January 16, 2013

New England Dispatches


Scandal at state lab prompts call for new oversight board

Republican lawmakers are calling for creation of a new state board to oversee forensic services facilities after a former chemist was accused of tampering with drug evidence at a state lab.

The proposal announced on Wednesday by the four Republican members of the state Senate would create a five-member oversight panel consisting of the secretary of public safety, the attorney general, the state inspector general, the head of the state police and one gubernatorial appointee.

The scandal involving former chemist Annie Dookhan threatens to unravel thousands of criminal cases and cost the state at least $30 million. Dookhan has pleaded not guilty to obstruction of justice.

Senate Republican Leader Bruce Tarr said the proposed board would oversee all state facilities that perform drug testing or other forensic services for criminal investigations in Massachusetts.


Bishop of Episcopal diocese says he will retire next year

The outspoken bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts says he plans to retire in 2014.

Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, who has stood up for social justice and held the diocese together during the disputes over gay marriage and gay clergy in his nearly two decades of leading the church, announced on the diocese website that he is calling for an election to select a successor in April 2014.

He did not give a specific reason for stepping down, but said he made the decision after "prayer and conversation with my community, friends and family."

The 67-year-old Shaw has led the diocese since September 1994. The diocese has 68,000 members in 185 congregations in eastern Massachusetts.


Parole board delays ruling on murderer's early release

The Rhode Island Parole Board has again delayed a decision on the early release of a Woonsocket man imprisoned for a 1999 "thrill killing."

WPRI-TV reported that a decision in the case of Alfred Brissette Jr. has been pushed back to Feb. 13. The board administrator said the board met with Brissette on Wednesday and wants more information on his release plan.

Brissette in 2004 pleaded no contest to murder for killing Jeanette Descoteaux. He was sentenced to serve 35 years in prison and was supposed to be released in 2034.

The board agreed last year to release him more than 20 years early but his release plan fell through. The board is revisiting the case.

Advocates for victims' rights have rallied to try to stop Brissette's early release.


Man's Facebook photos lead to his arrest for guns, drugs

Providence police say they arrested a city teenager after seeing photos of him with drugs and guns on his Facebook page, along with a posting suggesting that he would deliver marijuana to any buyer.

Police said they got a search warrant and raided 19-year-old Darren Main Jr.'s home in the Manton neighborhood Monday. Officers said they seized two firearms and more than two dozen bags of marijuana.

Main is being held without bail on drug and gun charges. It's not clear if he has a lawyer.

Authorities said Main called himself "IPlead ThePiff" on Facebook and suggested in postings that he was in a gang. Police said one of Main's Facebook friends had warned him against showing incriminating photos. The friend said he did the same thing and got busted.


Second child porn conviction gets man 10 years in prison

Federal prosecutors say a West Brookfield man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for his second conviction of possessing child pornography.

Forty-four-year-old Christopher Boucher pleaded guilty on Tuesday in federal court in Springfield to possession of material involving sexual exploitation of a minor. His sentence includes 10 years of supervised release with special conditions for sex offenders.

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