John Adams must be rolling over in his grave. The great founding father from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts once said, “We are a government of laws, not of men.” Today, it seems that some of his Bay State successors have all but forgotten Adams’ words. Perhaps most neglectful of the rule of law is Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley. His latest legal rulings have been so egregious that Massachusetts state legislators and hundreds of concerned citizens are calling for his impeachment. The Commonwealth’s Gov. Charlie Baker even weighed in on the subject. Judge Feeley’s wisdom, or lack thereof, in recent months has let a cop killer, a heroin kingpin, and a sexual predator roam the streets after proving to be public threats. Why did Judge Feeley let these men go? In short, because he felt like it.
Yesterday, 200 people rallied outside the Ruane Judicial Center in Salem, MA to protest Feeley’s decision regarding convicted drug dealer Manuel Soto-Vittini. The rally, organized by local radio talk show host Jeff Kuhner, came a week after Massachusetts representative Jim Lyons filed a resolution to impeach Judge Feeley. For Rep. Lyons, Judge Feeley's ruling on Soto-Vittini was the last straw.
Manuel Soto-Vittini was arrested in June 2015 after police found 40 bags of heroin hidden in various departments in his car. According to Salem Police, Soto-Vittini was not a small time crook. He was a central figure in the Salem drug trade. This drug trade led to 21 deaths in Salem directly from opioids like heroin in 2017. That number pales in comparison to the 2,016 who died from opioid overdoses bought by addicts purchased from criminals such as Soto-Vittini through out last year.
But Judge Feeley did not view Soto-Vittini as a criminal. In fact, the judge saw Soto-Vittini as a family man who was trying to provide for his family by making money.
As noted by Julia Maganis of Salem News, according to Feeley Soto-Vittini posed no threat because he was not an addict himself.
"This was basically a money crime," Judge Timothy Feeley concluded, rejecting a prosecutor's request for one to three years in state prison.
"This was not a drug addict who was dealing to fund his own addiction," Feeley said, "but rather, a person who made some terrible judgments and decisions, but made them for what he thought was in the best interest of his family."
Furthermore, Soto-Vittini is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. Had he been convicted, Soto-Vittini could have been deported. But, in Judge Feeley’s eyes, this would have been disastrous for his family.
So, instead of giving Soto-Vittini jailtime, the judge gave him two years worth of probation. Thus, he could avoid deportation.
Prosecutor Kristin Buxton harangued the judge for his jurisprudential malfeasance.
"Now the court exercises its discretion to help him avoid deportation," said Buxton, who also told the judge she "could not disagree more" with the judge's rationale.
"This was not a one-time incident," said Buxton, noting police reports that suggested Soto-Vittini was making near-daily drug deals. "It's clear ... he was in the ongoing business of dealing heroin," the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor continued, saying that a person's immigration status should not be a considering factor in a case such as this.
“I think it’s a dangerous view to take,” Buxton added, “that being someone who is not a U.S. citizen is somehow mitigating when you’re talking about dealing a very dangerous substance...He was in the ongoing business of dealing heroin.”
As if letting a known drug dealer walk the streets in the midst of opioid epidemic was not bad enough, Feeley has also made other terrible decisions that have endangered innocent citizens.
In 2016, a sexual predator named Daniel Beauvais was arrested for abusing a girl when she was between the ages of 10 and 12. He originally was held without bail and was described as a "serial sexual abuser." For some reason, Judge Feeley "decided to release Beauvais on a GPS bracelet and $100 bail, over the objection of prosecutors." While the pervert was out of jail, he racked up three counts of witness intimidation. It was only then that Judge Feeley revoked Beauvais' bail and brought him back into custody.
Then, just last month, Judge Feeley reduced the bail of John Williams from $10,000 to $5,000. Williams had been arrested on gun charges. Williams took the opportunity away from jail to travel up to Maine where he subsequently killed a police officer. He led a manhunt throughout New England before being captured. Again, Feeley went against the recommendation of prosecutors. Again, his decision resulted in tragedy that could have been avoided. Judges often give bail on different terms than the recommended amount. Sometimes it is more, sometimes it is less. But it is rare that a judge constantly makes such a bad decision.
Judge Feeley was nominated in 2008 at age 58 by Gov. Deval Patrick. Under Massachusetts law, Superior Court justices can hold the position until they are 70 years old. Or they can be removed through impeachment if they are proven to be incompetent.
Now thanks to the aforementioned Kuhner and Rep. Lyons, people are taking a stand against his terrible decision making that seems to be devoid of any legal reasoning other than his mood of the day. Rep. Lyons started a petition on change.org calling for the impeachment of Judge Feeley that has amassed more than 7,000 signatures.
At the rally against Feeley in Salem, folks like Chris Carpenter who have lost loved ones to drug over doses spoke out against the judge. “To just put someone back on the street like that, it’s just a total injustice and we’re never going to stop this epidemic if we don’t do something about it,” said Carpenter.
Gov. Baker said that Feeley's decisions were “ridiculous and an outrage,” but stayed away from saying whether or not Feeley should be impeached.
New England radio icon Howie Carr is not very hopeful that Judge Feeley will be impeached. Carr recently wrote, "So now a handful of Republican state reps introduce a resolution to impeach Feeley and remove him from the bench. As of Friday night, they had rounded up exactly one Democrat co-sponsor — Colleen Garry of Dracut. One! Out of more than 120 Democrats in the House."
"That’s how serious the State House is about doing something to stop this plague," he added.
If there is anybody still reading and not understanding why Feeley should be removed, perhaps the host of the talk radio show the Kuhner Report on WRKO can explain it best in a recent article he authored.
"The evidence is overwhelming: Feeley has no right to be sitting on a court bench," Kuhner said. "He is not just soft on crime. He poses a serious, mortal threat to the safety of every law-abiding citizen in Massachusetts. He is actively aiding and abetting the worst criminals in our society—drug traffickers, cop killers and child molesters. He needs to be held accountable and removed from office."