On a March night in 2015, Mickey A. Rivera and three other reputed gang members were caught on security video as they strolled out of a Fall River Walmart, then drove away in a silver Toyota with a black hood.
They had stolen red bandannas to cover their faces, and went looking for someone to rob, according to a confession one of the four teenagers later gave to police.
They came upon 20-year-old Anthony Carvalho as he walked alone down the street. He tried to run, but two of the teenagers opened fire, hitting him four times, including a fatal shot to the back, according to a police report.
The two alleged shooters were charged with murder and ordered held without bail, and have remained in custody for more than three years while they await trial. Rivera was accused of armed assault with intent to rob and several other offenses, and held on $35,000 cash bail, which he could not post.
Now, new details have emerged about Rivera’s alleged role in the robbery, as well as the circumstances around Superior Court Judge Thomas F. McGuire Jr.’s decision to reduce his bail to $1,000, a decision that has come under intense scrutiny after Rivera’s role in a fatal crash on Cape Cod last week.
Rivera was able to pay the much lower bail amount in September 2017 and remain free before his trial. Then last week he led police on a chase that ended in a fatal crash on Cape Cod, killing Kevin Quinn, who was on his way home from visiting his wife and newborn daughter in the hospital. Rivera and a passenger in his car, Jocelyn Goyette, were also killed.
A review of voluminous court filings and a transcript of Rivera’s bail hearing chronicle Rivera’s criminal history before the robbery, raising questions about whether he posed too great a public safety risk to warrant bail and whether the fatal accident could have been prevented.
Bristol District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III, whose office was prosecuting Rivera, has denounced the bail decision and the failure of the state probation department to notify his office when Rivera was charged with drunken driving in June. Rivera was released without bail in that case, despite the felony assault charges against him, and Quinn said his office would have sought to revoke his bail if they had known about the drunken-driving incident.
The probation department has launched a review “to determine where the breakdown in its district attorney notification procedures occurred,” a spokeswoman said Friday.
The September bail hearing was initiated by Rivera’s lawyer, Robert Tutino, in light of a recent Supreme Judicial Court ruling that instructed judges to set bail at levels defendants can afford to pay. The court held that cash bail is meant to assure that defendants show up in court — so as not to forfeit the money they post — not to keep them behind bars.
Judges have the authority to hold defendants without bail until trial based on their dangerousness, but under state law prosecutors can only raise that issue at arraignment.
“Although it’s a serious matter, I’m prohibited from taking into account dangerousness in terms of setting a cash bail,” said McGuire, the judge, at the hearing, according to the transcript. “I’m required to set a cash bail that is affordable to the defendant if that will assure his appearance.”
McGuire said he reviewed Rivera’s police record, which included an assault and battery conviction and a continuance involving a stolen car, and noted that he did not have a history of missing court appearances.
“In light of that, I think I’m required to set a bail that he can meet,” McGuire said.
In arguing for low bail, Tutino said Rivera had been working at Papa Gino’s at the time of his 2015 arrest, but had no money of his own and would have to rely on relatives to pay his bail. He said Rivera’s mother was unable to work because she was deaf and disabled, but one of his brothers had recently saved $1,000.
“They might be able to make an amount of $500 to $1,000,” Tutino told the judge.
He also told the judge that Rivera was worried about his safety because he had been assaulted by his codefendants before a court hearing two months earlier. He said court officers were also injured during the fight.
Tutino urged the judge to release Rivera, with the requirement that he wear a GPS monitoring device to track his movements round-the clock. Rivera could live with his girlfriend and work at her family’s moving company, he said.
“He’s a gentleman who is certainly charged with a serious offense, and he knows that,” Tutino said, pledging that he would show up to “each and every” hearing. “He wants to be able to address this case from outside, rather than in the stresses of being incarcerated.”
Arguing for higher bail, prosecutor Patrick Driscoll said Rivera faced serious charges related to a homicide, including one punishable by up to 20 years in prison. He said that Rivera had misled investigators by indicating he was in the “wrong place, wrong time” before the shooting and “knew nothing about what was going to occur.”
Later, according to Driscoll, one of the teenagers involved in the incident told police “there was talk of a robbery before the shooting” and that he, Rivera, and the two alleged shooters went to Walmart to get bandannas.
According to court documents, that teenager told police that the four of them stole four red bandannas “to not show their true identity as Asian Boyz,” a street gang based in Southern California, according to court records.
The men had discussed “Hitting a Lick,” a street term for robbing someone, and picked up two guns beforehand, according to the records.
Shortly after Rivera’s March 2015 arrest in that case, Rivera was charged in connection with armed assault and other charges related to a double stabbing that happened during a home invasion in Taunton three days before Carvalho’s shooting. The attacks were carried out by two men wearing black bandannas as masks, records show.
The charges were later dropped because the two women could not identify the attackers. Another witness was granted Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, authorities said.
In July 2015, Rivera was accused of kicking another inmate in the head. Months later, he pleaded guilty to that assault.
In a ruling from the bench during Rivera’s September bail hearing, McGuire said he considered Rivera’s criminal record when reducing his bail. He ordered Rivera to wear a GPS device, but did not impose a curfew or other restrictions.
Nancy Gertner, a retired federal judge and a senior lecturer at Harvard Law School, defended McGuire’s decision to reduce bail, saying he was following a state court decision that is part of a national bail reform effort to prevent people from being jailed before trial simply because they are poor.
“What the judge did is exactly right,” Gertner said.
But Quinn, the district attorney, said the judge was not mandated to set such a low bail. He said judges may still set high cash bails based on a defendant’s criminal history and other factors, then are required to explain those decisions.
Rivera was warned by a court clerk before his release that if he were charged with another crime, his bail could be revoked. However, when he was arrested in June for drunken driving, he remained free, but had his license suspended.
Rivera’s brother, Bruno, wrote in a Facebook message to the Globe that Rivera was “evading the police because he didn’t want to violate his bail agreement & get sent back to jail for operating a motor vehicle on a suspended license.”
“I KNOW that doesn’t justify his actions or make the decision he made ok,” he wrote. “Me & my family are truly sorry for the loss of the other 2 victims that night. As we’re not only mourning the loss of our baby brother, but as the innocent lives that were taken as well. No one deserved to lose their lives that night. No one.”Shelley Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.