Copyright © 2000, 2009 by Hugo S. Cunningham
There was nationwide shock at the torture and murder of Matthew Shepard outside Laramie WY on 7 Oct 1998. The motive, at least in part, was a "gay-bashing." In Massachusetts, various self-identified "liberals" smugly congratulated themselves on local superiority to the homophobic "Bible Belt," even though Wyoming prosecuted the murderers vigorously and effectively.
Yet Massachusetts has had an even more sinister case than Shepard's: the frameup of Bernard Baran in 1984-85. It is bad enough when private criminals vent their bigotry, but even worse when the criminals use government authority.
Letter copyright © 2000 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Ms. Rabinowitz stated that of all the "high-profile" cases, only Gerald Amirault, who is in his 14th year in prison, seems out of reach of the workings of justice. But there are also other, heart-breaking "low-profile" cases. One of them is Bernard Baran, who was convicted of child molestation on Jan. 30, 1985, and sentenced to two concurrent life sentences. At the time of his arrest, Baran was 19 years old. Now in his mid-30s, he is at the Bridgewater treatment center.
The first complaint against Baran was from the drug-addicted boyfriend of a mother of a young boy with severe behavior problems; the boyfriend stated that Baran should not be allowed to work at the early-childhood development center in Pittsfield, Mass., because he was a homosexual. Soon after, the child was removed from the center and the following day there were accusations of molestation. When police went to the day-care center they were informed that it was the center's policy never to leave an adult alone with children; there were always several adults present and the doors to the adjoining bathrooms were always left open.
Later, there was a meeting of parents, when police and social workers provided a list of symptoms that were supposed to indicate sex abuse; children were questioned by therapists using anatomically correct dolls. All this was similar to the Amirault case. A trial soon followed, and the children, who did not face Baran, made terrible witnesses; nevertheless, Baran went to jail for life with little hope of parole.
During a 1995 civil trial in which the mother of the child with behavior problems claimed $3.2 million against the day-care center (ending in a small out-of-court settlement after the credibility of both mother and child was demolished by the lawyers for the insurance company), another investigation all but exonerated Baran. Despite all of this he still sits in jail, where he has been sexually and emotionally abused, and ignored by the media and the justice system.
Katha Pollitt's article in The Nation, 21 Feb 2000: "Justice for Bernard Baran."
Bob Chatelle's extensive file on the Bernard Baran case
My visit to Bernard Baran, Mar 2001.