Outraged House Republicans, criticizing the state Parole Board's decision to free a serial armed robber who shot and killed a Woburn police officer last week, demanded action today on a bill to crack down on repeat violent offenders.
The legislation would remove the possibility of parole for certain repeat offenders, and require judges to impose the maximum possible punishment for anyone convicted of their third felony in Superior Court.
A group of GOP lawmakers said at a State House press conference that the bill has been stuck in the Democrat-controlled Judiciary Committee since March, and that versions of it have been circulating without action for nearly a decade on Beacon Hill.
Several lawmakers argued that the bill would have prevented the Parole Board from freeing Dominic Cinelli, a career criminal serving three concurrent life sentences who was freed in 2009 and who killed Officer John B. Maguire on Dec. 26.
But one of those lawmakers, Bradford Hill, an Ipswich Republican and the measure’s lead sponsor, later acknowledged that the bill would have had to have passed before 1978, when Cinelli was sentenced.
Two provisions of the bill would make it more difficult for convicts like Cinelli, in the future, to win parole, said Jessica Venezia Pastore, a spokeswoman for Middlesex district attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr., who sponsored the bill with Hill. One would require the maximum possible punishment for the third felony conviction in Superior Court, which Cinelli had. Another would eliminate the ability of defendants to agree to "package deals" and receive concurrent sentences for crimes committed while they are out on bail. In 1985, Cinelli shot a security guard at a Boston jewelry store after failing to return to prison following a one-day furlough.
Hill has dubbed the legislation "Melissa's Bill," in memory of Melissa Gosule, a 27-year-old teacher from Randolph who was killed in 1999 by a repeat offender who had served less than two years in jail, even though he had 27 criminal convictions.
Hill and other GOP lawmakers, appearing with Gosule’s father, Les, said they would make the bill a priority in the new session that begins today, saying Maguire's slaying adds to their sense of urgency.
“We’re not going to prevent every tragedy from happening,” said Bradley H. Jones Jr., the House Republican leader. “But when people repeatedly demonstrate that they are unable and unwilling to comport themselves with the standards of society, we have an obligation as a society to separate them from law-abiding citizens.”
Charles D. Baker, the vanquished Republican candidate for governor, added his voice to the outcry over Cinelli's release.
"I find myself wondering, over & over, why anyone serving a life sentence is eligible for parole," Baker wrote on his Facebook page. "Shouldn't any sentence that involves life (15 years to life, etc.) automatically disqualify someone for parole?"
Eugene L. O'Flaherty, House chairman of the Judiciary Committee, promised the measure would receive "a full and thorough review" in the new session but did not address complaints that it has been stuck in his committee.
"The recent action by the Parole Board relative to the early release of Dominic Cinelli will certainly bring much warranted attention to those proposals dealing with violent recidivist criminals and eligibility for parole," O'Flaherty, a Chelsea Democrat, said in a statement.
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