DA not notified of parole hearing
Freed lifer killed Woburn officer, authorities say
State public safety officials acknowledged yesterday that the Parole Board failed to notify Middlesex County prosecutors of the 2008 hearing that prompted the panel to free Dominic Cinelli, who authorities say killed a Woburn police officer after a department store holdup during Sunday’s blizzard.
If prosecutors had been notified of the 2008 hearing, they would have opposed Cinelli’s release, as they did when they submitted a strongly worded letter of objection at his parole hearing three years earlier, said a spokeswoman for the Middlesex district attorney’s office.
But one of two Parole Board employees assigned to notify prosecutors before Cinelli came before the panel again in 2008 failed to do so, for reasons that are unclear, said John Grossman, the state’s undersecretary of public safety and security. Both employees left more than a year ago. One was a staff employee who left of her own accord, said Grossman. The other had a contract that was not renewed.
The oversight has prompted the Patrick administration to order the board to make sure it does not happen again.
“Making sure that we notify all the appropriate parties or have a better system for notifying all appropriate parties is part of what we’ve instructed the Parole Board to do,’’ Grossman said.
State law requires the board to notify prosecutors of parole hearings involving lifers, anyone serving a life sentence. The board hears about 100 such requests each year. Most come from inmates convicted of second-degree murder, but some, like Cinelli, have been convicted of other violent crimes.
The 6-0 vote to free Cinelli, who allegedly fatally shot Woburn police Officer John Maguire outside a Kohl’s store the day after Christmas, has come under intense scrutiny.
Cinelli, 57, was killed after exchanging fire with Maguire. Cinelli was a career criminal and habitual armed robber who had been serving three concurrent life sentences when he was granted parole.
Several board members praised Cinelli at his November 2008 hearing for evolving from a drug-addled menace of the prison system to a model prisoner who spoke to other addicts about recovery. During a videotaped recording of his one-hour hearing, Cinelli said that he regretted robbing people to feed his heroin addiction and that he was “new and different.’’
His release and the slaying of Maguire have unleashed harsh criticism of the board from the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, rank-and-file police officers, and other public officials, including Mayor Scott D. Galvin of Woburn.
In an interview yesterday, Galvin said Cinelli had been responsible for a “reign of terror’’ since the age of 17 and that Woburn residents are devastated that it ended with the slaying of Maguire, a 60-year-old veteran police officer and father of three who was nearing retirement.
“How was it that this guy was let out?’’ he asked. “This guy spent his whole adult life in prison. It just doesn’t make sense that a guy with that type of background can be rehabilitated and let out on the streets.’’
The Parole Board members who voted to release Cinelli did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Yesterday, Northborough Police Chief Mark K. Leahy, president of the chiefs association, made public a letter he sent Governor Deval Patrick on behalf of the group of about 360 chiefs.
“The idea that Maguire died at the hands of a career criminal who was paroled after being sentenced to three life sentences for violent crimes has left many police officers and citizens asking why Cinelli was released and returned to live among us,’’ Leahy wrote.
The association said it wanted the administration to investigate the qualifications of Parole Board members.
Jack McDevitt, an associate dean at Northeastern University’s College of Criminal Justice, and lawyers who represent applicants for parole have said that Massachusetts parolees actually appear to behave well compared to those in other states, based on state and national statistics.
Jessica Venezia Pastore, a spokeswoman for Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr., said yesterday that the Parole Board does not routinely notify prosecutors of upcoming hearings unless they involve convicted murderers seeking parole.
But the board did notify prosecutors of Cinelli’s 2005 hearing. And the district attorney’s office, which had prosecuted Cinelli for some of his offenses, sent a letter adamantly opposing his release.
Lynn C. Rooney, a deputy first assistant district attorney, cited Cinelli’s incarceration history, which included more than 50 disciplinary reports, two escapes, and continued drug use for most of his time behind bars.
“Due to Mr. Cinelli’s history of drug addiction and use, his chosen means for making money through armed robberies to support his addiction, and the uncertainty that he has overcome his addictions and is fully prepared for the difficulties of life outside of prison walls, this office opposes the parole of Mr. Cinelli,’’ Rooney wrote, underlining the word opposes and putting it in bold-face type.
Pastore said yesterday, “We did oppose it in ’05, and I can’t see any reason why we wouldn’t have opposed it again.’’
Jake Wark — a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, whose office also prosecuted Cinelli — said that the board did notify that office in 2005 and that it, too, sent a letter of opposition. Suffolk prosecutors have no record of being notified in 2008, Wark said, although Grossman said his initial review indicates the Parole Board did contact them.
Regardless, Wark said, the Suffolk district attorney’s office does not have enough prosecutors to oppose requests for parole involving offenders convicted of crimes short of murder.
“That said, the best argument against Cinelli’s parole was his own record,’’ Wark said.
Grossman said that before the 2008 hearing, the Parole Board notified the one individual who had registered with the panel as a victim of one of Cinelli’s crimes. That person did not attend.
Cinelli had a long criminal record that extended to his days as a teenager. He received a one-day furlough in 1985 but did not return to prison and instead committed a new series of crimes. He stole $86,000 in jewelry and shot John Henry, a 60-year-old Mattapan security guard, during a heist from a jewelry store in downtown Boston.
Cinelli pleaded guilty in May 1986 in Suffolk Superior Court and received several new sentences. He complained of stomach pains immediately after his sentencing and was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital. That same day, he escaped from the hospital after pointing a fake gun carved out of cardboard at Suffolk Deputy Sheriff Robert Scopa. He stole Scopa’s gun, and, outside the hospital, he commandeered a car, all while still wearing leg irons.
After another 10-day series of crimes, Cinelli was arrested at The Corner Café in Boston’s North End, just hours after robbing a jewelry store in Medford. He was carrying a loaded .32-caliber handgun, a bag containing $2,000 in jewelry, and a police radio tuned to a Boston police frequency.
He pleaded guilty in Suffolk Superior Court to the new charges on Dec. 23, 1986, and received a life sentence. A month later, he was sentenced in Middlesex Superior Court to two additional life terms for the Medford robbery.