Massachusetts Governor’s Council Concerned By Maura Healey’s Pardon Request For Repeat Offender

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By Sam Doran
State House News Service

Action could be delayed on one of Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey’s latest pardon requests while Governor’s Council members wrap their heads around the governor’s support for a clemency petition that was unanimously opposed by the Parole Board.

Healey recommended a trio of pardons last month, including one for William Veal of Brockton, notwithstanding the Parole Board’s decision to recommend rejection of the case. Veal was convicted of knowingly receiving stolen property in 1981 and assault and battery in 1983, and in 1991 was sentenced to three to five years in prison after conviction on 12 counts of conspiracy to commit larceny, one count of conspiracy, and one count of larceny.

Multiple members of the Governor’s Council said Tuesday, June 4 that they would like to press pause on Veal’s pardon to give the elected council members additional time to gather facts and potentially hold a hearing on the case. The council’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, June 5, with Healey presiding.

“I’m not sure we’ll be voting on that one tomorrow,” Councilor Terrence Kennedy said Tuesday, June 4. He added:  “Let’s just say I wouldn’t be comfortable voting tomorrow, myself.”

Four members of the Parole Board, acting in its capacity as Advisory Board of Pardons — Tina Hurley, Charlene Bonner, Tonomey Coleman, and James Kelcourse — recommended “unfavorable consideration” of the pardon request on March 4.

After interviewing Veal, they wrote that he “minimized his involvement in his crimes, provided excuses, and while not denying the convictions and the underlying facts thereof, did not fully take responsibility for his actions.”

According to its report, the board heard testimony from Veal that he wanted a pardon so he could apply for federal funding for two nonprofits he leads, and that he also wanted to work as a constable or process server.

“The prior clemency petitions presented by Mr. Veal placed an emphasis on his possible employment as a constable, whereas now, the focus is on funding opportunities,” the board wrote.

After telling State House News Service that “not to have a hearing would be wrong,” Councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney followed up later Tuesday afternoon to say she had texted the governor and chief legal counsel Paige Scott Reed calling for a postponement of the council vote.

“And I will make the motion,” Devaney said.  The Watertown Democrat said “there’s been too much controversy.”

Councilor Joseph Ferreira said hearings in certain cases can ensure “full transparency,” and he wanted to ensure councilors’ questions are answered “either ahead of time or at a hearing.”

Several councilors told State House News Service that much of their Monday or Tuesday, or both, had been spent watching tapes of the Parole Board hearings on the latest pardon cases and reading associated reports.

“I’ve been making calls all day. I actually spent the morning watching Mr. Veal’s pardon hearing,” Councilor Tara Jacobs said Tuesday afternoon, adding that she planned to call Veal himself.

Jacobs also hoped to hear Healey’s point of view.

“It would be great to hear why the governor feels differently, but I don’t know if I’ll get that information or not,” the North Adams Democrat said.

Healey, asked last week about her decision to recommend a pardon against the Parole Board’s advice, said she “just thought it was the right thing to do, based on the record, and based on what I was presented with.”

“And in terms of the future, I’m not going to make any predictions, nor am I going to set any ground rules for consideration, except to say I will work with my team to make the judgements that we think are the best judgements in the interest of fairness and justice,” Healey added.

One of the administration’s biggest boosters on the council, North Shore Councilor Eileen Duff, told State House News Service on Tuesday that she was not sure how the Veal pardon would play out.

“I think that all the councilors are looking very, very closely at the Veal application. And I think there will be a discussion about it. And I don’t think anyone should assume that this council will be a rubber stamp for anybody,” the Gloucester Democrat said.

Duff is retiring from the council at year’s end, and pursuing the Essex County South register of deeds post in this fall’s election.

All current members of the Governor’s Council are Democrats.

Anne Manning-Martin, a Republican candidate in the race to succeed Duff on the council, urged councilors to vote against Veal’s clemency.

“It appears to me that the prime motivator for the Governor to override her Advisory Board is that the two individuals have recommendations from prominent politicians. Political recommendations should have no place in this process whatsoever,” Manning-Martin wrote in a press release.

She added:  “Pardoning petitioners Kenny Jean and William Veal against the advice of criminal justice career professionals, is the result of political connections not merit, and is unfair not only to the hundreds of other applicants but also to the victims of these applicants’ violent crimes.”

While the Parole Board said it received no letters opposing the pardon, it counted 17 letters of support, including from U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley, then-state-representative Nika Elugardo, state Representative Kevin Honan (D-Brighton), and then-state-representative Liz Miranda. Pressley called Veal an “incredible asset to the community.”

According to the board report, Veal coaches basketball, has led turkey drives and winter coat drives, and is instrumental in community centers.

A press release from the governor’s office in May announcing her support for Veal’s pardon included quotes from Pressley and Miranda, who praised Veal’s work with community organizations to support at-risk children.

Duff took issue with Manning-Martin’s characterization about political connections aiding his case.

“I think anyone to characterize Maura Healey as giving out pardons just because somebody has a political connection really underestimates the integrity of Maura Healey. She’s nobody’s fool,” Duff said.

Councilor Terrence Kennedy said he had not made up his mind on Veal and would not be “comfortable” voting on the matter this week.

“I mean, just because the Parole Board says no doesn’t mean that we’re going to say no. They make a recommendation. We have to make our own assessment and decision. But I can tell you this, everybody’s looking at it. Everybody’s watching the tape of the Parole Board hearing, everybody’s reading everything. And there’s certainly a lot of concern, no question,” the Lynnfield Democrat said.

The council’s longest-serving member, Councilor Christopher Iannella Jr., called it “very, very, very unusual” for the governor to split from the Parole Board’s recommendation.

“It definitely gives you pause,” the Jamaica Plain Democrat said.

Councilor Paul DePalo said he has “a great deal of respect” for the Parole Board’s current members, which led him to want extra time and feel that “a little extra diligence is required on the council’s part to evaluate this one.”

Also before the council are proposed pardons for Kenny Jean and Danis Reyes.  Jean received a conditional pardon last year that was unanimously supported by the Parole Board, Healey, and the Governor’s Council.

The Governor’s Council is scheduled to meet at noon on Wednesday, June 5.


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