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Sex offender, free on bail, is charged with new rape

Shawn McClinton had two prior rape convictions, records show

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, who has argued for freeing many prisoners, said releasing McClinton is going too far.
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, who has argued for freeing many prisoners, said releasing McClinton is going too far.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Three weeks after being freed from the jail where he was being held on rape charges, Level 3 sex offender Shawn McClinton faced new allegations Thursday that he kidnapped, beat, and raped a woman he met walking along a Quincy street.

The new charges against McClinton, 39, sparked immediate criticism of the Massachusetts Bail Fund, the group that posted the $15,000 bail to set him free.

Boston Police Commissioner William Gross said he was “absolutely appalled” that someone with McClinton’s history would be freed. “We’re getting to a point in society where we’re giving more credence to criminals than victims. We’re talking about violent offenders. Why would you bail someone who committed rapes?

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McClinton, who was convicted of rape in 1994 and 2007 and has a pending rape case in Suffolk Superior Court, was ordered held without bail Thursday by Judge Lisa Grant of Dorchester District Court.

“I find probable cause that Mr. McClinton committed a new violent offense, while on release for a violent offense,” the judge said. “I find there are no conditions that would ensure the safety of the community, particularly females.”

Officials at the Bail Fund, who oppose the bail system on philosophical grounds, did not respond to requests for comment. The fund, whose slogan is “Free Them All,” argues that requiring cash bail for defendants to get out of jail before trial is unfair to the poor and ineffective at preventing crime.

If a prosecutor believes a defendant is too dangerous to release, the fund and its supporters contend, the prosecutor should ask a judge to declare him or her dangerous enough to be held indefinitely.

The group has existed for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the killing of George Floyd by police in Minnesota have spurred a massive infusion of donations to bail funds nationally. As recently as January, it was posting bails of up to only $500, but in recent weeks the group has paid as much as $85,000 to free a defendant who was accused of shooting someone in broad daylight. This week, it bailed out 30 defendants in Boston, a court official said.

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But as the Bail Fund has paid increasingly higher bail amounts, law enforcement officials have raised concerns that the group is putting dangerous people back on the streets of Massachusetts.

Even Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, who has argued for freeing many prisoners, said releasing McClinton is going too far.

The Bail Fund, she said, often posts bail for low level offenders, who remain behind bars unfairly mainly because they’re poor.

“However, aggravated rape, kidnapping for the purpose of sexual assault, strangulation and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon are not low-level misdemeanors. They are violent felonies,” Rollins said. “And the person they bailed out is a sexual predator that hurts and rapes women and children. The Bail Fund posted $15,000 and set McClinton loose on our community ... They have no responsibility to or compassion for the victims and survivors of his crimes, or the families that he has destroyed. I do. "

The new allegations against McClinton are similar to those in the open 2018 case in Suffolk Superior Court. In the older case, a woman told police she was attacked in a McDonald’s bathroom, where McClinton ordered her to perform oral sex on him at knife-point. He allegedly slapped, choked, and threatened to kill her.

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He was awaiting trial on those charges when the Bail Fund posted his $15,000 cash bail, according to Assistant District Attorney Michael Glennon, the prosecutor in both cases.

In the current case, police allege the woman met McClinton on Tuesday in Quincy and went with him to his home in Dorchester. When she tried to leave, she told police, he accused her of being an undercover police officer. He became enraged and started beating her. He allegedly strangled her and forced her at knife-point to perform oral sex. He said, “Do you know what I could do to you?” according to the police report.

She lost consciousness. After she woke up, she fled and wandered the streets, where a bystander found her 40 minutes later. She had significant cuts and scrapes and bruising around her neck, Glennon told the judge. The suspect is charged with aggravated rape, kidnapping, strangulation, and assault with a dangerous weapon.

“The charges in this case are significant and serious and carry with them a significant incentive for Mr. McClinton not to appear in court,” said Glennon, who added that McClinton had previously been sentenced to eight to 12 years for another rape. He requested McClinton be held without bail.

McClinton’s attorney, Byron Knight, argued that the $15,000 bail should be restored. “It wasn’t a forcible rape, and he denies some of these allegations,” he said, adding that McClinton doesn’t have a “significant number” of court defaults on his record.

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The judge ordered him held without bail for 60 days, and then on $500,000 cash bail. If he makes that bail, she said, she would order him to wear a GPS ankle monitor.

Commissioner Gross said the McClinton case shows the risk of bailing out people who face serious charges. He said Bail Fund supporters should think more about the victims of crime.

“You talk about a violation of constitutional rights? Women aren’t free to walk around because of this predator, and the Bail Fund wants to bail someone like that? Gross said. “The Bail Fund folks are not from the inner city. I don’t know who they think they’re helping. They’ve proved they are a detriment to the community.”

In early July, the Bail Fund put up $85,000 to free Karmau Cotton-Landers, 25, who was accused of shooting someone in broad daylight on Boston Common in early April. Other defendants recently freed by the Bail Fund include Walker Browning, accused of robbing five women, two at knife-point; David Privette, facing charges of holding up a gas station at gunpoint; and Otis Walker, who had been held since late 2018 on three counts of child rape. These three were being held on bails ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.

Atara Rich-Shea, the fund’s unpaid executive director, did not respond Thursday to the Globe’s request for comment. But the Bail Fund’s website makes it clear it will help any defendant post bail, no matter the severity of the charges or their criminal records:

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“THE MASSACHUSETTS BAIL FUND IS A CHARGE NEUTRAL BAIL FUND; WE POST BAIL REGARDLESS OF COURT HISTORY, CHARGE, OR CIRCUMSTANCES. Our only limitation is access to funds and staffing.”


Andrea Estes can be reached at andrea.estes@globe.com.