Foul-up let killer leave prison early
The Associated Press
SHIRLEY, Mass. — A killer accused in the slaying of a newlywed couple in Graham, Pierce County, shortly after he was released from prison in Massachusetts should have been held behind bars for almost a year longer, but the Romney administration failed to file paperwork in time to take away his "good time" credits.
A Department of Correction superintendent, under then-Gov. Mitt Romney, did not act on a disciplinary recommendation to strip 300 days of credit from Daniel Tavares after he was accused of threats to prison staff in 2003, state officials announced Friday in releasing results of a probe into the Tavares case.
Because of the paperwork error, Tavares was allowed to keep nearly a year's worth of "good days" to complete his sentence June 14. Five months later, newlyweds Brian and Beverly Mauck were killed in Graham, allegedly by Tavares.
"He would have still been incarcerated. We are very dismayed. He was violent," Correction Commissioner Harold Clarke said at a news conference Friday. "This is an individual who should not have been released any earlier than required."
Clarke, whose first day was Nov. 26, called the failure unacceptable. He said the record-keeping and release date computation is "a basic function of any correctional agency."
In total, hearing officers recommended that 780 days of "good time" be taken away from Tavares for six different violent incidents spanning 1993 to 2005, but authorities say there is no paperwork to explain why action was not taken by Correction officials on five of those cases.
The only case with records showed that a prison superintendent under Romney failed to meet a 60-day deadline to file the paperwork to take away 300 days in 2003.
As a result, top Correction officials who make the final decision to strip good days were required to reject the 300-day request, officials said.
"All of us were appalled that an inmate like Daniel Tavares, who was tracked as a very dangerous inmate from the time he entered the system, wasn't carefully monitored and have his records as precise as possible," Public Safety Secretary Kevin Burke said.
Burke said the state was moving to get rid of the 60-day policy to ensure that prison officials have the time they need to file paperwork. The superintendent who failed to file the Tavares paperwork no longer works for the DOC, but officials would not discuss the circumstances of his departure.
The failure of Correction officials to act on recommendations stretched over the administrations of Republican Govs. William Weld, Paul Cellucci, Jane Swift and Romney.
Tavares lost 1,600 other days of credit for 11 other incidents during the 15 years he spent in prison for killing his mother. He originally was sentenced to serve 17 to 20 years for manslaughter.
In 1994, the automatic granting of statutory "good time" to prisoners was eliminated under truth-in-sentencing laws, but Tavares began his sentence in June 1992 and was still able to legally claim 3,000 days given to him upon incarceration. "Earned" good time of up to 10 days per month for participation in work and education programs is still available.
The state now is examining the records of 750 prisoners locked up before 1994 to determine if their good time has been accurately recorded. The 60-day regulation, however, cannot be changed immediately, so it's unlikely many sentences can be extended. The administration has hired an outside consultant to assist with the effort.
After the slayings, Romney had called for the resignation of Judge Kathe Tuttman, who released Tavares from prison about a month after he finished his manslaughter term, even though correction officials sought to keep him locked up on a charge he assaulted a guard two years earlier.
Romney, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, said the judge, whom he appointed, "showed an inexplicable lack of good judgment," though she and her superiors have said she followed the law.
Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom declined to comment to The AP. He told the Boston Herald, which first reported the results of the probe Friday: "The governor's office does not keep track of internal disciplinary reports filed against individual inmates, nor does it have specific knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the sentences or terms of release for each of the thousands of prisoners in the state penal system."
Burke said there was no political motivation in releasing the results of the probe shortly before the Iowa caucus.
"We are not so much concerned with the caucuses as we are concerned with the public safety," he said. "We're not looking to blame any particular administration."
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, a Romney supporter who was asked to comment on his behalf, said it's not fair to blame this on the former governor.
"This is a systemic problem within Corrections, not at the governor's level," he said. "If Mitt Romney knew that there was a systemic problem in that regard, he would be the first one to jump on it and take care of it."
Hodgson also faulted the officials who were on duty in July.
"What did the people who were in charge know about this background at the time he was released?" he said.
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