Bernard Baran, Exonerated and Compensated, Fights to Clear His Name
For immediate release: February 17, 2013
Contact: Bob Chatelle, firstname.lastname@example.org
Victim of false conviction and imprisonment,
already exonerated and awarded monetary damges,
still fighting in Massachusetts courts to clear his name
WHEN: 2pm, February 26, 2013
WHERE: Suffolk Superior Court, Courtroom 1006, before Superior Court Justice Mary K. Ames
As a teenager, Bernard Baran was falsely convicted of child sexual abuse in Massachusetts. This happened in 1985, and 21 years later, with support from the National Center for Reason and Justice, he finally gained his freedom. Since then he has successfully fought to be compensated monetarily for the grave injustice he suffered.
Nevertheless, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley still refuses to expunge Baran’s record.
At 2 p.m. on February 26, Bernard Baran, represented by attorney John Swomley, will ask a Massachusetts judge to expunge all records of his arrest and conviction. Baran wants to go on with his life with a completely clean slate.
Baran was an openly gay 19-year-old working in a day care center when he was sent to Massachusetts prison for a crime he did not commit, for a crime that no one committed, for a crime that adults created in young children’s minds. Homophobia played a prominent role in the case. Baran was convicted in 1985, at the height of the national hysteria over alleged sex abuse in day care centers. He was, in fact, the first daycare employee convicted in America during this panic. Finally, when the videotaped interviews with the children were dragged out of the Berkshire County prosecutor’s office, they showed the incredibly leading questions used on the children.
Interviewer: “Tell me a little more about what Bernie did to you?
Child: “He didn’t do nothing.”
Interviewer (ignoring child’s answer):“Did Bernie touch you while in the bathroom? I know you are scared….Did it hurt you when Bernie touched you?”
Child: “He didn’t.”
Interviewer grabs doll’s penis to demonstrate: “Did he pull it? Did he twist it around?”
Massachusetts activist and writer Bob Chatelle wrote to Baran in prison to offer help. On March 3, 1999, Baran wrote back: “I was talking to my mother last night and as we talked I started to cry. I just told her I don’t know how much longer I can hold on for. I have spent 15 years of my life locked away for something I never did and after a while you start to lose all hope. I tell you this because when I see your letter that’s what I start feeling is hope and it scares me.”
In 2002, several writers, human and civil rights advocates, and attorneys, founded the National Center for Reason and Justice (NCRJ) to support Baran and others falsely accused of child abuse.
Finally, thanks in large part to the NCRJ’s work and that of lawyer John Swomley, Baran was released from prison in June 2006, under strict restrictions including a GPS ankle bracelet. In June 2009 he was fully exonerated. In August 2012 he was granted $400,000 in compensation for his wrongful imprisonment.
The State of Massachusetts, however, is inexplicably fighting to keep Baran from expunging the records of his case. NCRJ calls on the State to serve justice by immediately processing the expungment.
“Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in the past has had a troubling record with these cases,” says John Swomley, the lawyer for Bernard Baran. “Now is her chance finally to do something right, something no reasonable person could possibly think unwise. We were surprised that the State opposed the expungement of Baran’s records. We are seeking it as the final logical step, and for Bernard Baran’s peace of mind. On some level, if they want to fight it, it gives him his day in court. We are looking forward to it.”
Bob Chatelle, founder and executive director of the National Center for Reason and Justice, is available for comment, as are Bernard Baran and his lawyer John Swomley, 617-227-9443, email@example.com.