The Reformer – Advocates for Justice

On Friday, May 6th and Saturday, May 7th, MSLAW was honored, at various venues, by the presence of WBZ-1030 radio personality and attorney Dan Rea, Attorney Victor Garo and Judge Nancy Gertner of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts. At the Friday session, moderated by Dean Coyne, Dan Rea and Attorney Garo discussed at length how they became involved in decade-long efforts to free Joseph Salvati, who, in 1968 was convicted (along with four other men) for the 1965 murder of Edward “Teddy” Deegan. An audience of faculty, staff, lawyers, and students heard how Attorney Garo met Salvati in 1977 and quickly became convinced that he had not been involved in that murder. His efforts to convince the authorities and the judicial system were unavailing until 1996, when Dan Rea became involved. Dan began a four-year investigation that resulted in the revelation (through the discovery of hidden FBI documents) that FBI agents Paul Rico and Dennis Condon had assisted then-Mafia kingpins Joseph Barboza and Vincent Flemmi in convicting the six defendants through the use of perjured testimony.  Salvati’s sentence was commuted, and he was paroled in 1997. Two other defendants, Peter Limone and Roy French, also were released after the fabrication scheme was revealed, but three died in prison, never vindicated during their lifetimes.

Judge Nancy Gertner, who, along with Rea and Garo, was honored at the following day’s Law Day Dinner Dance, came into the picture when she was assigned to sit on a civil rights lawsuit brought by Salvati, Limone, and the families of Louis Greco and Henry Tameleo, both of whom died in prison.  In 2007, following a 22-day trial in which the evidence came largely by way of documents that had to be pieced together, she awarded the plaintiffs more than $100 million in damages. Judge Gertner minced no words in her 100-page decision. She found that the FBI had suborned perjury (Barboza’s testimony), withheld exculpatory evidence, and rewarded Barboza and his criminal cohorts by continually supporting them financially and protecting them from criminal investigation or arrest. Early in her decision, she said:

Reformer Summer 2011Now is the time to say and say without equivocation:

This “cost”—to the liberty of four men, to our system of justice—is not remotely acceptable.  No man’s liberty is dispensable. No human being may be traded for another. Our system cherishes each individual. We have fought wars over this principle. We are still fighting those wars.

Sadly, when law enforcement perverts its mission, the criminal justice system does not easily self-correct. We understand that our system makes mistakes; we have appeals to address them. But this case goes beyond mistakes, beyond the unavoidable errors of a fallible system.  This case is about intentional misconduct, subornation of perjury, conspiracy, the framing of innocent men. While judges are scrutinized—our decisions made in public and appealed— law enforcement decisions like these rarely see the light of day. The public necessarily relies on the integrity and professionalism of its officials.

Judge Gertner’s opinion is a horrific tale of how the FBI’s massive war on the La Cosa Nostra, aided by its “Top Echelon Informants” program, elevated Barboza and others from cold-blooded murderer(s) to revered colleagues. Through obstruction, delay and subornation of perjury, they managed to forestall disclosure of the truth—that these men had not been involved in the murder of Terry Deegan—for 30 years, pulling the wool over the eyes of state law enforcement officials and state and federal courts.  At the Law Day Dinner Dance, Judge Gertner, Attorney Garo, and Dan Rea received the Thurgood Marshall Award for their contributions to the cause of civil rights. Dan Rea and Attorney Garo spoke about their efforts to free Salvati and the effect these efforts had on them personally. Judge Gertner, displaying a keen and entertaining wit, also spoke about her professional life—how “unconventional” her path to the federal bench had been—her representation of anti-war activist Susan Saxe, a Harvard Law School professor alleging gender discrimination in tenure decisions, abortion clinics, and other left-wing causes. Though she started her law career at a time when there were few women lawyers, let alone women criminal defense attorneys, she became one of most influential criminal lawyers—male or female.

More than 150 students, faculty, staff, and trustees attended the Law Day Dinner Dance on May 8th at the Indian River Country Club. Also honored at the evening’s festivities were Professor Ursula Furi-Perry, who received the Bell Award; Michael Hand and Rasheida Craig, who received the Dean’s Awards; Felicia Robinson, who received the School Spirit Award; and Dean Graziano, who received the Community Service Award. Chicago Attorney Sidney Kleinman presented Marissa Hederson with the Kleinman Prize for the best ethics essay. – Professor Constance Rudnick, Esq. 

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