, Salem, MA

Local News

February 16, 2007

Judge's sentence for Patrick Doyle drawing controversy

SALEM - The one-year jail sentence meted out this week to Patrick Doyle - the man who ignored the cries of a 9-year-old girl being raped repeatedly in the bed next to him - has been fueling outrage on talk radio, TV stations and even the corridors of the Statehouse.

Superior Court Judge Leila Kern sentenced Doyle on Monday to five years of probation - but no jail time - for child endangerment. She also sentenced him to 21/2 years in jail for intimidating a witness in the case but suspended all but a year of it. Doyle will be eligible for parole in six months.

Doyle, 42, of Salem was one of several defendants in a horrific child abuse case in which Mary Jean Armstrong of Beverly is accused of allowing two men to have sexual access to her child in exchange for cocaine. Doyle was not charged with raping the child himself but with doing nothing to assist the girl while another man raped her a few feet away from him.

Kern said on Monday that in deciding on a sentence, she contrasted Doyle's behavior - engaging in sex with the girl's mother and another woman while the girl was being raped - with that of the other defendants in the case.

But others say that, even so, the sentence is too lenient.

State Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, said he generally hesitates to second-guess judges, "but it just seems that the sentence was completely inappropriate for the offenses that occurred."

He now wants to introduce legislation that would increase penalties for those convicted of child endangerment.

Under the law - created less than five years ago in response to the priest sexual abuse crisis - the maximum penalty for child endangerment, a misdemeanor, is 21/2 years in jail.

"I'm not sure it ever contemplated this circumstance," said Tarr, who said the statute was responding to administrative or bureaucratic failures to respond to child abuse - not a situation in which the defendant helped create the abuse, as another judge found last year in the Doyle case.

'A disgrace'

Deborah Savoia of North Andover, a victims' rights advocate, said she was stunned by the sentence, calling it "a disgrace."

"Once again it shows that we do not value our children in this state," Savoia said. "We don't take this seriously; lawmakers don't make it a priority. Children are literally being killed, and someone needs to wake up."

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