. Murderers get more time. I believe in his guilt, but I feel personally it may just be time to end it."
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