and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Baker can provide state 'apology' for Amirault
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, January 22, 2015

“If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating...”

— Rudyard Kipling, “If”

Kipling, had he known him, could have been describing my friend Gerald Amirault. Somehow, after 30 years of injustice, Gerry remains an optimistic, unbitter, and honorable man, as he waits for his nightmare to finally end.

Charlie Baker has been governor for two weeks now. It’s time to remove the ankle bracelet from Gerald’s ankle, to drop the curfew, to allow him to get a job and start helping his wife earn money to pay the mortgage acquired during his defense.

For those who just arrived, a summary of what happened to the Amirault family, a modern equivalent of what happened to accused witches in the 17th century here in the Salem area:

It began in the mid-1980s. Across the country, wild accusations about events in private daycare centers appeared in the media. Instead of being investigated and discharged as no proof was found, they were made worse by social workers who encouraged children in their imaginative tales, then used by ambitious prosecutors to advance their careers. The terror spread, and daycare workers went to jail for alleged crimes.

The Amirault family — Violet, age 60, owner of Fells Acre Day Care, her son Gerald, 31, and her daughter Cheryl — was charged after a series of police, social worker and prosecutorial errors; there was no attempt at fairness, no ridicule of the wild stories about children tied naked to trees in this residential neighborhood, being forced to eat frogs that went “quackquack,” etc.

The two women were tried together and went to prison until 1998; Gerald was tried separately and remained in jail. My co-worker Chip Faulkner clipped columns from the Wall Street Journal about the Amiraults by Dorothy Rabinowitz, who won a Pulitzer Prize for them. I arranged to meet Gerald at the Plymouth Correctional Facility, hoping to sense guilt so I could ignore Chip’s insistence that I “do something!”

Instead, the more I learned, the more horrified I was by the injustice that we taxpayers were funding — as all three refused to admit guilt, even for reduced sentencing, and Gerald refused to curry favor by participating in sex offender therapy because, he said, “I’m not a sex offender.”

Along with writing columns, which appeared in this newspaper, I appealed to the governors I knew. Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci were waiting for the parole board to finish its investigation and, I was sure, were prepared to grant a commutation as soon as possible.


Gerry at the CLT office after his release in 2004


Two judges, one liberal, one tough, argued for a new trial or commutation. Civil libertarians like Harvey Silverglate and Charles Ogletree were on board. On July 6, 2001, the parole board made an unanimous decision for commutation, stating that there were serious questions about the validity of the conviction. Newspaper editorials were supportive. But by then, Weld and Cellucci had left office and Jane Swift was acting governor. I’d been working with her administration for months to make sure of internal support; her decision not to commute was the biggest political shock of my life. The next day I called Mitt Romney at the Winter Olympics in Utah, begging him to come home to run against her; if he hadn’t I was prepared to run against her myself.

Gerald was finally released on parole in 2004; after 18 years he was happy to be with his wife and children again. He’d received his bachelor’s degree from Boston University in prison; Citizens for Limited Taxation hired him to do a report for the 25th anniversary of Proposition 2½, which showed excellent research skills. We couldn’t afford to keep him on, but it seemed likely he would soon find work elsewhere.

However, his parole conditions were increased over the years as real sex crimes were committed in the commonwealth. They became more burdensome: polygraph exams, exclusionary zones (towns he isn’t allowed to enter); he can’t leave the state without a permit that must be voted on each time by the parole board, and only for two weeks. For years his monthly GPS surveillance fee was $380; this has been dropped to $80 for parole supervision.

There are good people in this story too. The parole board always treats him well, and gives the permits. Someone who heard his story recently on the Howie Carr show has been sending four $20 bills anonymously in the mail each month.

The harshest provision seems to be the ankle bracelet, which keeps him from wearing shorts in the summer or ski boots in the winter, from swimming at the beach with his grandchildren. He has to keep a log of everywhere he goes outside his house.

Yes, these burdens would be appropriate for real sex offenders; but keep in mind that Gerald is innocent. The outrage is unimaginable, yet he remains positive, insists he enjoys his life and remains convinced that things will get better, especially now that Charlie Baker is governor. Having done some work when incarcerated with prisoners who had drug issues, he’d like to get a job with the Opiate Task Force, which Gov. Baker has called a priority of his administration.

Charlie Baker’s father asked me several years ago if he could help; after we had lunch together, Charlie Sr. tried to find Gerald a job that wouldn’t require him to be near a school. Charlie Jr. met Gerald and one of his daughters on the campaign trail and assured them this will be one of the first things on his agenda. His opponent, Martha Coakley, was one of Gerald’s ambitious prosecutors, and I suspect many voters who know this story voted against her because of it.

The new governor faces many complicated challenges. Getting this one right might also take some time, but Gerald and his wife, Patti, are presently asking for the simplest of remedies: just call the Sex Offender Board and ask to have him re-classified from Level 3 to Level 1 to ease his restrictions. Or ask them to vote to take him off parole; his lawyers know how this is done. Otherwise he’ll be suffering unfair indignities until 2024.

Clearly there is no way for Massachusetts to make up for 30 years of injustice. “Pardon” is the wrong word, since the Amiraults did nothing wrong, but it may be the only remedy since governments don’t usually do “apology.”

Barbara Anderson of Marblehead is president of Citizens for Limited Taxation and a Salem News columnist.

For a detailed history of this travesty of justice
visit Citizens for Limited Taxation's project webpage:

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle-Tribune newspapers.

More of Barbara's Columns

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