April 21, 2014

Vermont Jury Orders Mass. Man to Pay $35 Million

A Vermont jury has ordered a Massachusetts man to pay $35 million in a child sex abuse case.

The jury reached the verdict Friday against Scott Isaacson of Hyannis, Mass., for allegations of repeated sexual abuse of a girl when she was between 3 and 9 years old. Lawyers say some of those incidents of abuse occurred in Vermont, when Isaacson brought the girl here on ski trips. That allowed the plaintiff to sue in Vermont. She is now 24. Her lawyer, Jerry O'Neill, says he expects to recover only a small fraction of the huge jury award, because Isaacson has few assets.

Isaacson was also convicted of criminal charges in Massachusetts.

April 20, 2014

Medford man charged with enticing girl to pose nude online

Police have arrested a Medford man and charged him with enticing a 12-year-old Mansfield girl to pose in the nude on the Internet.

Peter Campobasso, 30, of Medford was arrested around noon Friday by Mansfield and Medford detectives, who executed a search warrant at his 21 Vista Ave. home.

The arrest followed a two-week investigation triggered by a call from a concerned parent, Mansfield police said.

Police allege Campobasso solicited and encouraged the girl to send nude pictures of herself in return for cash and gifts. Mansfield police said Campobasso is charged with posing or exhibiting a child in the state of nudity or sexual conduct. Investigators said they do not believe Campobasso and the girl ever had a face-to-face meeting.

Police are also investigating the possibility that Campobasso befriended many young girls in the Mansfield area via Facebook and other social media.

Mansfield police Lt. Frank Archer Jr. said police armed with a search warrant seized various materials from Campobasso's home allegedly related to his activities.

Campobasso likely will be arraigned next week in Attleboro District Court.

March 29, 2014

Former Leominster Coach Charged With Sexual Assault

A 36-year-old former youth football coach is slated to be arraigned Monday in Leominster District Court after an investigation led to charges that he sexually assaulted a boy, prosecutors said. Benjamin B. Brause of Leominster was arrested Friday night and charged with two counts of statutory rape and one count of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14, Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.'s office said in a statement. Brause is being held on $100,000 bail at the Leominster Police Department, police said. A police dispatcher denied a reporter's request to speak with Brause on the phone. Brause coached youth football in Leominster starting in the 1990s and continuing until 2008. He was a coach in Lunenburg in 2009 and 2010, the statement said. Leominster police ask anyone willing to talk about their interaction with Brause to call them.

March 25, 2014

Hunt for NY Man Expands to Western Mass.

Troy (NY) Police, the FBI and the U.S. Marshals have been looking for 25-year-old Jesse Sawyer since last week. He is accused of having sexual contact with three little girls he knew, ages six, four and three, and taking still photos of the abuse.

Recent tips have now led police to look for him in North Adams, Massachusetts. Police say they have also recently searched small hunting camps along the Mohawk River.

Police say Sawyer grew up in Lansingburgh, has extensive family in the area, and that his father alone has 21 brothers and sisters.
Police had been looking in Florida, but recently got tips that led them further north.

"The concern with someone like Mr. Sawyer is that traveling through another state as a stranger, he may befriend someone, most likely female, maybe a single mother with kids at home," said Troy Police Captain John Cooney. "The problem we have is that this then opens the door for the entire act to start again: the grooming of the children, the trust of the mom, and then the subsequent abuse, so this is a real important case for us to solve sooner rather than later."

Police say social media is helping to inform the public. The NewsChannel 13 Facebook post on Jesse Sawyer, for example, has now been shared more than 21,000 times, with more than one million views.

Investigators say Sawyer left home about a week ago with no car, no phone and limited money.

March 18, 2014

Sex Offender and Lottery Winner Held in Abuse Charges

A Level 3 sex offender who once won $10 million from the lottery was ordered held on $5 million cash bail amid allegations that he sexually assaulted a boy "continuously" over a four-year period.

Daniel Snay, 62, of Uxbridge, was arrested in March and charged with indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14. He was also charged with other offenses, including reckless endangerment of a child and dissemination of pornography to a minor.

During Snay's arraignment, investigators claimed he began abusing a boy at the age of 10 and continued until the boy was 14. The alleged abuse happened during camping trips in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and in Snay's Uxbridge home.

The victim's mother lived with Snay, reconnecting as old friends after he won the lottery, prosecutors said. The victim, who is now 16, lived with his father but visited his mother on weekends.

The Uxbridge Police Department is also working with police in Connecticut and Rhode Island in their investigation.

Officials allege that Snay used his lottery winnings from a 2008 scratch ticket to help him commit the crimes. Uxbridge police chief Jeffrey Lourie told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette that he believed Snay "used the cash to groom and gain favor with people."

Snay receives $500,000 in cash annually from the lottery.

Anyone who has information on suspicious activity involving Snay is urged to call the Uxbridge Police Department's sexual assault unit.

February 6, 2014

Two Mass. Men Arrested in NH for Underage Sex Trafficking

The NH Union Leader reports that two Massachusetts men were arrested at a Salem NH motel on charges they induced a 15-year-old girl who had run away from home to act as a prostitute.

Andy Pena, 19, was ordered held on $150,000 cash bail after his arraignment in 10th Circuit Court, Salem District Division, on reckless conduct, witness tampering and child endangerment charges.

Salem police located the girl, Pena and his alleged partner in a Salem motel room after receiving a tip from Boston police.

"We believe she may be a victim of sex trafficking," Salem prosecutor Jason Grosky said during Pena's arraignment.

The arrest of Pena and Steven Garcia, 28, both of Jamaica Plain, Mass., are part of an ongoing investigation by Boston police and the Department of Homeland Security. Garcia is facing similar charges, but he is free on bail.

The girl has been a runaway from the Greater Boston area since November, according to Grosky.

Police learned the girl was being advertised on Backpage.com as a 19-year-old named "Emily" under the female escort section, according to an affidavit by Salem police Detective Brendan Gleason. The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has been instrumental in bringing attention to the issue of underage sex trafficking, and it was his work that led to the tip in this particular case.

A detective working undercover posed as a potential customer to meet up with the youth and exchanged several text messages with her prior to setting up a meeting at a hotel room, court records show.

Police and special agents with Homeland Security went to the hotel room and used a key to enter the room after knocking for roughly two minutes without a response, police said. One of the officers "could feel a draft run through the room and realized a window was open," Grosky said.

Pena allegedly dropped a Hi-Point handgun from the fourth-floor window, causing it to break into pieces.

Before being taken out of the hotel room, police said Pena told the girl not to tell police anything.

The girl, who identified Pena as her boyfriend, told police she saw five to six clients per day, according to police.

"She told us Pena did not have a job so all of his money comes from her," Gleason said in the affidavit.

Pena, who was not represented by a lawyer, denied knowing the girl was underage during his appearance via video from the Rockingham County jail.

"I can't afford $150,000, your honor," he said. "I had no idea that the girl was that young."

Judge Robert Stephen agreed to Grosky's request for cash-only bail and a source-of-funds hearing requiring Pena to show any bail money is coming from a legitimate source.

January 15, 2014

Attleboro Pastor Charged with Sex Abuse

The assistant pastor of an Attleboro church who is also the principal of an affiliated school has been charged with sexually abusing a student starting when she was a seventh-grader.

The Rev. Jeffrey Nichols of Grace Baptist Church and Grace Baptist Christian Academy was ordered held on $25,000 bail after not guilty pleas to charges including aggravated indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 were entered on his behalf Tuesday.

Prosecutors say he molested a seventh-grade student beginning in 2008 when she was 13 and continued until last June.

Church Pastor Jeff Bailey tells The Sun Chronicle that he immediately fired Nichols when Nichols told him about the allegations Monday.

The 47-year-old Nichols' lawyer argued for no bail with GPS monitoring because his client had no criminal history.

January 14, 2014

Beverly Man Pleads Guilty to Child Porn

A Beverly man has pleaded guilty to selling child pornography on the Internet. Stanton Hager pleaded guilty to charges Tuesday in federal court in Boston.

He faces a maximum of 20 in prison at sentencing scheduled for April. He was ordered held without bail until then after prosecutors disclosed in court that they believe Hager has had sexual contact with children on a trip to Thailand.

The Salem News reports that even though the 67-year-old Hager lived in an apartment complex across the street from a middle school at this time of his arrest, investigators have not reported receiving any complaints of sexual misconduct in Beverly.

An investigation was launched when a package mailed to an Atlanta address went to a bank instead and an employee informed police.

January 10, 2014

Coakley Calls for New DCF Division for Child Abuse

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has proposed a plan to create a separate Child Protection Division within the Department of Children and Families (DCF). This new division would be empowered to investigate allegations of child abuse and neglect with a sole focus on the safety of the child or children involved.

Coakley, who as former Chief of the Child Abuse Unit in the Middlesex District Attorney's office and as Attorney General, fought for legislation that increased penalties for predators who abuse children.

"As Governor, I will be committed to implementing the crucial changes needed to help ensure that no child is the victim of preventable sexual, physical, or serious emotional abuse," said Coakley.

The DCF is currently charged with "protecting children from abuse and neglect" but is also tasked with "strengthening families." This dual mandate can create tension for workers, supervisors and managers, who must balance concerns about the safety of a child, on the one hand, against the imperative of keeping families together.

"DCF's record of protecting children while successfully supporting families has improved over the past decade, thanks to the leadership of Governor Patrick and the tireless efforts of the frontline social workers who are "on the ground" every day," said Coakley. "But we must be proactive about better protecting every child. Right now, a child who is the victim of abuse or neglect may not have someone involved in his or her case who looks out only for the child's safety. During my career, I have seen, day in and day out, how the current structure of DCF puts children at risk and overburdens social workers; the creation of an independent Child Protection Division will go a long way towards addressing these issues."

Under Coakley's plan, reports of potential child abuse and neglect would come into DCF and be screened using existing frameworks. A small number of cases are immediately referred to the District Attorney's office for criminal investigation, often involving Sexual Assault Intervention Network (SAIN) teams. For those cases that remain with DCF, if it is determined that the child or children involved are at risk of continued abuse or neglect, the case would immediately be referred to the newly created Child Protection Division. The Child Protection Division would investigate the claim with a singular focus on the welfare of the child or children.

Depending on the determination of the Child Protection division, there are several potential outcomes: the state may initiate proceedings to remove the child from the home, the state may refer the matter to a District Attorney for a criminal prosecution against the abuser or abusers, or, if it is eventually determined that the child is not at imminent risk, DCF may help connect the family with supports that will allow the child to remain in the home.

January 6, 2014

Ex-Mass. Cop on bail awaiting NH sex assault trial

The Union Leader reports that a former Lawrence, Mass., police officer recently found not guilty of sexual assault charges in Florida is now expected to face trial in a second case from the 1990s involving a Salem NH girl.

Carlos Gonzalez III, 48, was released on $100,000 personal recognizance bail in Rockingham County Superior Court as he awaits trial on 14 counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault.

A jury acquitted Gonzalez in Florida on Nov. 19, prompting authorities to return him to New Hampshire on a fugitive from justice warrant.

Prosecutors say Gonzalez repeatedly abused the girl in Salem NH between May 1992 and May 1994 beginning when she was 11 years old.

No trial date has been set.

Gonzales is being allowed to live at a Lawrence, Mass., address but is barred from having contact with the victim or any children under the age of 18, according to a court order.

Gonzalez was arrested on Feb. 27, 2013, as a fugitive from justice on the Florida charges while attending a class at the Massachusetts School of Law in Andover, Mass. He joined the Lawrence (Mass.) Police Department in 1998, but was studying to become a lawyer at the time of his arrest.

Just prior to his arrest, Salem police opened its own investigation into a sexual assault case in the town.

Salem police allege that Gonzalez began sexually assaulting the girl by "rubbing up against her" beginning May 1, 1992, when the girl was 11. The alleged abuse continued until May 15, 1994, according to indictments.

In Florida, Gonzalez had faced charges of sexual battery of a custodian on a person between the ages of 12 and 18. He was accused of sexually assaulting the underage girl last July while on vacation in Haines City, Fla., and serving alcohol to a minor.

If a jury convicts him in the New Hampshire case, he could face up to 10 to 20 years in state prison on each of the charges.

December 26, 2013

"Epidemic" of Sex Assaults on College Campuses Continues

A disturbing article about sexual assaults on local college campuses, and the likelihood that assaults continue to be unreported and under-reported.

December 11, 2013

Chicopee school custodian charged with sexual abuse

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS reports that a custodian at a Chicopee high school has been charged with offering a male student drugs, money and an iPhone in exchange for sexual favors.

Timothy Lynch is free on $5,000 bail after pleading not guilty to charges including indecent assault and battery on a child, assault to rape a child, and marijuana distribution.

Lynch has been placed on paid administrative leave from his job at Chicopee Comprehensive High School and barred from school property.

Lynch was arrested Nov. 29 at his home.

Authorities say the 54-year-old Lynch befriended the boy, and gave him gifts starting when he was 14. The alleged relationship was discovered when the boy's father discovered the cellphone and questioned his son about it.

Lynch could not be reached for comment by the AP.

November 29, 2013

Retired Fall River Fireman Pleads Not Guilty to Molestation

The retired Fall River firefighter and former youth sports coach accused of molesting two boys and making advances toward another youth pleaded not guilty to all charges during his arraignment in Fall River Superior Court, as reported by the Dedham Transcript.

Wesley Allardice, 62, of 1307 President Ave., was previously indicted on nine charges, including assault to rape a child, aggravated rape and abuse of a child by age difference, indecent exposure, disseminating materials harmful to a minor, providing alcohol to a minor, indecent assault and battery on a minor, using a drug for sexual intercourse and indecent assault and battery on a minor under 14 years old.

The alleged incidents occurred in Fall River between March 2011 and September 2013. The victims were between 9 and 14 years old at the time.

Other details about the victims were unavailable because they are still minors, said prosecutor Silvia Rudman, the second assistant district attorney and chief of District Attorney Sam Sutter's Special Victims Unit. Rudman declined to comment further on the case.

"We're outright denying the allegations," said Kenneth van Colen, Allardice's attorney, when addressing the media outside the Fall River Justice Center. Van Colen said he had not yet "confronted the accusers" and said Allardice's youth coaching and previous tenure as a city firefighter have "nothing to do with this."

Allardice was arrested by the Fall River Police Department on Sept. 26. He is currently free on $50,000 cash bail, which was set at his Fall River District Court arraignment in late September.

During Tuesday morning's hearing, van Colen requested that the previous $50,000 cash bail and $500,000 surety be transferred because the case had moved from district court to superior court. That request was granted.

Allardice's next court appearance will be Jan. 17 for a pre-trial conference in superior court, and May 20 for a hearing. He has been ordered to have no contact with the victims.

November 22, 2013

Teen Charged With Heinous Crimes in Danvers

The Associated Press reports that a 14-year-old Massachusetts boy used an object to sexually assault his popular high school algebra teacher before killing and robbing her.

Philip Chism has been held without bail since shortly after the Oct. 22 slaying of 24-year-old Colleen Ritzer, whose body was found behind Danvers High School after she never returned home from school.

"The indictments returned .... detail horrific and unspeakable acts," Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said.

The indictment says Chism, armed with a box cutter, stole Ritzer's underwear, credit cards and iPhone. A ruling on her exact cause of death is pending.

Chism had previously pleaded not guilty to a murder charge. The indictment adds charges of aggravated rape and armed robbery.

Chism was spotted leaving a movie theater about 6:30 p.m. on the day Ritzer was killed, then picked up by police as he walked along a highway in a neighboring town six hours later. Police said they believe Ritzer died sometime after the school day ended at 2 p.m., but they have not said exactly when.

Ritzer's family issued a statement saying they continue to mourn and asking for privacy.

"We are devastated and heartbroken by the details of the horrific circumstances surrounding the death of our beautiful daughter and sister, Colleen," the statement said.

Prosecutors have not revealed a motive for the killing, though two classmates said Chism was in Ritzer's class after dismissal the day she was killed.

Chism had moved to Massachusetts from Tennessee before the start of the school year and played on the school's junior varsity soccer team.

Court records indicate Chism's parents had difficulties early in their marriage. In a parenting plan included in 2001 divorce papers, his mother, Diana, insisted on supervising any time her husband, Stacy, had with their son and a younger daughter. She cited "prior physical and emotional abuse as well as alcohol abuse" by her husband. Both adults signed the papers.

The divorce was apparently never finalized after both parents signed an order stating they wanted to attempt to reconcile.

Shortly after the killing, Diana Chism released a statement through her son's public defender saying she was heartbroken for Ritzer's family.

Ritzer was described as an enthusiastic, caring teacher who stood outside her classroom and greeted all students, whether they were in her classes or not.

Ritzer's family has established a scholarship to honor her work. It will benefit graduates of Andover High School, in her hometown, who pursue teaching careers.

November 18, 2013

Beverly Man Jailed For Sexual Abuse

The Newburyport Daily News reports that a Beverly man has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail yesterday after pleading guilty to engaging in sexual acts with two girls who were 13 and 14 at the time and pledging them to secrecy about it by asking, "You guys aren't snitches, are you?"

Chad Soper, 21, formerly of 50 Broadway, had been charged with child rape in one of the two cases, but to spare the two girls from having to testify at trial, prosecutors agreed to reduce the charges in exchange for his guilty plea. That agreement was accepted by Salem District Court Judge Sabita Singh.

Soper instead pleaded guilty to charges of indecent assault and battery and unnatural acts involving a child.

Prosecutor Carolanne Hillis described how the incidents came to light in May when the younger of the girls, then 13, disclosed that she and Soper had engaged in sexual acts and that she feared she was pregnant.

The girl told investigators that they had met in April through a mutual friend, who turned out to be the other victim in the case, and that the three smoked marijuana. Soper then asked the younger girl to engage in oral sex.

A few days later, on April 11, they ran into each other again. The girl said she thought Soper was 18. The three ended up at the Beverly Golf and Tennis Club, where, the girl later said, Soper suggested that they have sex.

Though the girl, who was in middle school, suggested "I don't know if I'm ready," Soper encouraged her, saying, "You should -- it'll feel great."

Later, when the girl, who had no previous sexual experience, worried that she had become pregnant, Soper allegedly told her not to worry, claiming, "I have a low sperm count."

Subsequently, the older girl reported that she, too, had engaged in sexual activity with Soper when she was 14 and 15, after meeting him at the Balch Street Playground when she was in eighth grade. That led to charges of unnatural and lascivious conduct against Soper.

Following his release from prison, Soper will spend five years on probation, during which he'll have to wear a GPS bracelet that tracks his movements and have no contact with either victim or with any child under 16. He will also be required to register as a sex offender.