Massachusetts Gov. Baker announces commutations of Thomas Koonce and William Allen

The Baker-Polito Administration today announced that Governor Charlie Baker is commuting the first-degree murder sentences of Thomas Koonce and William Allen to second degree murder, making each immediately eligible for parole. The Parole Board, serving in its function as the Advisory Board of Pardons, recently recommended commutation for both Mr. Koonce and Mr. Allen.

The Massachusetts Constitution grants the Governor the power to commute, or remit, a portion of a criminal sentence. Governor Baker issued updated Executive Clemency Guidelines in February 2020. Petitions for commutation are reviewed by the Advisory Board of Pardons. The Board evaluates the petition, weighing the factors laid out in the Executive Guidelines, and makes a recommendation to the Governor. The Board had recommended that the Governor commute the sentences of both Mr. Koonce and Mr. Allen to second-degree murder. The commutations must now be approved by the Governor’s Council. If approved, Mr. Koonce and Mr. Allen would be eligible for a parole hearing and would be on parole for life if parole was granted.

“The authority given to me by the people of Massachusetts to commute and pardon individuals is one of the most sacred and important powers of this office,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “There are few things as important to me in this position as ensuring justice is served for the individuals impacted by a crime and my responsibility to ensure fair application of justice to all. To make these difficult decisions, I spent months carefully weighing the circumstances of the two terrible crimes, the actions of the two men since and the Parole Board’s recommendation for commutation. I believe both men, having taken responsibility for their actions and paid their debt to the Commonwealth by serving sentences longer than most individuals found guilty of similar actions, deserve the right to seek parole from prison. I hope the Governor’s Council carefully weighs the facts of these cases as well as the undeniable impact on the families involved and reaches the same decision.”

According to the updated guidelines released in February 2020, commutation “is intended to serve as a strong motivation for confined persons to utilize available resources for self-development and self-improvement and as an incentive for them to become law-abiding citizens and return to society.” Commutation does not excuse or negate an inmate’s criminal conduct, nor is it a review of the trial or appellate legal proceedings that resulted in the inmate’s conviction.

Thomas Koonce is a 54-year old former United States Marine who has served 30 years in prison for the murder of Mark Santos. On July 20, 1987, Mr. Koonce fired out of the window of a car during an altercation in New Bedford, fatally wounding Mr. Santos. On June 23, 1992, a Bristol Superior Court jury convicted Mr. Koonce of first-degree murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. During his time in prison Mr. Koonce has participated in significant programming, become a leader to help other inmates benefit from some of those same programs, and helped to establish new programs, including the restorative justice program at MCI-Norfolk. Mr. Koonce earned a Bachelor of Liberal Studies, magna cum laude, through Boston University’s prison education program. He has been active in his church and employed throughout his incarceration.

William Allen is a 48-year-old man who has served 27 years in prison for his role in the murder of Purvis Bester. On February 8, 1994, Mr. Allen and a co-defendant broke into Mr. Bester’s Brockton apartment intending to rob him, and the co-defendant fatally stabbed Mr. Bester. On August 29, 1997, a Brockton Superior Court jury convicted Mr. Allen of first-degree murder for his joint participation in the robbery, and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. While incarcerated Mr. Allen participated in significant programming – among them restorative justice and violence alternatives – as both a student and a facilitator. He has earned vocational licenses to be a barber, food service worker, and law clerk, served as a Eucharistic minister for the Catholic community, and consistently held a job, including working as a companion and assistant to severely mentally ill patients at Bridgewater State Hospital.

City of New Bedford’s fiscal year 2020 financial report awarded for excellence

The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), the preeminent association of government finance professionals in the United States and Canada, recently announced that the City’s fiscal year 2020 Annual Comprehensive Report has earned the association’s Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting.

An impartial panel judged the report to meet the program’s high standards, which include demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the report.

“The City has amassed an impressive track record in earning awards from the GFOA, with this latest award marking the sixth such recognition during my administration,” Mayor Jon Mitchell said. “These awards are a direct reflection of the dedication and professionalism of our financial management team, and I could not be prouder or more grateful for their good work.”

The Certificate of Achievement is the GFOA’s highest recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management, the GFOA said in a press release announcing the award.

To date, 1,070 incorporated cities and towns across the country have received this distinction for fiscal year 2020 reporting. In 2019, 2,094 of the country’s 19,502 eligible and incorporated cities and towns, or less than 11 percent, received the award.

While most municipal governments only issue general purpose financial statements, more ambitious issuers develop an Annual Comprehensive Financial Report, which is a more extensive and informative document.

“The Certificate of Achievement award is affirmation of the City’s progress in delivering meaningful information on municipal operations in ways that can best be used by a variety of stakeholders,” former City Auditor Robert Ekstrom said. “This initiative required a close working relationship between the City’s administration and Hague, Sahady & Co., its independent auditors, and I share in their pride of attaining this milestone.”

This is the first time New Bedford has received the award for excellence in financial reporting. Earlier this year, the GFOA presented the City with its fifth consecutive Distinguished Budget Presentation Award, for quality and transparency in the presentation of its annual budgets.

Mayflower Wind to Host Virtual Open House on its SouthCoast Economic Development Investments

Mayflower Wind, the developer of an offshore wind project located in deep waters far off the coast of Massachusetts will host a free virtual open house on Thursday, January 27 from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. to provide information about its project and economic development investments for SouthCoast communities. Mayflower Wind was recently awarded 400 megawatts in Massachusetts’ latest offshore wind energy procurement and the win is accompanied by an economic development package that includes commitments to spend up to $42 million.

Combined with its first award, Mayflower Wind is looking forward to delivering 1200 MW of low-cost renewable energy to Massachusetts residents and businesses and is committed to investing in local communities and supporting economic development across the state’s SouthCoast.

The second in a series of virtual public forums, The Future of Clean Energy is Here, Mayflower Wind will present specific initiatives including:

· Education, Training and Workforce Development: Employment and training opportunities at every level of the offshore wind industry – from turbine installation, operation and maintenance to project management –will help to equip tomorrow’s offshore wind workers, especially for the benefit of local communities, including Native Americans, women, minorities, veterans, and low-income populations.
· Supply Chain: Opportunities for qualified local and regional contractors and suppliers to provide goods and services and play a role in the industry.
· Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Creating opportunities for all members of the community to have a role in the offshore wind industry.
· Applied Research and Innovation: Investments in entrepreneurial initiatives that spur new technologies, services, and businesses as part of a regional Blue Economy approach
· Ports and Supporting Infrastructure: Mayflower Wind will develop its operations and maintenance port at the Borden & Remington site in Fall River, MA and run its crews out of New Bedford, MA among other initiatives.
· Low-Income Ratepayer Reductions: Mayflower Wind will support low-income customers through strategic electrification initiatives.

Mayflower Wind’s Will Cotta, Supply Chain Manager; Christopher Hardy, External Outreach Manager; Kelsey Perry, Community Liaison Officer; and Dugan Becker, Communications Assistant will host the presentation and Q&A session via Zoom. All are welcome to participate in this FREE event by registering in advance at this link.

“Fall River and New Bedford are the anchors of our SouthCoast activity,” said Daniel Hubbard, Director of External Affairs & General Counsel. “We encourage everyone to attend this event to learn more on how local communities will benefit from the offshore wind industry with well-paying jobs and community investments.”

Mayflower Wind has the potential to generate over 2,000 megawatts of clean renewable energy. The project expects to begin generating power by the mid-2020’s.

The January 2022 virtual open house continues the company’s series of free online events to provide project information and a discussion forum for community members and others. Sign up for project updates here.

About Mayflower Wind
Mayflower Wind, a 50/50 joint venture between Shell New Energies US LLC and Ocean Winds, is developing an offshore wind lease area with the potential to supply over 2,000 megawatts (MW) of low-cost clean energy to electricity customers in New England. Mayflower Wind is committed to zero harm, innovation, and industry development, and investing in our local communities. For more information visit www.mayflowerwind.com.

New Bedford Fire Department Awarded Nearly $50,000 Safety Equipment Grant

The Baker-Polito Administration today announced $5 million in grant funding awarded to 306 Massachusetts fire departments from the FY22 Firefighter Safety Equipment Grant Program – New Bedford will receive $49,994.60. This program enables fire departments to purchase a variety of equipment that will make firefighters’ jobs safer. This is the second year that funding has been awarded for this purpose as part of a $25 million bond bill filed by the Baker-Polito Administration to support firefighter safety and health in the coming years.

“Our communities and families depend on firefighters in difficult and dangerous moments,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “This program is an opportunity to show our deep appreciation for their work by ensuring they have the tools they need to stay safe and healthy.”

“While the last two years have been so difficult for all of us, firefighters and first responders throughout the Commonwealth have courageously continued to serve the public,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “We are grateful for their efforts and proud to be able to provide them with critical equipment and support.”

Fire departments in Massachusetts were able to apply to this program for 118 different types of eligible equipment, including personal protective clothing, gear washers and dryers, thermal imaging cameras, assorted hand tools and extrication equipment, communications resources, hazardous gas meters, fitness equipment, and more. In many cases, the purchase of this equipment will help departments attain compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration or National Fire Protection Association safety standards.

“The toll that occupational cancer has taken on the fire service is unfortunately immense,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Security Terrence Reidy. “We often see and hear about heroic rescues in the face of obvious and overwhelming danger, but the risks firefighters face go well beyond those events. I am thrilled that we can provide so many fire departments with this funding for equipment that will reduce firefighters’ long-term exposure to the cancer-causing materials they encounter every day at work.”

“While many of our firefighters dedicate their entire careers to the fire service, countless others who have full-time jobs in different fields spend their spare time responding to emergencies for on-call and volunteer fire departments across the state,” said Undersecretary of Homeland Security Jeanne Benincasa Thorpe. “They all deserve the best equipment we can get them, and we are so grateful for everything that they do.”

“Best practices for firefighter safety are constantly evolving as technology advances and our understanding of the short- and long-term health impacts of the work improves,” said State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey. “This program is so important to help fire departments modernize their equipment and get firefighters the protection they need. The long-term health outcomes realized from these grant awards will have a truly immeasurable benefit.”

“The job of the modern firefighter takes countless forms. At any given moment, they could be asked to respond to a fire, a hazardous materials leak, a car accident, or a medical call. Equipping them for safety in each of these situations is a significant financial burden for every department,” said Centerville-Osterville-Marston Mills Fire Chief Michael Winn, President of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of Massachusetts. “We are so thankful that funding was made available to help with this challenge, especially at a time when so many departments are facing budget issues due to COVID-19.”

A complete list of the awards by department can be found here.

Equipment Summary
A summary of some of the most frequently funded items through this program can be found below:

Rochester Fire Department donates tanker to Kentucky Fire Department wiped out by tornado

Nearly 2 weeks ago we shared the story about the donation of a tanker by the Rochester Fire Department to the fire department in Cayce, Kentucky. The sole fire station for the town and their 4 pieces of apparatus were destroyed by the storms.


“Our former and reliable Tanker 198 left on a RYCO flatbed truck and trailer on January 10th to begin its journey to Cayce, Kentucky.

The script could not be written any more perfect as the RYCO driver who is delivering the truck on a 1,036 mile journey to Cayce, KY is none other than Retired Middleboro Firefighter, Jim Wiksten who served the town of Middleboro proudly for 32 years.

We would like to thank RYCO for their generosity, the Massachusetts State Police for the escort, and WCVB Newscenter 5 for the great exclusive coverage. We can’t wait for the truck to begin its next chapter serving the Cayce community.”

Rochester Fire Department photo.

Rochester Fire Department photo.

Rochester Fire Department photo.

New Bedford Fire Department responds to fire alarm at Temple Landing housing complex

“Yesterday afternoon at 1428 hrs, the NBFD received a call from an alarm monitoring service reporting an automatic fire alarm activation at 166 Chancery Street. This residential occupancy contains seven living units and is located in Temple Landing.

Upon arrival, crews were met by a resident who informed them there was a shower curtain on fire in the second-floor bathroom. Crews made their way to the second floor with a hand line and found the residential fire sprinkler system had activated and was containing the fire to the bathroom. Crews were able to extinguish the fire which extended to other combustibles with one hand line. Crews were assisted on scene by the NBPD and NBEMS.

Two adults and three children are displaced from the dwelling unit and are being assisted by the American Red Cross. The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Fire Investigation Unit. There were no civilian or firefighter injuries.”

New Bedford Fire Department photo.

U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Rollins announces appointment of First Assistant U.S. Attorney

Rachael S. Rollins announced that Joshua S. Levy has been appointed to serve as First Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. Levy was formally sworn-in today by U.S. District Court Chief Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV.

“Mr. Levy has distinguished himself as someone with outstanding character, judgment and expertise,” said U.S. Attorney Rollins. “His decades as a litigator on a wide range of criminal and civil matters have allowed him to cultivate an excellent legal acumen that will be an invaluable asset to me and this Office. Mr. Levy is a tireless and dedicated attorney, and I am confident that his breadth of experience will serve this District well. I look forward to working closely with him in this new capacity.”

Mr. Levy has over 25 years of legal experience and, prior to his appointment as First Assistant U.S. Attorney, was a partner at the global law firm, Ropes & Gray LLP and co-chair of the firm’s global Litigation and Enforcement practice group. At Ropes & Gray, Mr. Levy specialized in white-collar and complex civil litigation – particularly in the health care, pharmaceutical, medical device and Health IT industries. In 2016, he was named as one of the Lawyers of the Year by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly and, in 2021, he was named co-managing partner of Ropes & Gray’s Boston office.

Previously, Mr. Levy was an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, from 1997 to 2004, serving in the Criminal Division’s Economic Crimes Unit. There, he prosecuted a wide range of white-collar crimes including health care fraud, securities and investor fraud, terrorism financing and environmental crimes.

Mr. Levy spent the first four years of his legal career at Ropes & Gray LLP. During that time, Mr. Levy was assigned a six-month rotation with the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office in the Cambridge District Court. Prior to that, he was a law clerk for the Honorable Harold Herman Greene with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Mr. Levy graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center in 1992, where he was associate editor of the Georgetown Law Journal. He received his Bachelor of Arts in History from Brown University in 1987.

City of New Bedford to host public forums to focus on housing, annual action plan for federal funding

The City of New Bedford’s Office of Housing & Community Development is holding two virtual public meetings this week to discuss the best use of federal funding to improve the quality of life for New Bedford residents. The public meetings will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 11 and Wednesday, Jan. 12. Both meetings will be conducted via Zoom:

Tuesday, Jan. 11 at 6 p.m. via Zoom: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/81589048038?pwd=UFJRbWhobFJxL3ZPckt1bTF4SlltQT09
Meeting ID: 815 8904 8038 Passcode: 320337

Wednesday, Jan. 12 at 6 p.m. via Zoom: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/87956484822?pwd=OHFmajRmZ2crOHd5c1ZkOVMrVkZpZz09
Meeting ID: 879 5648 4822 Passcode: 464507

These public meetings are hosted by the City and designed to gather critical input from New Bedford residents. The public input will help the City formulate a strategic plan for using federal funding to address needs and priorities in housing, public facilities, public infrastructure, parks and playgrounds, community services, homelessness resources, and economic development. Input from the community is integral in shaping the priorities of these federal programs.

The City of New Bedford anticipates receiving about $2.7 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, $975,000 through the HOME Investment Partnership Program, and $230,000 in Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) funding to serve low- and moderate-income residents and neighborhoods in Fiscal Year 2022, which runs from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023.

The public meetings will include presentations by the City staff, an assessment of community needs and priorities, and a review the City’s recent Housing and Community Development accomplishments.

The meetings will be an excellent opportunity for citizens to voice their opinions about how the City can best use its federal money to improve the quality of life in New Bedford and to suggest specific additions or improvements to facilities and services in its neighborhoods. Anyone who intends on applying for funding is strongly encouraged to attend and participate in one of these two public forums.

The Office of Housing & Community Development will also conduct two virtually based RFP Workshops on Friday, Jan. 14, at 9 a.m. for CDBG funds and at 10 a.m. for ESG funds, to assist potential applicants with the Request for Proposal process and provide technical assistance.

People interested in attending one or both of these workshops are asked to contact the Office of Housing & Community Development no later than Thursday, Jan. 13, to receive the necessary Zoom access information.

Questions regarding the public meetings or the Annual Action Plan process may be directed to Jennifer Clarke, Deputy Director of Community Development, at (508) 979-1500 or by email at jennifer.clarke@newbedford-ma.gov .

New Bedford Police charge man with 12 offenses including A&B on police officer, after car pursuit

“On January 9, 2022, around 1 a.m., officers observed a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed heading northbound on Bolton Street. When officers attempted to run a traffic stop, the operator of the vehicle, identified as Robert Guerrero Jr., 32, of 62 Sherman Street, failed to stop and ran through traffic signs down Rivet Street. After a brief speed chase, the vehicle then collided with a fence at the intersection of Hyacinth Street and Rivet Street.

When officers approached the vehicle, Guerrero exited the vehicle and proceeded to flee on foot until officers were able to make contact with him. Officers said Guerrero became physical in which he attempted to punch and kick, and bit one of the officers.

Guerrero was arrested and charged with the following:

• Leaving the scene of property damage
• Reckless operation of a motor vehicle
• Disturbing the peace
• A&B on a police officer
• Failure to stop for police
• Resisting arrest
• Registration suspended/ revoked
• License suspended/ revoked
• Illegally attached plated
• Uninsured motor vehicle
• Speeding
• Failure to stop/ yield”

Rhode island man convicted of stealing large flat screen televisions from Walmarts in Massachusetts, threatening a store manager

A 38-year-old Providence, RI man was convicted last month of stealing large flat screen televisions from Walmarts in Seekonk and North Attleboro, threatening a store manager with a knife and driving recklessly on Route 195, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas m. Quinn III announced.

Luis Adorno pleaded guilty in Fall River Superior Court on December 21 to indictments charging him with armed robbery, assault with a dangerous weapon, operating a motor vehicle to endanger, larceny and unlawful removal of an anti-theft device.

On July 5, 2019, the defendant was confronted inside the Walmart in North Attleboro and was asked to produce a receipt for a 43-inch television he was carting out of the store. The defendant refused, removed the theft detection device and fled the store. The defendant came back to the same Walmart of July 7, 2019 and stole two 55-inch televisions.

Then, on July 8, 2019, a Walmart manager in Seekonk told police that he confronted this defendant as he was in the process of stealing a 55-inch television. Once confronted, the defendant pulled a knife and said, “Come at me.” The manager allowed the defendant to load the television into his vehicle, but recorded the event on his cell phone. As the defendant was fleeing in his vehicle, he attempted to strike the manager.

On July 9, 2019 a Swansea Police officer spotted the defendant driving his Honda Element on Route 6. When the officer attempted to stop the defendant’s vehicle, the defendant gave the officer the middle finger and then drove directly at the police cruiser, missing it by inches. The defendant then drove over a media and began driving at 100 MPH towards the Rhode Island border. The defendant was swerving in and out of traffic during rush hour and drove fort a distance in the breakdown lane. The police chase was cut off near the Rhode Island border for safety reasons.

The defendant was eventually arrested in Rhode Island after committing similar offenses in that state.

Judge Raffi Yessayam sentenced the defendant to serve three to four years in state prison, to b followeby two years of probation.

The case was prosecuted by Co-First Assistant District Attorney Karen O’Sullivan and Assistant District Attorney Jeanne Veenstra.

“The defendant is a threat to public safety with a history of committing serious crimes,” District Attorney Quinn said. “A state prison sentence was warranted.”

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