A stern talking to and a judicious analysis of the criminal damage


And now a moment’s pause to admire Edgartown District Court Judge H. Gregory Williams and Superior Court Judge C. J. Moriarty

Judge Williams shouldered aside a $10,000 bail proposed by the district attorney and the $100,000 bail set by the clerk magistrate and ordered Josemar Boldrini, 43, held on $200,000 bail, after his arraignment Friday, April 6, on child pornography charges.

Judge C. J. Moriarty rejected a plea agreement calling for 18 months at the Dukes County House of Correction, and instead sentenced Milton L. Britton of Oak Bluffs to three to five years in the state prison at Cedar Junction.

Mr. Britton is the former chief probation officer of the Massachusetts Probation Service. He holds a master’s degree in criminal justice.

Since his retirement from the chief probation officer job, Mr. Britton has received an annual state pension of $49,679. But, dissatisfied with that and remembering that he possesses a master’s degree in criminal justice, Mr. Britton has been supplementing his pension with the proceeds of his Vineyard home business dealing cocaine.

The plea agreement between Mr. Britton’s lawyer and the Cape and Islands district attorney called for Mr. Britton to plead guilty in return for a 2.5-year sentence, with 1.5 years to be served on Martha’s Vineyard and the balance suspended for three years of probation.

These decisions by judges on the Dukes County bench will be interpreted in different ways. But, here’s one interpretation that has at its heart the notion — optimistic but not unrealistic — that steps can be taken by law enforcement and the court system to slow the advance of criminality in this community where — despite the efforts of a hoard of miscreants — poisonous and destructive behavior remains modest.

Judge Moriarty, speaking from the bench, said, “You know full well Mr. Britton that narcotics are the scourge of our community. You know that, sir. They are a catalyst for all different types of crimes. You know also the havoc that they wreak upon the lives of those people who are addicted and the families of those who are addicted.”

The sentence that Judge Moriarty ordered for Mr. Britton, rejecting a deal negotiated by the district attorney’s office, and the high bail set by Judge Williams comport with the view, held by law-abiding Islanders, that sterner treatment of misbehavior may serve the community’s interests by discouraging such behavior.

Sharp, careful police work must bring triable cases to the district attorney. Prosecutors must understand that not every possible deal with a defendant is a good deal for the community. And, the court needs to lead by looking for ways to discourage the growth of criminal behavior in a small community that really ought to support very little of it.