STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, NOV. 21, 2022…..The Parole Board denied the Amiraults a chance to state their case for pardons, but since Gov. Charlie Baker went ahead and recommended those pardons last week, the Governor’s Council could soon be the venue for a public airing of two controversial 1980s molestation convictions.
The council, which takes final votes on acts of clemency the governor recommends, has dispensed with public hearings or debate on any of the other pardons proposed this year. The others were “sort of slam dunks,” Councilor Robert Jubinville told the News Service Monday, and were approved unanimously by the elected council.
But the case of the Amiraults, who have long maintained their innocence, is a more complex matter.
“I think the feeling is we’re going to have a day of pardons, maybe on a Thursday or a Friday, or something like that,” Jubinville said, adding that he is personally “inclined” to hold a hearing on the Amirault pardons.
Both Gerald “Tooky” Amirault’s and Cheryl Amirault LeFave’s convictions stemmed from allegations of child sexual abuse at the Fells Acres day care center in Malden which they operated with their mother, Violet.
Jubinville, a 76-year-old practicing criminal defense attorney, has been familiar with the case since it began and said he supports granting forgiveness to the Amiraults.
“If ever there was a miscarriage of justice in this commonwealth, that rates up there with the Salem witches,” said the Milton Democrat. ” … I think it was a tragedy, and I think they deserve a pardon, in my view.”
Jubinville said that young children from the day care had been “coached” by parents and prosecutors in a way that differs from current practices.
“They didn’t have SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) interviews back then, where they have professionals that are trained how to question children involved in this kind of thing,” he said.
In his announcement of the pardons last Friday, the governor said the “investigations and prosecutions of the Amiraults in the 1980s took place without the benefit of scientific studies that have in the intervening years led to widespread adoption of investigative protocols designed to protect objectivity and reliability in the investigation of child sex abuse cases.”
Councilor Marilyn Pettito Devaney also said Monday that she wants to see the case publicly vetted by the council, and that she believes in the family’s innocence.
“I believed her,” Devaney said of the mother, Violet, who died in the 1990s.
Councilor Eileen Duff said she was inclined not to want hearings on the Amirault cases for the sake of “consistency” with the other pardons that the council has considered, but added she would support the consensus of her colleagues.
Baker seems to have acted independently in moving to pardon the Amirault children.
The governor usually acts on clemency recommended to him by the Parole Board, meeting in its capacity as the Advisory Board of Pardons. In this case, the board denied both of their requests for pardon hearings, according to letters it sent to LeFave in August and to Baker in September.
The board did extend Gerald Amirault an invitation for a commutation hearing, though Amirault “declined” the offer, according to the board’s letter. Commutations can mitigate a convict’s sentence but do not forgive the underlying conviction the way pardons do.
If the council convenes hearings on the Amirault pardons, they would likely be chaired by Councilor Terry Kennedy of Lynnfield. Council records indicate both Amiraults reside in his district.
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