BOSTON — Their stated mission is to post bond for low-income people held in pre-trial detention “simply because they cannot afford bail.” And the Massachusetts Bail Fund has been doing just that in recent weeks, including freeing two level-3 sex offenders.
25 Investigates has learned the Cambridge-based nonprofit has paid to release at least 70 people in Essex and Worcester county jails since mid-June. The group has reportedly dropped more than $180,000 in those two counties alone.
Charges for the defendants they bailed out range from disorderly conduct, assault and battery, rape and other sex crimes, according to multiple sources.
One of those recently bailed out by the Fund is Tyler Jacquard, a level-3 sex offender with a history of arrests and charges that include open and gross lewdness and indecent exposure. Last month, they paid a $30,000 bail on behalf of Jacquard, who returned to the Melrose home he shares with his mother.
“These people are dangerous to society,” said Kate Donnellan, one of Jacquard’s victims.
Donnellan was a student at Boston University when Jacquard exposed himself to her.
“He’s been given that level three sex offender status for a reason. That’s because he’s likely to repeat and has shown that he will,” Donnellan said.
Jacquard, 34, was in jail following a June 14th incident in Lynnfield where he allegedly was in his car fondling himself while observing a group of young girls. He has been arrested 23 times for similar crimes against young women.
Recently many have expressed disappointment and even outrage with the Massachusetts Bail Fund, which relies on public donations and recently saw an influx of donors supporting social justice causes following the death George Floyd in Minnesota.
Alex Rich-Shea from Medford has been a vocal critical of the Bail Fund. He is the brother of the group’s executive director, Atara Rich-Shea and says he has a duty to speak out.
“She’s heard this criticism and has chosen not to respond,” said Rich-Shea about his sister, adding that the many people who donated to the Fund to free protesters after Floyd’s racially-charged death may not be aware that their money is helping bail out sex offenders.
“They are a public nonprofit. They are subsidized by not having to pay taxes. And they should answer to these communities, at least as to why these female victims shouldn’t be considered in their decision making process,” said Rich-Shea.
The Mass Bail Fund’s website says it provides bail money so “low-income people can stay free while they work towards resolving their case, allowing individuals, families, and communities to stay productive, together, and stable.”
Following criticism of the group earlier this month, they posted a lengthy statement on-line that in part reads: “We post bail for people regardless of charge or court history [...] We do this work because pretrial detention is harmful and racist.”
25 Investigates reached out to the Mass Bail Fund repeatedly for comment or an interview. They did not respond to our request.
Keren Goldenberg, a local defense attorney who has donated to the Mass Bail Fund herself, says the purpose of the bail is ensure defendants will appear for trial, and people with money usually have no problem coming up with it. She adds that prosecutors and judges have other tools available to hold dangerous offenders.
“The issue with bail is flight risk, not how dangerous the person might be,” said Goldenberg, who was a public defender for 11 years before going into private practice. “I feel very strongly in support of what the mass bail fund does. Even if occasionally we see a tragic turn of events which we recently saw. We have to focus on the good not just the outliers.”
But Donnellan, one of Tyler Jacquard’s victims, says the Mass Bail Fund needs to consider victims, and even donors, when determining who they will bail out.
“They stick to their motto, which is ‘Free Them All,’ but I just don’t feel like this was the right decision,” she said.
“I feel like that was a lot of money people donated, hoping to do good in the community, and it could have done a lot of good. And this feels like a giant disappointment to me”
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