Haiti-Born Bank Robber A Shoo-In For A Pardon, Massachusetts Governor’s Council Member Says

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2023/09/08/haiti-born-bank-robber-a-shoo-in-for-a-pardon-massachusetts-governors-council-member-says/

The Massachusetts Governor’s Council will likely approve a pardon for a convicted bank robber originally from Haiti, a member of the council said.

Marilyn Pettito Devaney, who chaired a public hearing Wednesday for a pardon request for Kenny Jean, said she’s hoping for a 7-0 vote when the council meets again next week.

The pardon would make it less likely that Jean would be deported back to Haiti, and it would allow him to apply for a Green Card, signifying permanent residency in the United States.

Jean, 28, robbed a bank in Seekonk in November 2015. He was convicted of armed robbery in 2016 and sent to prison.

When he was released from prison a couple of years later, U.S. Immigration and Enforcement took him into custody to deport him. But an immigration lawyer got him released from custody, according to state officials.

Jean was born in Haiti but came to the United States when he was 6. He spent most of his childhood in the custody of a state agency currently known as the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.

State officials say Jean is a victim of abuse. A lawyer who represents him says Jean has “a borderline IQ ~ 70” and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome, reactive attachment disorder, and attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity.

Jean did not appear at the Governor’s Council’s public hearing on his pardon request. Devaney said it would be overwhelming for him.

Instead, two women who know Jean spoke on his behalf. One is Jodi Rosenbaum, founder and chief executive officer of More Than Words, a non-profit organization that operates bookstores in Waltham and the South End of Boston that employ “system-involved youth” to try to help them “take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business.” She said Jean worked at More Than Words both before and after his incarceration.

The Governor’s Council ordinarily has eight members, each of whom is elected to represent a geographical district of the state. The council currently has one vacancy.

Only two members of the currently seven members of the Governor’s Council attended the public hearing Wednesday, September 6, which was livestreamed on the Governor’s Council’s YouTube channel.

Devaney said all members of the Governor’s Council were sent a video of Jean’s pardon hearing of the Massachusetts Parole Board. (Parole Board meetings in Massachusetts are closed to the public unless they involve a life sentence.)

One of the members of the Governor’s Council, Tara Jacobs, a Democrat who represents a district in western Massachusetts, said she “fully supports” a pardon for Jean. But she asked an advocate for Jean how likely it is that he’ll turn to crime again.


I guess, I think it was touched on in the hearing, but I just really wanted to hear it directly.  So in the event that going forward, you know, he gets his pardon, he gets his immigration, he gets his Green Card, but something goes sideways and he ends up homeless or he ends up with a — you know, and feels that sense of desperation. Do you feel that he’s come to a place where in processing where he’s at and what his needs are, that he’ll be in a place to reach out for the support that clearly is around him versus possibly making another desperate choice that ends him in trouble? Do you feel like he’s grown a sense of consequence-based choices? Do you know what I mean?


“That’s a great question,” Rosenbaum said, adding that she had two responses.

Rosenbaum said:


Number one, there’s just brain development. Right? We know so much about emerging adult brain development and the capacity for that frontal lobe to develop and to be able to slow yourself down and make choices. And so some of this for all young adults, including Kenny, is a function of time. And at the age of 28, he is a wholly different human being than he was, right? At that age of 19. And when you have trauma, and when you are in a desperate situation, you’re really only operating from the back of your brain. You’re not really able to access that. And so I do think there’s just a developmental piece, a time piece that is on his side.

I think the other big thing I would say is he has a support network. I mean, when this happens, like, we were desperately trying to stay in touch and support him, but like there was nothing. There was nobody. It was really just sent to the streets. And so he is, he receives DMH services. He has an entire Vinfen team that is actively supporting him on a regular basis. And I think that that is number one, his go-to. He’s also living in a slightly supported SRO environment where there’s a property manager and people checking on him.

So, and there’s us. And I think we — Kenny will be in my life as long as he’ll have me. But I think helping him, you know, continue to use the services. He is religious about going to therapy, and goes every week, and uses his resources, which I think is a really different time and place for him.


“DMH” refers to the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. Vinfen is a non-profit organization in Cambridge that employs people with mental and disabilities. “SRO” stands for single-room occupancy; it refers to living situations where low-income tenants live in a single room.

The Governor’s Council’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, September 13.


[Editor’s Note:  This story was amended after publication to note that there are ordinarily eight elected members of the Massachusetts Governor’s Council, though there are currently seven, because of a vacancy.]


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