The justice system too often fails us


Don’t miss the account this morning of the career of 31-year-old Matthew P. Tucci, who was arrested last week. Again. This time for dealing heroin.

It’s a story of hard and successful work by police and of repeated failure of the district attorney’s office and the court to protect the law abiding residents of Dukes County.

Mr. Tucci had a five-page record of criminal offenses, including several drug convictions resulting in jail sentences, probation violations, and warrant defaults, according to court records.

In April of 2002, he was convicted of statutory rape and abuse of a child in Dukes County Superior Court. He raped a 15-year-old girl. Judge Barbara J. Rouse sentenced Mr. Tucci to serve a full five years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction,

Following his conviction in that case, he was ordered to register as a Level 3 sex offender. A Level 3 sex offender is a person with a high risk of reoffending. He is charged today with failing to obey that requirement.

At the time of his conviction on the rape charge, Mr. Tucci was serving a 23-month sentence in the Edgartown House of Correction for a breaking and entering conviction.

In November 1999, Mr. Tucci, then 17 and living in Edgartown, was one of three teens arrested in connection with a series of house and motor vehicle burglaries

As Times managing editor Nelson Sigelman reports this morning, “On March 6, Mr. Tucci walked out of the Dukes County House of Correction. A little more than one year earlier, on January 23, 2013, Edgartown District Court Presiding Justice H. Gregory Williams revoked bail for Mr. Tucci following his arraignment on charges of dealing heroin and failing to register as a Level 3 sex offender. At the time, Mr. Tucci was also free on bail from Worcester District Court, where he also faced heroin dealing charges.

“Mr. Tucci was sentenced to 2.5 years in the house of correction, 18 months committed. The Worcester charge netted him a one year sentence. In their report, police described a long investigation of Mr. Tucci as a drug suspect, including surveillance of drug transactions by task force officers.”

The question is, Why is this man walking our streets, living in our neighborhoods, preying on our neighbors?

The Boston Globe told a similar story this week, one with even more dire consequences. [For Jared Remy, leniency was the rule until one lethal night :The trail of alleged victims runs back to his teen years. So does the line of judges who somehow saw fit, time and again, to give him one more chance, Boston Globe, March 23]. Remy, son of the well known Boston Red Sox broadcaster, was an indulged, excused, aggressive, serial abuser, who was ultimately arrested for beating his girlfriend, jailed and bailed once again, allowing him to kill the abuse victim. Police took this man to jail repeatedly, beginning when he was a troublesome juvenile, and repeatedly prosecutors, the defense bar, and accommodating judges freed him on bail, on probation, or they continued the charges without a finding and ordered him to treatment and counseling. In fact, none of this would protect the community. The safety of others required his separation from that community.

The scale of the misery caused by the subject of the Globe story is many orders of magnitude more horrifying than Mr. Tucci’s criminal activities, but at bottom, there is no difference. Both are dangerous and damaging to the communities they abuse, communities that rely on the justice system to protect them.

Donnie Mills, R.I.P.

The death of Donnie Mills on March 13 reminds me that the less celebrated souls among us sometimes slip by without the accounting they deserve. In an agricultural hiatus between newspapers that lasted from 1980 through 1986, I met Donnie, worked with him, and learned from him. Growing sweet corn – planting it, spraying it, picking it – he was a cheerful, wry, generous instructor. Feed corn – eventually, silage – to support a herd of brood cows, and their heifers and bull calves, was another discipline unfamiliar to me but unremarkable to Donnie. Haying, mowing, tedding, baling in the spring, green chopping in the fall – Donnie had the racket and the rhythms of it all down pat. He passed it all along, and carried on at the same time, in his characteristically genial way, with his truck gardening and marketing. For his remarkable modesty, his competence, and his plain goodness, his mark is indelible.