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Guest opinion:
Bay State judges: Pedophiles walk!


The Union Leader & New Hampshire Sunday News
- 30-Mar-01

WHAT IS IT with judges in Massachusetts? I wonder if it would help a person in the Bay State get an appointment to the bench if he showed insensitivity to the plight of crime victims and showed he is ďsensitiveĒ to criminals? Too many Bay State judges are liberal to a fault.

Consider the recent case of Judge Maria Lopez involving Charles ďEbonyĒ Horton. Horton plead guilty to the attempted rape of an 11-year-old boy. Not only did Lopez minimize the serious nature of this crime, she also granted him parole. Lopez sent Horton back to his home in Bostonís public housing community, an environment with a large amount of children.

I wish I could simply ignore these kinds of judges because I do not live in Massachusetts. I wish I could believe that their problems are their own to deal with. But I canít and neither can you because in case after case a dangerous sex offender was undeservingly given freedom by Massachusetts judges, with the understanding that the offender would just leave the state.

Iím talking about judges like Suffolk Superior Court Judge Walter Steele, who once had the power to keep a dangerous pedophile of the worst imaginable kind, behind bars. In 1991, Nathanial Bar-Jonah, now a suspected serial killer and cannibal living in Montana, stood before him asking for release. He was then doing time for five felony charges of kidnapping, impersonating a police officer and attempted murder.

Bar-Jonah has most recently been charged with the murder of a 10-year-old boy and numerous other assaults on children. The skeletal remains of at least one child was found scattered around outside his Montana home. Bar-Jonah, who was called David Brown until the early 1990s, served more than a decade in Massachusetts prisons and treatment centers. He was there for the kidnapping and attempted murder of two boys in Massachusetts in the late 1970s. At the 1991 hearing before Judge Steele two psychiatrists said he was still a danger to society, and two said he was not. Steele, who must be a gambling man, sided with the two who thought Bar-Jonah would not commit the crime again.

If you can believe it, this story gets worse. Just a few months after he was paroled in 1991, Bar-Jonah was arrested again. This time he was charged with attacking a 7-year-old boy in Oxford, Mass. Back to jail, right? Wrong. Because of a plea bargain arrangement with Judge Sarkus Teshonian of Dudley District Court, Bar-Jonah was allowed simply go to Montana to live with his mother. Did anyone bother to tell Montana authorities he was coming? Nah, why bother? The family of the little boy who Bar-Jonah attacked in Oxford rejected this plea bargain arrangement numerous times when it was offered. Finally, they have said, it was forced on them.

Also, consider the case of Scott Selinger. In 1997 he was charged with sexually assaulting and beating an 11-year-old boy in Peabody, Mass. After throwing the boy off a cliff, he then whacked him hard in the head with a rock. Serious charges, right? Most people still call it what it is, attempted murder. Thatís a charge that, in the best interests of public safety, would be sufficient cause for Selinger stay in jail while awaiting trial, right? Well, donít forget, this is Massachusetts.

Prosecutors asked for $100,000 bail. The amount was set much lower at $7,500 by Judge Robert Hayes. Selinger didnít have the money so he appealed. Superior Court Judge Robert Welch III reduced bail to a mere $5,000. Thatís how much it costs you to walk the streets after being charged with raping and trying to kill a kid in Massachusetts. As part of the bail agreement Selinger was reportedly encouraged to leave town. He landed in my town, Derry, New Hampshire.

In Derry during September of 1998, a 6-year-old boy got off the school bus only to find his mom wasnít home yet; her car had broken down. Selinger found the boy crying on his doorstep and brought him to the nearby woods where he reportedly raped him. Selinger has admitted he strangled the boy with a rope and left him in the woods for dead. Thankfully, the smart little boy was only pretending to be dead. He was found shivering under a bush at midnight.

Hundreds of Derry residents signed a letter I wrote asking the governor of Massachusetts, Paul Cellucci, to explain how this could have happened. We have never received a response. Two years later, Seliger pleaded guilty to attempted murder in the Derry case. He received 25 to 60 years and is currently awaiting trial for the Massachusetts charge.

Judges in Massachusetts give lenient sentences when they find out the accused is willing to leave the state. This is both selfish and foolish. Why would they do this? To ensure that no angry constituents will be calling their bosses and those who appoint judges, elected officials such as Gov. Paul Cellucci? If hundreds of angry citizens from another state should call them, no problem. They donít vote in Massachusetts.

Well let me be bigger than that and say, as a fiscally conservative New Hampshire taxpayer, I hope Scott Selinger serves his time here and at my expense. I believe he will be dealt with in a far more sensible manner here. If that saves one kid from any state, then Iím happy to have him.

A judge has no excuse not to realize the potential harm sex offenders may cause. I donít insist they read the future, I insist they face the facts and face reality. No matter what the jurisdiction they preside in, because crime knows no state lines, they must take seriously the job they have been entrusted with. They are the guardians of our society and we cannot afford for them to be asleep at the wheel.

Katherine Prudhomme is a homeschooling homemaker who lives in Derry.

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