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Mass. lawmaker says House to act on parole measure

By Bob Salsberg
Associated Press / November 14, 2011

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BOSTON—Violent offenders who are convicted of a third serious felony would be denied the opportunity for parole under a measure expected to be considered by the state House of Representatives this week.

Rep. Eugene O'Flaherty, co-chair of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee, said Monday that the House will take up the parole restrictions for habitual offenders as a separate bill after stripping that language from a more far-reaching sentencing reform bill that was passed by the Senate last week.

The procedural move would allow the House to debate the parole restrictions by Wednesday, the final day of the 2011 legislative session. The House would then put off consideration of other elements of the complex Senate crime bill until lawmakers return from recess after the New Year, said O'Flaherty, a Democrat from Chelsea.

House leaders are committed to resolving the issue of "violent recidivists having the ability to be back on the street and not rehabilitated and committing heinous crimes," he said.

The habitual offender measure has long been advocated by the family of Melissa Gosule, a 27-year-old woman who was raped and murdered by a repeat offender in 1999.

Gosule was killed by Michael Gentile, a Falmouth man who had 27 convictions but had served less than two years in prison. After her car broke down, Gosule accepted a ride from Gentile, who posed as a Good Samaritan. Her body was found eight days later in a shallow grave.

Renewed calls for passage came after veteran Woburn police officer John Maguire was fatally shot during a botched jewelry store heist in December. Police said Maguire was killed by Domenic Cinelli, who was paroled in 2008 despite a history of violent offenses.

Cinelli, who died in the exchange of gunfire, was sentenced to life in prison in Suffolk County and later received two concurrent life sentences for crimes committed in Middlesex County.

The measure would classify as habitual offenders anyone who has twice been convicted of violent offenses such as murder, rape or kidnapping. Habitual offenders who commit a third violent offense would not be eligible for parole and would have to serve their entire sentence.

O'Flaherty said House leaders are intent on fulfilling a commitment they made to the Gosule family to pass the bill by the end of the year. But even if it does win House approval by Wednesday's deadline, O'Flaherty is uncertain whether final action by both houses could be completed before the start of the recess, meaning the bill might not get to Gov. Deval Patrick's desk until after Jan. 1.