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George Perrot, whose decades-old rape conviction was overturned, faces a new rape charge

George Perrot (center) appeared beside his lawyer Thomas Torrisi (left) in Essex Superior Court in Salem on Monday.
George Perrot (center) appeared beside his lawyer Thomas Torrisi (left) in Essex Superior Court in Salem on Monday.(Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe)

George Perrot, who made headlines in 2016 after a judge overturned his decades-old conviction for a Springfield rape, faces a separate rape charge in connection with a January assault on a woman on a Lawrence sidewalk, according to the Essex district attorney’s office.

Perrot, 50, is due to appear in Essex Superior Court in Salem Monday on charges of rape, resisting arrest, and assault and battery on a police officer, said Carrie Kimball, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.

Perrot’s arrest and pending arraignment, reported by MassLive on Friday, were confirmed Sunday by Kimball in a phone interview.

Perrot became a symbol for criminal justice reform advocates after a Superior Court judge in 2016 ordered a new trial in connection with the 1985 rape of a 78-year-old woman in her Springfield home.

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At the time, police believed the rape was tied to a series of attacks on women in the area. Perrot was 17 when he was charged in the case and was convicted in 1987.

Perrot, who had been serving a life term, was released on bail in 2016 after a series of court procedures. Prosecutors dropped the charges the following year after he had been behind bars for about 30 years.

“In life there are so few times when any of us have a chance to right a major injustice,” said one of his attorneys, Kirsten Mayer, in 2016. “We feel privileged that we had the opportunity to help Mr. Perrot.”

Perrot’s 2016 release was not celebrated by prosecutors.

On Sunday, Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said in a statement that his office opposed a new trial for Perrot, along with two previous jury trials, three appeals, and “multiple motions for post-conviction relief since his arrest on these matters in the 1980s.

“We have and do continue to maintain the position that George Perrot committed several heinous offenses on elderly female victims,” Gulluni said. “Regrettably, there is another victim who has now allegedly suffered at his hands, three decades later.”

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The new charges facing Perrot won’t affect the fight for criminal justice reform, said James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology, law & public policy at Northeastern University.

The court system must follow the rules, he said, and when a person is prosecuted, the focus is on whether that was done fairly and justly.

“When someone has their day in court, it should be through a fair process,” Fox said in a phone interview Sunday. “The fact [that] there are cases where people are released who may indeed have been guilty doesn’t change the fact that we need to hold police and prosecutors to standards that ensure defendants receive a fair trial.”

Fox did not comment on the specifics of the new charges against Perrot, and spoke generally.

In 2016, Fox co-authored a column that lauded the decision to overturn Perrot’s Springfield rape conviction.

A legal team worked to free Perrot, including attorneys from Ropes & Gray LLP, the Innocence Project, and the Innocence Program for the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services. His case was also highlighted in reporting by the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University.

In 2018, Perrot sued Springfield police, the city of Springfield, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in federal court in Boston, for the harm they caused and “redress for the loss of liberty and the terrible hardship that [Perrot] has endured and continues to suffer as a result of the Defendants’ misconduct,” according to a court complaint.

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Attorneys who worked on Perrot’s state and federal cases could not be reached Sunday. A representative of the Schuster Institute could not be reached.

The Lawrence charges stem from an incident during the day of Jan. 4, after a motorist saw a person lying on the sidewalk along Broadway.

A Lawrence police officer arrived at the scene and saw a partially naked woman and Perrot on the ground. Both were unconscious.

After the officer awakened Perrot, Perrot charged him and the officer used his baton to subdue him.

The woman was suffering from an overdose and regained consciousness after receiving Narcan. She told police Perrot had offered her some powder and asked her to snort it. Police believed the powder was heroin.

She knew Perrot, she told police, but the two were not dating. She had not consented to sex, she told them.

Kimball said Perrot pleaded not guilty to rape and other charges during a Jan. 7 arraignment at Lawrence District Court.

A grand jury indicted Perrot on the charges in March, she said. Perrot has been in custody since the Lawrence incident, and he is being held at the Middleton House of Correction, Kimball said.

In 1985, Perrot and the 78-year-old victim lived in the same Springfield neighborhood. She had known him since he was a child.

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Late that year, Perrot was arrested for breaking into a home in the neighborhood, and because of the way he did it, investigators believed he was responsible for the series of rapes.

Three women who had been raped, including the 78-year-old, did not pick him from a lineup.

The 78-year-old said her attacker was clean-shaven; Perrot, at that time, had a moustache and goatee.

A confession obtained by police from Perrot came while he was high on drugs and incoherent.

Francis Bloom, a former assistant district attorney who served as a prosecutor in the case, later admitted he authorized the use of a phony confession in 1987 to induce two suspects to cooperate with the investigation, the Globe reported in 1991.

The state Supreme Judicial Court overturned Perrot’s 1987 conviction and said the trial judge allowed improper evidence to be used by prosecutors.

Perrot was convicted a second time in 1992, granted another trial in 2001, but had his 1992 conviction reinstated two years later on an appeal by prosecutors.

Attorneys for Perrot had sought another trial for their client. During a 2015 hearing, an FBI expert testified that a single hair found at the scene of the Springfield rape was a match for Perrot.

But the accuracy of microscopic hair analysis was overstated, the FBI conceded.

After he was ordered freed in 2016, Perrot was seen hugging his mother, and she whispered into his ear.

“She told me I better not go back in there,” Perrot said.


John Ellement, Nestor Ramos, Yvonne Abraham, and Peter Schworm of the Globe staff contributed to this report. John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.

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