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Sentencing date set for May for convicted rapist Gary Alan Irving

DEDHAM — Thirty-four years after he fled the state to avoid prison, convicted serial rapist Gary Alan Irving is scheduled to be sentenced next month for raping three young women.

His lawyer said he will probably seek an appeal and a new trial.

Irving, now 52, was convicted in June 1979 for kidnapping and raping three young women the previous summer on the South Shore. A judge allowed him to return home before sentencing, and he disappeared.

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Massachusetts State Police found him in March living under an assumed identity in Gorham, Maine, where he had married and raised a family.

On Friday, Irving appeared shackled hand and foot at a status hearing in Norfolk Superior Court, where Assistant District Attorney Michele Armour argued for speedy sentencing and requested a DNA sample, which was taken at the courthouse immediately after the hearing.

“I’ve spoken to the victims in this case, and they’re very eager to have some resolution to his case,” said Armour.

Irving was silent and showed no emotion during the brief hearing. His family was not present in the courtroom.

Irving’s lawyer, Neil Tassel, said he needs time to look over case materials, because he was only recently appointed. He said he has requested transcripts of the original trial, he said, but the Commonwealth has not yet been able to locate them. Armour said her office is searching for them.

“I know nothing about the case, other than what I have read in the newspapers, frankly, and what the Commonwealth has told me,” he said. “I need to do my best to exhaust locating the transcripts . . . as well as pull together resources about what Mr. Irving has been doing with his life and his contribution to the community in the last 35 years.”

Judge Kenneth J. Fishman set Irving’s new sentencing date for May 23, with a status hearing on April 26 to discuss the search for the transcripts and any other issues that may arise.

In an interview after the hearing, Tassel said that the DNA sample, which will be entered into a national database, will prove that his client has not committed any crimes in his years on the run.

Authorities in Maine are combing unsolved rape cases looking for similarities to Irving’s attacks.

Tassel pointed out that “things were done very differently” in 1978.

“There was a tremendous amount of pressure on the authorities to clear those cases,” he said. “. . . We now know, in many other cases, people have been cleared by DNA. Identification technology and forensics have changed a great deal since 1978, and, if anything, the law and the technology that has come to pass will assist him in getting a new trial.”

A spokesman for the Norfolk district attorney’s office declined to comment on whether DNA evidence exists from the 1978 cases, and Tassel said he did not know whether there is.

Tassel said he is optimistic that the transcripts will turn up.

If they do not and if they cannot be properly reconstructed, their absence could provide basis for an appeal, said an appellate attorney with no connection to the case.

“Every defendant has a right to be able to litigate an appeal,” said Michael J. Traft, who has more than 35 years of experience as an appellate lawyer in Massachusetts. “Without a transcript, you don’t know what testimony was raised, what specific objections might have been raised about the evidence, how that evidence came in, and what specific objections might have been raised about arguments of counsel or the judge’s instructions to a jury. Those are often the major issues that are raised in particular on appeals.”

Tassel said his client will pursue all his options if the transcripts do not turn up.

Irving was convicted of raping three young women in Cohasset, Weymouth, and Holbrook, between July 2 and July 29, 1978. According to the former prosecutor who tried the first case, Irving would drive around looking for a young woman to assault and then lie in wait for her, often armed with a knife, to pull her into a secluded area and rape her.

Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey said that his office is focusing on bringing Irving to account after more than three decades on the lam.

“The defense attorney will file what he wishes,” he said in a statement. “These victims have waited 34 years to have this man sentenced on his rape convictions. Our focus now is the concerns of these victims and having the justice denied 34 years ago delivered at sentencing on May 23.”

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