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Baker announces 6 pardons and a commutation of a murder sentence

Gov. Charlie Baker (Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Gov. Charlie Baker (Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

As he prepares to leave office, Gov. Charlie Baker announced he is commuting a man's first degree murder sentence and granting pardons to six people, including two people convicted in a child molestation case that has been debated for decades.

Among the six pardons the governor announced Friday were those for Gerald Amirault and Cheryl Amirault LeFave. They were convicted of molesting children at their business, The Fells Acre Day School in Malden, in the '80s.

Gerald Amirault served 18 years in prison before he was released on parole in 2004. Cheryl Amirault spent eight years in prison before her conviction was overturned in 1995. The way investigators interviewed the children witnesses led to doubts about their testimony and consequently the allegations against the Amiraults.

"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,” Baker said in a statement. “I am left with grave doubt regarding the evidentiary strength of these convictions."

The Amiraults are "deeply grateful to the Governor for granting them executive clemency," said their attorney James Sultan. He cited letters from judges and others in law enforcement supporting clemency.

"His decision will help to rectify a grievous wrong which has remained a serious blight on our criminal justice system for nearly four decades," Sultan said.

Former attorney general and Middlesex County District Attorney Tom Reilly said he supports the governor's decision to pardon the Amiraults.

“While I stand behind the decisions made at the time by the prosecutors, judge and jury, I believe the Governor’s decision is a fitting end to a very troubled case," Reilly said.

Their pardons now go to the Governor's Council for review.

The governor also pardoned four others: Brian Morin, Camille Joseph Chaisson, Michael Biagini and Robert Busa. All four men were charged with low-level crimes decades ago, and are seeking pardons to renew their firearms licenses.

“Each individual has had clean records since these older charges and receiving a pardon will allow them to move forward in their lives," Baker said. "I urge the Governor’s Council to consider each of these cases carefully."

In commuting the first degree murder sentence of Ramadan Shabazz, the governor said Shabazz's crimes were "horrific," but Shabazz has taken responsibility for his actions and "dedicated his life in prison to bettering himself and serving as a mentor to others in prison."

Shabazz, 72, has been in prison for more than 50 years for the murders of Harry Jeffreys and Calvin Thorn. Shabazz and a co-defendant, Raymond White, were convicted for fatally shooting the two security guards at the Freedom Foods grocery store in 1971. Initially, Shabazz was sentenced to death, but after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court 1976 ruling banned the death penalty, his sentence was reduced to life in prison.

While incarcerated, Shabazz participated in more than 50 rehabilitative programs, earned two degrees and worked to mentor young men and help those incarcerated who have mental health issues, according to the governor's office.

"The ability to grant pardons and commutations is one of the most solemn responsibilities given to me as Governor, and I have considered each and every request that has been placed before me with careful deliberation," Baker said in a statement.

The commutation of Shabazz's sentence to second degree murder makes him immediately eligible for parole. The Parole Board has recommended Shabazz's commutation.

Baker announced his first commutations in January for Thomas Koonce and William Allen. Both men's first degree murder sentences were commuted to second-degree murder and both have been released on parole. In total, Baker has commuted the sentences of three people, and pardoned 14 individuals, this year.


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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