Benighted Bay State blind to criminal blight

Officer Sean Gannon is being buried this morning down on the Cape, and people are asking, how was this dirtball Thomas Latanowich still on the street with 114 strikes at the age of 29?

The answer is, welcome to Massachusetts.

Officer Gannon was murdered in cold blood last Thursday. Less than 24 hours later, in a bitter irony, a moment of silence was observed at the State House Friday afternoon, just before Gov. Charlie “Tall Deval” Baker signed into law a “sweeping” – read, terrible – reform of the criminal-justice laws in Massachusetts.

Oh sure, the bill was passed overwhelmingly by the legislature, and both Tall Deval and House Speaker Robert DeLeo said this latest effort to make life easier for thugs would have had no effect on Latanowich – how could it, after all, because he was already a free man, a felon with an unregistered weapon?

Actually, the original proposals in the bill were even worse. One of them would have defined “juveniles” as any gangbanger up to the age of 24. Think about that one – the same type of politicians who in DC are trying to cut the voting age to 16 wanted to make it almost impossible to lock up anybody under the age of 24!

Then they tried to raise the age to 19. Thankfully, DeLeo (the unindicted coconspirator, of all people!) and Tall Deval, and most of the state’s district attorneys, stopped that lunatic scheme as well.

Another proposed crackpot change in the criminal code that didn’t survive: no more statutory rape, as long as the perp was no more than two years older than the victim.

“So a 12-year-old could have sex with a 10-year-old, no problem,” said one of the people involved in fighting the “sweeping” legislation. “That’s what these nuts in the legislature were pushing for. I understand how angry everybody is about Latanowich, but where have they been for the last two years, when these fools were trying to make it even easier for the next generation of Latanowichs?”

As for Latanowich, when you look at his rap sheet you realize that until he gunned down Sean Gannon, he was no different than any untold number of other career criminals around here. He took his first pinch at age 13, for a BB gun, but you could have probably guessed that.

The Latanowich cases that jumped out at me were the “bench trials” – where he went into district court, waived his right to a jury trial, and had the case broomed by a judge. This often happens because the lawyer knows the hack on the bench.

So I made some inquiries and got the names of the judges in these cases. But I don’t think they were even at fault here. It’s just the larger problem of criminal justice in this benighted Commonwealth. The legislature should be making it harder for criminals to stay free, instead of easier. But no one was paying attention, at least until Thursday, and attention spans are shorter than ever.

For the record, the vote in the Senate on the “sweeping reform” to make life easier for criminals was 37-0, in the House 148-5.

Anyway, in 2005, at age 17, after a motor-vehicle crash, Gannon’s killer was charged with negligent operation, refusing to identify himself, leaving the scene of an accident causing personal injury and unlicensed operation – the full Ted Kennedy, in other words.

Even at that tender age, the punk knew enough to run away from the scene. In the car was another “district-court bum,” as one cop called him yesterday, and so they couldn’t prove who was driving. Case dismissed. The judge was H. Gregory Williams, a Cellucci appointee now retired with a $99,483-a-year pension, but it looks like he didn’t have much choice.

The other bench trial took place in May 2008. The cops apparently got a tip about a gun and they went to his house. A relative okayed a search, without a warrant, and the cops found the weapon. The charges included defacing a serial number on a firearm, carrying a gun without an FID card and improper storage.

But Latanowich’s lawyer got the relative to sign an affidavit saying he’d never authorized the cops to search, so the evidence was, ahem, tainted. Case dismissed. The judge was Don L. Carpenter, a Weld appointee, also now retired, with a $138,134.04-a-year pension. He is the son and brother of FBI agents. Again, I don’t think he had much choice, the ways things are in the halls of justice, where the only justice is in the halls.

You read about all these gun cases being thrown out, and if you’re old enough, you ask yourself, whatever happened to the Bartley-Fox gun law in Massachusetts? In the 70’s, it was a big deal. They had signs at the state borders warning that unlicensed possession of a gun could mean a year in the can.

When was the last time you ever heard of anyone being prosecuted under the Bartley-Fox gun law? Is it even still on the books?

Anyway, Sean Gannon’s funeral Mass is this morning at St. Pius X Church in Yarmouth. Soon Latanowich will be represented at trial by the best lawyers money can buy – our money, no doubt. Taxpayers’ money.

Welcome to Massachusetts.

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