'Victims' jailed to force testimony in Boston sex case

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By: Tom Reeves

Two Puerto Rican boys, aged 14 and 15, have been confined in various locked facilities since February because they were allegedly sexually involved with a Boston man. Although the youths have been judged not "delinquent" and although the Massachusetts Department of Social Services (DSS) has recommended that they be released, they continue to be held as "material witnesses" in a Federal case against Donald Dobson, a banker and long-time activist in human rights and drug rehabilitation. Dobson was arrested in February after Federal investigators questioned the boys for more than six hours at school. The boys lived with Dobson since December, with permission of their families. Dobson enrolled in school and provided health care and individual English tutoring.

Dobson was under surveillance because his name was on a computerized list of gay men suspected of "interest in teenagers." This list was compiled and the investigation generated by an Intra-governmental Task Force on Child Victimization recently funded by the Reagan administration. At a Federal hearing on defense motions in June, Det. Miller, on loan from Boston police to the Task Force, said the boys had to be questioned for hours before they "confessed" that sex had taken place with Dobson. Miller said one boy repeatedly denied such activity until threatened with immediate return to Puerto Rico.

The boy's status was revealed at a Federal District Court hearing in Boston on July 29th. US Attorney Susan Via told Judge Douglas Woodlock the boys were detained to assure their testimony in the Federal case against Dobson on two charges of violating the Mann Act (engaging in illegal sex with minors after crossing state lines). He is also charged under state law with two counts of rape of a child and two of indecent assault and battery. Nio actual rape or violent assault is alleged. Dobson is accused of fondling and performing fellatio on both boys. He faces multiple life sentences if convicted.

Transcripts from closed Massachusetts juvenile court hearings were read at the July 29th Federal hearing on defense motions. Defense attorneys for Dobson sought advance notice of detention hearings for material witnesses and rights to participate in such hearings. Three detention hearings for these boys took place in March, April, and May of this year. The transcripts revealed the DSS sought to release both boys, insisting that no suitable placements with Spanish-speaking staff existed in Massachusetts. US Attorney Via told the court, "The DSS behavior is quite extraordinary and irresponsible. This represents a complete failure by Massachusetts DSS. They had no placements and were about to put these children out on the streets."

The boys were held in Federal lock-up under guard by Federal Marshals until DSS reluctantly agreed to continue to act as "Federal custodian." The attorney appointed to represent the boys told the juvenile master at one informal detention hearing, "Going to the cab might be good for the boy... it will impress on him the real seriousness of the case." When this was translated, one boy shouted, "My own lawyer is sending me to jail!" Both boys repeatedly demanded their freedom and evidently attempted to recant all or part of their earlier statements about Dobson. The older boy was manacled and in leg irons and the younger boy was threatened in juvenile court with similar treatment of he did not "behave." Defense attorney Elizabeth Lunt told Judge Woodlock, "These boys are being punished with jail for non-cooperation and the key to their freedom is theirs only if they give testimony sought by the prosecution. Such testimony," she argued, "is irrevocably tainted and its impartiality is forever affected."

Judge Woodlock asked whether suitable foster care might be found in Puerto Rico. Attorney Lunt responded that the family of one boy was eager for his return and that there were alternative placements in either Puerto Rico or Massachusetts other than incarceration. US Attorney Via said the case was analogous to a drug cases [case] with which she was familiar where material witnesses were detained to prevent their flight to Columbia. The judge pointed out that Puerto Rico, unlike Columbia, is "under the US flag and presumably witnesses can be subpoenaed from there." He asked the prosecutor to explain why the defense should not be present in detention hearings for material witnesses. Attorney Via used the analogy of seeking an arrest warrant for "co-conspirators," where it would obviously be foolish to inform the defense in advance. Judge Woodlock saw a distinction in this case since "these are juveniles and evidently victims, not co-conspirators, and they are already detained."

Indicating that he believed major legal issues were involved, the judge delayed a ruling until a hearing on other related defense motions to suppress testimony and to dismiss tha case on grounds that evidence has been coerced. That hearing will take place in Boston Federal District Court, Post Office Square, Boston, on September 9th. Meanwhile, a committee has formed in response to Dobson's case and other similar cases in Boston. Calling itself the Committee for Civil Liberties and Sexual Freedom (CCLSF), the group's purpose is to help persons involved in legal cases alleging non-coercive sexual activity between gay men or lesbians and teenagers. Spokesperson John Mitzel said, "Dobson's case is typical of those generated by police and prosecutors trained in FBI workshops. Existing gay and lesbian legal groups avoid these cases, yet we believe that all gay men and lesbians having contact with adolescents face increased risk." The committee is seeking meetings with US Attorney Via, the DSS and other agencies responsible for holding the two Puerto Rico boys.

source: Article < "Victims" Jailed to Force Testimony in Boston Sex Case > by Tom Reeves (In the October 1987 Bulletin it reads that they forgot to attribute Tom Reeves as the author); NAMBLA Bulletin, vol. 8, n. 7; September 1987