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Judge Reduces Life Sentence for Boston Man Convicted In 1991 Bombing

A man convicted for the 1991 bombing death of a Boston police officer will return to Massachusetts after a federal judge reduced his life sentence.

A federal judge granted Alfred Trenkler's request for compassionate release — with some conditions — and allowed him to move from a federal prison in Arizona to the federal prison in Devens.

Judge William Smith reduced Trenkler's sentence for the bombing that killed Boston police officer Jeremiah Hurley and maimed officer Francis Foley. Trenkler was convicted of helping plant a bomb in the car of Thomas Shay Sr.

The judge reduced Trenkler's sentence to 41 years with five years of supervision, in part because he found that the sentencing judge did not have the authority to impose a life sentence. His ruling also cites the federal First Step Act, passed in 2018, which gives judges the power to reduce sentences.

"In the Court’s view, a sentence of 41 years would be one that reflects the seriousness of the offenses, promotes respect for the law, and provides just punishment for the offenses, while taking into account the history and characteristics of Defendant," Smith's wrote in the ruling. "While the Court cannot second guess the jury’s verdict, it can, in determining the appropriate sentence, administer justice with a measure of mercy, even for one who is convicted of a heinous crime."

Trenkler also sought release because of the coronavirus pandemic and his underlying health issues. Judge Smith denied a medical release because Trenkler has been vaccinated.

"I do regard this as a victory," said Trenkler's lead attorney, retired federal judge Nancy Gertner. "Any time a life sentence is set aside, even for a number of years, that means the man has hope."

In a statement released Friday evening, Boston police said they were "saddened" by the decision.

"Our thoughts remain, as they always have, with the families of these officers and with the countless members of the Boston Police Department who put their lives on the line every day," a police spokesperson wrote.

Gertner said Trenkler will be eligible for parole in eight years.

Deborah Becker Twitter Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.

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