Tisbury man flees before arrest for rape
State Police, acting on an arrest warrant issued at the request of Oak Bluffs police, arrested Peter J. Duart, 41, of Tisbury at a restaurant in Dartmouth on March 17, on charges of rape and indecent assault and battery of a retarded person.
Mr. Duart, a registered sex offender, has faced similar charges in the past. He was convicted in 2004 of a rape whose characteristics closely resemble those alleged in the new charges he faces. When he was arrested last week, he was carrying his passport and more than $5,000 in cash, according to a statement issued by Oak Bluffs police.
Edgartown Superior Court clerk Joseph Sollitto issued an arrest warrant on Wednesday morning. Mr. Duart left the Island the same day. Police said they believe Mr. Duart was aware he was the subject of an investigation.
Following his arrest, Mr. Duart was returned to the Island and held at the Dukes County Jail.
Mr. Duart was arraigned on March 18 in Edgartown District Court, where bail was set at $50,000. A condition of bail is that he surrender his passport. He was due back in court Friday, but instead was transported from the Dukes County Jail to The Middlesex County Stabilization Unit, a correctional mental health facility. After a mental health evaluation there, Mr. Duart was transported to Bridgewater State Hospital, a state correctional institution, where he remains. His next court appearance is scheduled for April 23.
Mr. Duart is a member of the Tisbury planning board, elected as a write-in candidate following his release from prison. At their meeting Tuesday, Tisbury selectmen approved a letter asking Mr. Duart to resign his position. Town administrator John Bugbee said he knows of no provision in state law, other than a recall election or resignation, to remove an official from an elected position.
A health care worker who assisted the victim with laundry, cleaning, and meals alerted police to the possibility of a crime. During an interview at the Oak Bluffs police department on March 3, the victim told police that Mr. Duart was once his boss at what was then the A & P grocery story in Edgartown, now the Stop and Shop.
Mr. Duart was an assistant manager at the grocery story prior to his 2004 conviction.
"The victim told us that Duart has been calling him several times in the middle of the night and came to his apartment on one occasion," detective Nick Curelli wrote in his police report. "The victim advised that Duart contacted him because Duart wanted him to join a 'sex ring.'"
The report describes an incident in February, when Mr. Duart went to the victim's Oak Bluffs home and sexually assaulted him.
In a March 16 interview at the victim's home, the victim told police that Mr. Duart's harassing phone calls were continuing. He then recounted the story of the February assault including details nearly identical to those described in the March 3 interview.
"The victim told me that he was 'afraid of him'" wrote detective Curelli in the police report. "The victim also told me that he kept telling Duart to 'quit it.'"
Later that afternoon, detective Curelli and Sgt. Michael Marchand went to Mr. Duart's home at 99 Daggett Avenue in Tisbury. "We told him that we were conducting an investigation and wished to speak with him at the Oak Bluffs Police Department," the officers wrote in their report. "He told us that he would have to check with a lawyer before he would speak with us or come to the police department."
But Mr. Duart never voluntarily appeared for questioning. Police sought arrest warrants and issued "be on the lookout" bulletins to local law enforcement agencies, after learning that Mr. Duart had left the Island. State trooper Gary Jones arrested him at about 6:30 pm on March 17.
The next day, police, acting pursuant to several search warrants, seized a laptop computer, digital camera, and cell phone found in Mr. Duart's vehicle at the time of his arrest. Police also seized a laptop computer, DVD's, letters, and notes from Mr. Duart's house.
In 2004 Oak Bluffs police arrested Mr. Duart on two counts of rape of a mentally retarded person and two counts of indecent assault and battery on a mentally retarded person.
At the time, Mr. Duart was an assistant football coach at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School and assistant manager at the A&P in Edgartown.
Though the victims were different, in each case, Mr. Duart supervised the victim in his position as assistant manager at the grocery store. In both cases, the victims were mentally disabled, and police reports describe similar sexual assaults.
Court documents show Mr. Duart served a two-year state prison sentence for the rape conviction in 2004, followed by supervised probation. If convicted of the new rape charge, Mr. Duart could be sentenced to a term of as much as life in prison, according to the statute. The law severely limits opportunities for furlough, temporary release, or participation in prison education and training programs, in the case of a second conviction.
As a result of the earlier rape conviction, the Sex Offender Registry Board, which is responsible for keeping a database of sex offenders and providing information to the public, classified Mr. Duart as a level two sex offender. A level two offender is defined as one for whom, "... the board determines that the risk of reoffense is moderate and the degree of dangerousness posed to the public is such that a public safety interest is served by public availability of registration information," according to the Registry Board web site. Only information about level three sex offenders, where the board determines the risk of reoffense is high, is immediately available online. Information on level two sex offenders is available by filling out a form at the local police department, or by mail from the registry board.