Man seeks new trial citing racist online posts by now-deceased defense attorney

Editor's Note: This story contains offensive language and details that may be upsetting to some readers.

A man convicted on human trafficking and drug charges is fighting for a new trial after discovering the court-appointed lawyer who handled his case apparently made and circulated racist and offensive remarks on social media. The state's public defender agency is now looking at all the cases the attorney handled.

In 2016, Anthony Dew, a 39-year-old from Dorchester, was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. The attorney who represented him, Richard Doyle, was appointed through the state's public defender agency, the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS). Doyle died last March.

It wasn't until after Doyle's death that Dew found out CPCS had received a complaint  in 2017 about Doyle's social media presence.

"Years after Attorney Doyle concluded his work on Mr. Dew's case, Mr. Dew
discovered that his assumptions about Attorney Doyle were woefully inaccurate," Dew's current attorney, Edward Gaffney, said in a court motion filed in 2020. "For it was then that Mr. Dew learned that Attorney Doyle was a virulent racist and Islamophobe, who openly derided, ridiculed, and threatened African Americans and Muslims for years, by publicly making violence-laden, bigoted and otherwise deeply offensive Facebook postings."

The motion included an affidavit from another CPCS attorney that described posts said to be made by Doyle. (Editor's Note: The affidavit contains descriptions and details of racist and offensive social media posts that readers may find disturbing and upsetting.) The affidavit showed a repost of the comment, "When liberals aren't busy bashing peaceful Christians, they're making excuses for Muslims cutting people's heads off."

A screenshot of a meme reposted by Doyle. The screenshot is part of a collection of reposts and other comments apparently made by Doyle that were filed in an affidavit. (Screenshot via court documents)
A screenshot of a meme-style post believed to be recirculated by Doyle onto his public Facebook page. The screenshot is part of a collection of reposts and other comments apparently made by Doyle that were filed in an affidavit. (Screenshot via court documents)

Doyle, according to the attorney's affidavit, also allegedly described a client in another case as a "21-year-old punk" and wrote he might give that client "soap on a rope for a going away present."

The affidavit cites several Facebook posts believed to be from Doyle between 2014 and 2017. All of the posts were public, meaning that anyone on Facebook, not just those who were "Facebook friends" with Doyle, could read them. CPCS filed a complaint with the Suffolk Lawyers for Justice.

"It is abundantly clear that in Attorney Doyle's view, non-white and non-Christian people — including Mr. Dew — were, at best, persons who deserved his contempt and ridicule, and at worst, less than human," Gaffney's motion stated. "When Massachusetts appointed him (Doyle) to represent Mr. Dew — an African American Muslim — Massachusetts denied Mr. Dew his constitutional right to a fair trial, by denying him equal protection of the laws guaranteed to him under the 14th Amendment."

Gaffney, who was appointed by CPCS to handle Dew's motion for a new trial, said Dew contacted CPCS several times but was not aware of the investigation into Doyle's online posts until after Doyle died in 2021 at age 59.

CPCS said it suspended Doyle from any of its cases after it learned about the Facebook posts and appointed Gaffney to determine if there should be a move toward post-conviction relief in Dew's case.

"After the case was screened, we determined that there may be grounds for a new trial motion and, at that point, we assigned this defendant’s attorney who is currently representing him," said CPCS spokesman Robert McGovern in a statement.  “Independently, we are also looking into the many cases this attorney was involved in during his time as a Bar Advocate and screening them for any potential post-conviction relief.”

In its response to Dew's motion for a new trial, the state argued that while Doyle's Facebook posts are "shocking and profoundly disturbing," there is no evidence that his views affected Dew's case or automatically require a reversal of Dew's conviction.

"Attorney Doyle practiced law as a defense attorney in the Boston area for over twenty years, yet the defendant has not produced any evidence that Doyle ever let his personal prejudices affect his professionalism in court or his representation of any of his clients, much less his representation of the defendant himself," the Suffolk County district attorney's office wrote.

The DA's office added, "further proceedings are needed to determine whether these horrible posts had any impact on this particular case."

In his motion, Gaffney cited other cases affected by racism expressed by attorneys, including that of Frances Choy, of Brockton. After spending 17 years in prison she was released in 2020 upon the discovery of racist emails written by prosecutors involved in her case.

"For decades, the pervasive effects of racism in the criminal justice system have required federal and Massachusetts courts to rely on these constitutional provisions to take remedial action in a variety of contexts," Gaffney wrote.

The state, however, said that Dew's case is different because with Choy's conviction, the prosecutors racist comments were specifically about Choy and "prosecutors are held to a higher standard than defense attorneys." The DA's response also said that questions were also raised about whether Choy was "factually guilty."

Gaffney's motion asked that Dew be allowed to withdraw his guilty pleas. In 2016, Dew pleaded guilty to charges of human trafficking, assault and drug distribution. He was sentenced to serve 8-10 years in prison, followed by concurrent terms of seven years of probation on the remaining charges.

At a hearing on the motion Wednesday, a Suffolk Superior Court judge said she wanted more documents from the case. The judge scheduled an evidentiary hearing for next month.

Dew is expected to be eligible for parole later this year.

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Deborah Becker 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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