Rapist Runs For Office, State Law Keeps His Records Closed
CARVER, Mass. (AP) _ A child rapist who served one year in prison is running for his old job of town constable while still on parole, but many residents were unaware of his criminal record because of a state privacy law.
August Barros’ candidacy has created a stir in this Boston suburb of 10,300, even though a constable has no police powers and spends his days delivering court summons and serving complaints.
Massachusetts law forces elected officials to resign when convicted of felonies, but nothing prevents them from seeking office when they get out of prison.
Barros, 66, is one of five people seeking three constable positions in the April 8 election. Two candidates filed after learning that Barros would have won office automatically unless he faced opponents. Barros served as constable from 1982 until his conviction in September 1987.
Barros pleaded guilty to two counts of raping a child. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison on the first count, with one year to be served and the remainder of the time suspended. On the second count, he was given a three- to five-year suspended sentence.
Barros told the Boston Herald, in an article published Wednesday, that he would not have become a candidate if he had known the fuss it would cause.
″Nobody here knows how the conviction came down,″ he said. ″I admitted to it and I paid my dues. ... I’m trying to forget about what I did.″
In fact, Barros plans to withdraw his candidacy, said a woman who answered the telephone at his home Wednesday and said she was his wife.
″Look, just take my word for it,″ said the woman, who would not give her name. ″The papers will be in very shortly. I don’t want to be in the news.″
The papers had not been filed when the town clerk’s office closed Wednesday at 4 p.m., said the clerk, Bernadette Hemingway.
The details of Barros’ crimes were reported in local newspapers at the time of his conviction, and were reprinted after he became a candidate Feb. 9. But a state law prohibits police or the Plymouth County district attorney’s office from commenting.
Joseph P. Gaughan, first assistant district attorney, said he could not make public the facts of the case. The state’s Criminal Offender Record Information law prohibits law enforcement officials from discussing criminals’ cases.
Gaughan said he could also not confirm that his office prosecuted Barros.
″I cannot even say that,″ he said. ″That is my telling you that he was in fact charged with a crime and prosecuted.″
The law was designed to protect the privacy of former criminals so they might re-enter society without the stigma of being ex-convicts. Privacy advocates have argued that without such protections even those who have paid their debt to society suffer life-long discrimination.
But others say the law denies the public the right to know what becomes of criminals even before they are rehabilitated, and Gov. Michael S. Dukakis has filed legislation to allow more public access to the records.