Jared Remy ricocheted across the criminal justice system for almost two decades before he was arrested for the August murder of Jennifer Martel, his girlfriend and the mother of his 5-year-old daughter. The 35-year-old Remy, son of popular Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, had a lengthy history of threats and assaults against girlfriends dating back to high school. But he was shown extraordinary deference by the courts, up until Martel’s death. Put more simply, state judges repeatedly — and often inexplicably — allowed him to get off the hook. It’s a shameful episode in the history of the state’s judiciary.
There is much speculation, but no hard evidence, that the younger Remy benefited from his father’s fame and popularity in Boston sports circles. A related but more concrete scenario is that Jared Remy remained on the loose all these years through his access to seasoned defense attorneys, but also through the reluctance of some domestic violence victims to testify against their tormentors and, most unfortunately, the desire of judges to “move the list’’ through clogged courtrooms. Often Remy would be granted a “continuance without a finding’’— CWOF (pronounced “quaff”) in legalese — that amounted to a free pass as long as the defendant stayed out of trouble. On more than 10 occasions, Remy was arrested on new charges or otherwise ran afoul of the law while serving on probation or waiting for the resolution of an earlier case. But the judges kept ignoring the record.
The CWOF, in and of itself, is a useful legal remedy for newcomers to the criminal justice system who are given an opportunity to avoid a formal conviction by agreeing that sufficient facts exist to warrant a finding of guilt. Typically, defendants are placed on probation for a year with the stipulation they do not reoffend. Failing that, a judge can impose the finding of guilt along with a prison sentence on the original charge.
That’s not how it worked with Remy, however. He collected CWOFs like some people collect baseball cards. While it may be reasonable for judges to give a continuance to a first- or second-time offender, it’s judicial negligence to ignore a growing pile of continuances. Two should be enough chances for even the most penitent offender; after that, judges should impose serious sentences.
Yet time and again, Middlesex County judges gave Remy the space he needed to hurt women. He received head-spinning treatment from Judge Gregory Flynn in Waltham District Court. Remy was no stranger to the judge who had granted him four CWOFs. In 2000, Flynn found him in violation of his probation for having attacked his former girlfriend, Tiffany Guyette. Yet the judge failed to impose a guilty finding or jail time, opting instead to require Remy to submit to random screening for substance abuse.
That opened the way for an especially egregious case in Lowell District court in 2001, where Remy appeared in front of presiding Justice Neil Walker on a charge of threatening to kill Guyette. It was Remy’s sixth case in 27 months. Guyette steeled herself to testify, which many victims fear doing. It seemed that a judge would finally bring the hammer down on Remy. But inexplicably — and over the objections of prosecutors — Walker accepted the request by Remy’s experienced attorney to continue the case without a formal judgment, an outcome even more lenient than a CWOF.
Similar examples of judicial enabling can be found around the same time in Dedham District court, where Judge Lynda Connolly found Remy in violation of his probation for a failed drug test and a new restraining order based on alleged threats to kill Guyette. Yet Connolly extended Remy’s probation with a warning that the next violation would yield 60 days in jail. Remy appeared before her a month later on a new probation violation, yet he still slid away without jail time.
The years dragged on, and Remy found new girlfriends to assault and terrorize. By 2005, he had racked up 15 cases — six CWOFs, one guilty, and eight dismissals — while still eluding jail.
Remy’s victims were terribly served in these cases. It was well within the discretion of judges on numerous occasions to stop Remy in his tracks. Instead, they extended his probation or even ordered him to move home with his parents as if he were a wayward child. It would be disgusting if these outcomes were in any way a result of Remy’s prominent family or the ability of a high-priced attorney to “shop” for lenient judges. It would be even more terrifying to learn that judges across the Commonwealth are routinely handing out continuances to serial perpetrators of domestic violence.
In 2012, the state Supreme Judicial Court commissioned an independent study when a Globe Spotlight series revealed that judges in some Massachusetts courts acquitted nearly all drunken driving defendants who chose to waive their right to a jury trial. The SJC-ordered study yielded good recommendations, including the curbing of judge shopping. If the Remy cases say anything about the quality of justice in domestic-violence cases, a similar independent investigation is long overdue.