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Middlesex DA pushes for domestic violence bill after Jared Remy case

December 14, 2013 10:02 AM

Months after her office was criticized for its handling of a domestic violence case that ended in murder, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan is pushing legislation that increases penalties on defendants with a history of violence and in cases where the victim is a household or family member.

Ryan testified before the Joint Committee on Public Safety Thursday in favor of a bill (H 3242) that broadens the aggravated assault and battery statute when the defendant has previously been convicted of certain crimes, including violating a restraining order. The bill, entitled “an act relative to protecting domestic violence victims from repeat offenders,” was filed by Rep. Carolyn Dykema, a Democrat from Holliston.

The legislation also increases penalties for a defendant on an assault and battery charge who violates a judge’s order not to contact the victim as a condition of release on bail. Currently, a defendant is subject to increased penalties only when the assault and battery occurs in violation of a restraining order, according to Ryan.

“Right now the legislation does not provide for violation of the court order, a stay away order, to be an aggravating factor. This bill would remedy that,” she said. “This bill would say that if you have been ordered by the court to stay away from the victim and you, in fact, violate that order, commit an assault and battery, that will be an aggravating factor. It just increases the number of aggravating factors.”

The legislation gives prosecutors more tools to recommend higher sentences, and gives judges more discretion in sentencing, without creating mandatory minimum sentences, Ryan said.

Ryan is pushing for passage of four domestic violence bills, according to a spokeswoman. “It is part and parcel of a broader review of domestic violence legislation to increase penalties and discretion in sentencing that began when the DA took office,” spokeswoman MaryBeth Long said.

Ryan testified before lawmakers in July on a handful of bills, including one to create a new crime of strangulation and strangulation with serious bodily injury. In October, the Senate passed a domestic violence bill that included the strangulation measure. The bill is awaiting action in the House.

In August, the Middlesex District Attorney’s office was criticized for how it handled the case against Jared Remy, who was in court on an assault and battery charge two days before he allegedly killed his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel, a case that has spurred a reexamination of laws intended to prevent domestic violence.

Remy was arrested for allegedly slamming his longtime girlfriend into a mirror, and the DA’s office was publicly criticized for not asking a judge to continue to hold him, based on a past history of domestic violence charges, or ordering him to stay away from Martel following his arraignment.

In the wake of Martel’s murder, House Speaker Robert DeLeo asked Attorney General Martha Coakley to partner with him in looking at the state’s restraining order laws.

Dykema, who filed the bill in January, said abusers often have a history of violence before the domestic violence incident that should raise a red flag.

The bill recognizes if the defendant has a past history of violent behavior, they would be eligible for increased penalties on the domestic violence charge, Dykema said.

Dykema told the News Service the issue hit close to home for her after a Westborough mother was murdered in a domestic violence incident several years ago. After the woman’s death, she worked with former Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone, and then Ryan when she took office, Dykema said.

One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, Dykema said.

“The most frustrating thing I hear from the public when you read these tragedies in the paper, there is a clear history of violence. People ask themselves, and I ask myself, why weren’t we able to recognize this…to discern the clear signs. This (bill) allows us to recognize those past patterns of behavior.”

MetroWest Regional Transit Authority hosting hot chocolate bar event Friday in Framingham

December 9, 2013 04:22 PM

The MetroWest Regional Transit Authority will host a holiday-themed customer appreciation event this Friday complete with a hot chocolate bar and a raffle, according to the transportation organization.

The event will be held at the organization's central headquarters at 37 Waverley St. in Framingham on Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. -- during the most popular commuting times, the organization said in a statement,

The hot chocolate bar will feature the popular winter-time drink and different mix-ins, as well as whipped cream and sprinkles. Cookies will be served alongside the hot chocolate.

The organization will also have a free raffle, with two pre-loaded Charlie Cards as the prize. Those entering the raffle do not have to be present if their name is picked as a winner, the organization said.

The authority provides fixed-route bus and paratransit service to 11 communities west of Boston. For more information, visit the MWRTA's official website.

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

A look at the two candidates in Tuesday's special election to replace Ed Markey in Congress

December 4, 2013 11:25 AM

Katherine Clark, the 50-year-old Democratic nominee for the Fifth Congressional District, is heavily favored in the Dec. 10 special election to succeed Edward J. Markey in the US House of Representatives.

Yet Clark, a state senator from Melrose, still faces one last test.

Her Republican opponent, Frank J. Addivinola Jr., a businessman and lawyer with six graduate degrees and conservative views on the Affordable Care Act, guns, gay marriage, and abortion, says he is going to win.

Here are brief biographies of the two candidates. Go to Thursday's Globe North and Globe West for more.

Katherine Marlea Clark
Born: 1963 New Haven, CT
Undergraduate education: St. Lawrence University
Profession: State senator
Self-described political views: Progressive Democrat
Personal life: Married with three school-age boys
Current residence: Melrose
Grocery store of choice: Market Basket
International adventure: Studied abroad in Nagoya, Japan, in 1983


Frank John Addivinola Jr.
Born: 1960 Malden, MA
Undergraduate education: Williams College
Profession: Doctoral student, teacher, lawyer, owner test prep business
Self-described political view: Smaller government, traditional Republican
Personal life: Married
Current residence: Boston
Grocery store of choice: Market Basket
International adventure: From 2002-2006, lived in Odessa, Ukraine, and ran a tourist-focused business there

Massachusetts hunting, fishing licenses for 2014 available

November 30, 2013 04:48 PM

BOSTON (AP) — The new year is a few weeks away but it’s not too early to think about 2014 hunting licenses.

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife says 2014 hunting, sporting, fishing, and trapping licenses will be available for purchase starting on Monday.

They can be purchased at all license vendor locations, MassWildlife District offices, the West Boylston Field Headquarters, and at MassFishHunt.org.

Anyone 15 or older needs a license to hunt or for freshwater fishing.

Freshwater fishing licenses for minors ages 15 to 17 are free and can be obtained online.

The department also reminds hunters that all deer harvested during shotgun season must be checked at a check station. Online checking is not available from Dec. 2 until Dec. 14.

Special meeting set for Ashland water request

November 26, 2013 05:26 PM

Citing a "critical need for MWRA water" in Ashland, the Massachusetts Water Resources Advisory Board has scheduled a special meeting for next week.

The board reported Tuesday that Ashland has just notified both the MWRA and the advisory board of a request for a six-month emergency water supply connection to the MWRA system "due to lower than normal precipitation resulting in low groundwater levels at the Town's wells."

The advisory board said the request triggers a full vote of the board before Ashland can receive MWRA water.

The board is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4 at Newton City Hall.

- M. Norton/SHNS

Milford casino defeat fuels call for repeal of state's gambling law

November 20, 2013 06:39 PM

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s overwhelming defeat of a proposed casino in Milford and a string of losses statewide, a group of local officials are calling on Governor Deval Patrick and the legislature to rethink the future of casino gambling in Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, an anti-casino group says it has the signatures necessary to put a referendum on the ballot repealing the law.

Members of the MetroWest Anti-Casino Coalition -- made up of selectmen from Hopkinton, Holliston, Medway and Ashland -- see the defeat of Foxwoods’ plans to build a $1 billion casino at Route 16 and Interstate 495 as just another sign that casinos may not be the right fit for Massachusetts.

“How do you reconcile the legislation that allows this with wave after wave of rejection?” Selectman Jay Marsden of Holliston asked.

“I don’t know how the legislation gets matched up with the fact that basically no one wants to take the plunge and take everything that goes along with saying yes to one of these things,” he said.

The governor, however, has no second thoughts.

Speaking Wednesday to reporters at the State House, Patrick said the law is working exactly as it’s supposed to.

“I think this is something we can do well if we do it the right way. I think the framework of the legislation is the right framework. This has never been central to our economic growth strategy; it’s, for most people, harmless,” he said, according to a transcript provided by Deputy Press Secretary Bonnie McGilpin.

State Representative Carolyn Dykema, a Holliston Democrat who has been a vocal opponent of casino gambling statewide and the Foxwoods proposal in particular, said she sees voters saying the cost of casinos is too high.

“It seems that towns considering casino projects are paying close attention to the details, weighing the economic potential against the costs to residents’ quality of life, and deciding that the costs are just too high,” she wrote in an email to the Globe.

“It’s hard to look at the results of the recent local votes and not question whether casinos can or should be part of Massachusetts’ future,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, the Repeal the Casino Deal campaign says it has collected and filed more than 90,000 signatures from across the state in its effort to put a question repealing the casino law on the 2014 statewide election ballot, according to the group’s spokesman David Guarino.

The group is optimistic the signatures filed by Wednesday’s deadline with local election officials will result in the certification of the necessary 68,911 needed to put the measure before voters. The signatures certified by local communities must be filed with Secretary of State William Galvin’s office by Dec. 4.

The campaign gained momentum after votes defeating casino proposals in East Boston and Palmer earlier this month and built through the final days of the Milford campaign, according to Guarino.

“This has been a huge grassroots effort,” he said. “After the East Boston and Palmer votes, hundreds of new volunteers signed up, and donations started to come in so we were able to pay some people to gather signatures.”

Tables were set-up to gather signatures outside polling places in Milford on Tuesday, and volunteers worked right up until Wednesday’s 5 p.m. deadline, he said.

“We’re very hopeful the necessary number of signatures will be certified allowing us to jump this next hurdle,” Guarino said.

In addition to gathering the signatures, Repeal the Casino Deal has also filed a court challenge of Attorney General Martha Coakley’s decision not to allow residents to vote to overturn the state’s casino law. The state’s Supreme Judicial Court allowed the signature drive to continue pending a hearing on the appeal.

Former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger is leading the appeal effort.

“This is a truly remarkable statewide, grassroots citizen movement,” he said, according to a press release from the group.

“This is still an uphill battle but we get stronger every day with more and more support around this great state for ending this bad idea. Our hats go off to the citizen leaders in community-after-community who are standing up to big money with grassroots might.”

Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at eishkanian@gmail.com.

Milford voters overwhelmingly reject proposed casino

November 19, 2013 11:20 PM

Milford voters emphatically rejected a $1 billion Foxwoods-backed gambling resort on Tuesday, crushing a casino proposal five years in development, and shrinking the field of applicants for the state’s most lucrative gambling license.

The casino plan proposed by Foxwoods and its partners, the last of 11 original Massachusetts casino or slot parlor applicants to reach the ballot box, joins a prominent list of pricey projects to die at the hands of the voters.

“There was always a lot of opposition,” acknowledged somber Foxwoods chief executive Scott Butera, after the votes were counted. “We tried to change people’s minds and educate people, but we weren’t able to do it. “It just wasn’t meant to be.”

The Bay State suburbs have proven to be the graveyard of casino dreams, and Milford voters followed suit, defeating the proposal 6,361 to 3,480 in a town-wide referendum. Turnout was 57 percent of 17,400 registered voters, according to the town clerk’s office.

Regional planners outline potential impact of Milford casino project

November 15, 2013 05:05 PM

The impacts on the entire region from the proposed Foxwoods casino in Milford are really no different than any other very large development that creates a lot of jobs and attracts a lot of patrons, according to Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

Over the past several months, the council and the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission have been working with area towns to identify the likely impact of the proposed $1 billion casino off Interstate 495 and Route 16 on issues such as traffic, public safety, and water.

And while there would be some significant positive impacts, including jobs and economic benefits, if the complex proposed for Milford wins a state gaming license, the planners primarily focused on identifying and commenting on the negatives, Draisen said.

A 183-page draft report paid for with a grant from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission suggests ways to minimize or mitigate those negatives on a number of nearby towns, including Ashland, Bellingham, Franklin, Holliston, Hopkinton, Medway, Millis and Upton.

The draft report does not take a position on whether a casino would benefit the region, or how it would change the region’s character.

“We try to stick to the numbers,” Draisen said. “Every large-scale development changes the community it’s located in and those communities surrounding it; this is no different.”

Draisen said his agency’s charge was to focus on the communities around Milford to identify potential impacts that may need to be mitigated, so that they could be covered by the formal “surrounding community’’ agreements required by the state’s new gaming law.

But first, Milford voters will have two chances to decide whether there may even be a need for those negotiations.

A special election Tuesday will serve as a binding referendum on the Foxwoods proposal; a majority vote against the community hosting the casino would end the developer’s bid.

If Milford’s voters approve the project, the plan can move forward. Special Town Meeting is slated to convene next month to decide on a request to rezone the casino site, which requires a two-thirds majority.

The draft report by the regional agencies is being reviewed by local officials, and a final version is expected to be completed early next month.

Traffic has been a major concern for Milford and surrounding communities since the casino proposal first surfaced, and the regional planners also have questions about Foxwoods’ proposed mitigation plans.

The plans call for extra lanes, known as connector/distributor roads, to be built in each direction along Interstate 495 between the Routes 109 and 85 exits, and a connector that would provide access to the 187-acre site and Route 16.

“We think that will go a long way toward alleviating traffic along that stretch,” Draisen said.

But, he said, the draft report raises concern about backups north of the new lanes at I-495 and the Mass. Pike.

In addition, Draisen said, there wasn’t enough consideration given to casino employees who are more likely to use local roads when driving to and from work.

The draft report agrees with Foxwoods’ assumption that residents of neighborhoods along East Main Street (Route 16) in Milford, between I-495 and the Holliston town line, will see the most traffic impact from the casino, but it also identifies other potential problem areas.

The report cites routes 109 and 85, which was identified as likely having more traffic than Foxwoods’ predicts; the intersection of Route 16 and Route 126 (Summer Street); the intersection of Route 16 and Highland Street; Route 16 at South Street and Courtland Street, an intersection that currently has no traffic signals; as well as 11 intersections in Holliston, Medway and Millis.

Crime also is considered by the regional planners.

“It is hard to predict, but there will be an increase in call volume to the police and fire departments, and towns have to be prepared,” Draisen said.

The draft report suggests additional information is needed to determine whether things like additional holding cells, training for responding to emergencies in high-rise buildings, and long-term crime investigators would be needed in surrounding towns, and whether existing mutual aid agreements with Milford need to be restructured.

Drunken-driving arrests and “a variety of other motor vehicle related issues, including speeding, stop sign violations, accidents, and mechanical breakdowns,” will also go up in surrounding communities, according to the draft report.

Water concerns are also addressed.

“There are questions about peak days, and the effect on other future developments,” Draisen said.

The draft report raises questions about Foxwoods’ plans to provide adequate water capacity in the future, and concerns raised by Hopedale and Mendon, which rely on the Milford Water Co. for their supplies.

“Those questions have not adequately been answered yet, but presumably they will be,” Draisen said.

Foxwoods is competing for the lone casino license that will be issued in Greater Boston. A project proposed by Steve Wynn in Everett has been endorsed by the city’s voters. A Suffolk Downs proposal for a casino straddling the East Boston-Revere line is in jeopardy after East Boston voters rejected the plan. Suffolk Downs is attempting to put its complex entirely in Revere, where voters embraced its proposal.

Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at eishkanian@gmail.com.

Massachusetts regulators raise flags about Foxwoods Milford casino plan

November 13, 2013 06:31 PM

With Milford voters set to deliver their verdict next week on a proposed Foxwoods casino, Massachusetts Gaming Commission investigators raised concerns Wednesday about the applicant’s lack of financing and the role the Connecticut-based tribe that owns Foxwoods would play in the casino’s operations.

The commission met Wednesday to consider the suitability of the applicant known as Crossroads Massachusetts to hold one of three casino gaming licenses in Massachusetts. Foxwoods, owned by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe in Connecticut, holds a minority ownership stake in the proposed project, and would manage the Milford casino.

The commission expects to issue its written suitability determination within days, hoping to make its ruling public before voters in Milford weigh in next Tuesday. If both votes swing in Crossroads’ favor, the applicant will be allowed to submit its Phase II casino application to the commission, for which the deadline is Dec. 31.

Karen Wells, director of the commission’s investigations and enforcement bureau, told the five-member panel that Crossroads had a “glaring issue” with its application because it had not yet secured a 55 percent equity ownership stake in the project.

“This hearing is somewhat unusual because I can’t make a recommendation because we don’t have a complete picture of what this applicant is going to look like,” Wells said.

Wells also said the background investigation raised questions about the group’s ability to operate a successful casino in Massachusetts given the debt and declining revenues at the Foxwoods property in Connecticut.

Scott Butera, president and chief executive of Foxwoods, told the commission that Crossroads has two “very, very strong offers” to fill the equity funding gap and was in active negotiations that should be wrapped up soon.

Though he did not disclose the potential partners due to confidentiality agreements, Butera said one is a private equity fund that had been involved in gaming and has been licensed in other jurisdictions. That group has offered to put up $350 million for the project, and would be involved in the project’s development and governance. Deutsche Bank would provide the loans to finance much of the project.

The second potential partner is a public traded company that would provide a seven-year loan to help finance the project, and purchase the group’s real estate assets to lease them back to Crossroads Massachusetts to operate the casino. Foxwoods, which would maintain a 10 percent ownership stake under both plans, would be the casino operator.

Butera also said that Foxwoods recently went through a restructuring process to reduce its $2.2 billion debt that became a problem after Foxwoods was in the midst of expansion when the recession hit in 2008, precipitating a decline in revenues. With restructuring completed in July, Butera said, the casino is now on strong financial footing, having reduced its debt by $550 million.

David Mackey, an attorney for the Gaming Commission, also grilled the applicants on Wednesday about the management structure of the proposal casino group and the reasons behind a change in the structure earlier this year that removed the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council from their position.

Under the new structure, a three-person committee that includes Butera and Tribal Council Chairman Rodney Butler would oversee daily operation of the casino, but would not report to the full council. Foxwoods would also be just one member of the overarching board of partners controlling the casino and its development.

Mackey questioned whether the change was made to ensure that members of the tribal council would not be subjected to background checks as qualifiers on the application, noting that former Tribal Council treasurer Steven Thomas had been indicted on federal felony theft charge.

Background investigators aired their concerns about the “firewall” between Foxwoods Massachusetts and the Connecticut tribe holding up after the licensing process is over. The applicants said the structure did help limit the number of people considered qualifiers on the application, and has been used in other jurisdictions with success.

Crossroads has proposed to build a $1 billion resort casino off Interstate 495 in Milford with unique New England characteristics and architecture. “The whole idea of this is something meant to be elegant, not opulent,” Butera said.

Located on 187 acres, only 15 percent of the land will be used for the casino development, while the remaining property will be converted into open spaces and greens, bike paths, nature walks and recreation facilities, according to developers. The applicants have pledged $100 million in transportation infrastructure improvements to widen Interstate 495 and build a connector road directly to the property that will decrease traffic through the town and allow easy access to the 200,000 square-foot gaming floor, 500-room hotel, restaurants, retail and more.

“We think that because we’re in the suburbs and that Foxwoods is used to operating in the suburbs we can be a great compliment to those businesses in Boston as opposed to competing with them,” Butera said.

Milford stands to receive $30 million upfront and $30 million annually from the casino in taxes and shared revenue, according to its host agreement with Crossroads, which has pledged to create 3,000 construction jobs and 3,500 permanent jobs in the town.

Despite similar perks offered in host community agreements signed with other cities and towns, casino developers have struggled of late to win over local voters. Residents in Palmer last week narrowly defeated Mohegan Sun’s proposal for a casino in western Massachusetts, while East Boston voted against Suffolk Downs’ bid to build a casino resort at the site of the horse racing track on the Revere-Boston border.

While Suffolk Downs is scrambling to reconstruct its casino bid entirely in Revere where voters strongly approved the project, Wynn Resorts is the only other bidder competing with Crossroads for the eastern Massachusetts license. Steve Wynn has proposed a resort on the Mystic River in Everett.

Butera said Crossroads, if successful in its application, could open its Milford casino by the fall of 2017.

Report raises questions on Foxwoods casino bid in Milford

November 13, 2013 12:54 PM

BOSTON (AP) — A background check by investigators for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has raised questions about the ability of a group led by Connecticut casino operator Foxwoods to manage a proposed $1 billion resort casino in Milford.

The report, released by commission staff on Wednesday, urged the five-member panel to consider issues Foxwoods has had in finding additional financing, along with Foxwoods’ current debt and overall financial condition.

The commission is holding a two-day hearing before deciding whether the bidder, formally known as Crossroads Massachusetts, is suitable to submit a final application for the sole eastern Massachusetts resort casino license allowed under the state’s 2011 expanded gambling law.

The report said commissioners should question the ‘‘business ability of the applicant to run a successful gaming operation in Massachusetts given its difficulty in finding an additional equity interest and the current debt load and declining revenues of their proposed operator.’’

Karen Wells, director of the gambling agency’s investigations and enforcement bureau, said at the outset of the hearing that she was unable to advise the commissioners as to whether the Foxwoods bid should be cleared to continue in the process. She said the ‘‘glaring issue’’ involved the failure of the group to secure a 55 percent equity ownership interest in the project.

‘‘The IEB is not in a position to make a recommendation about suitability because we don’t have a complete picture of what this applicant is going to look like,’’ Wells said.

Scott Butera, Foxwoods’ president and chief executive, told the commission that Foxwoods was in active negotiations with two entities that had made ‘‘very strong offers’’ to fill the gap in equity funding.

‘‘I am confident in short order we will have that done,’’ Butera said.

He did not identify the potential equity partners, citing confidentiality in the negotiations, but said one was a private equity firm with experience in the casino industry, and the other a publicly traded company that would provide funding for the real estate portion of the development.

Butera said Foxwoods successfully restructured its debt earlier this year and is now on sound financial footing.

Stephen Crosby, chairman of the commission, said the panel would make a written recommendation on suitability at some point after the hearing was concluded.

Foxwoods must also gain the approval of Milford residents in a referendum scheduled for Tuesday before it can file a formal application by the Dec. 31 deadline. The project would be built on an undeveloped site near Interstate 495.

Las Vegas casino operator Steve Wynn, who has proposed a $1.2 billion resort casino along the Mystic River in Everett, is also pursuing the eastern Massachusetts license.

Another potential bidder for the license, Suffolk Downs, suffered a major blow last week when East Boston voters rejected the project in a referendum. The thoroughbred race track has since opened discussions with officials in Revere — where residents voted to back the proposed casino — about the possibility of moving the entire project into that city.

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