Monthly Archives: March 2013
Being overweight and gay is very difficult. It feels like there’s a uniform you have to fit into: You have to have washboard abs and wear the tight clothes, and I didn’t have any of that. I felt very uncomfortable going out to the clubs and meeting guys, because I wasn’t comfortable with myself. A lot of times people wouldn’t even give me a second glance, because everyone is expected to fit that image. It was definitely rough and there weren’t a lot of places where I felt romantically accepted.
“I could have pled guilty and served a lesser sentence but as a gay, proud man I wasn’t going to do it,” Baran told EDGE in a recent interview.
After spending 21 years in constant fear for his life, being beaten, raped, verbally assaulted and shuffled from penitentiary to penitentiary, Baran was conditionally released in 2006 (monitor restriction, barred from leaving the state, home curfew) when hidden evidence and inflammatory misconduct came to light, overturning his conviction. While he regained his freedom seven years ago, Bernie continues working to wipe the slate clean.
There were so many days, weeks, months when minute to minute he felt nothing but his life ticking away, evoking suicidal thoughts, Baran confessed, saying, “What got me through it all was the love and support of my mother and family, but most importantly was knowing in my heart the truth would come out.”
The truth did come out, but without amends. The accusations were a witch hunt. The trial was a mockery. The assistant district attorney Daniel Ford’s actions throughout the trial were questionable.
Baran was a teacher’s aide at the Early Childhood Development Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Allegations of sexual abuse surfaced as parents learned of his sexual orientation. By the time of his trial, six alleged victims, both boys and girls, had come forth with accusations goaded by their parents, psychologists and the prosecution. Refuted interview techniques, such as using puppets to emulate abuse, were used to lead false testimony. Though several of the children’s accusations were either recanted or unconfirmed in court, the jury was not swayed, finding Baran guilty on all counts.
The courtroom was closed during testimonies of the children, violating the rights of their accused to a public trial. According to Baran, an “expert” witness for the prosecution, a child psychologist, was years later learned to be unqualified to testify for not holding a doctorate in her professional field.
After Baran’s conviction was overturned, questions arose regarding legal retribution against Ford. But Eric Tennen, an attorney for Baran, told EDGE earlier this month that there will not be any legal repercussions for Ford’s apparent misconduct.
“There is no litigation planned against Daniel Ford because prosecutors enjoy absolute immunity for their conduct as prosecutors,” Tennen said. “With some small exceptions — none applicable here — we would have no ability to sue him for anything he did in the prosecution of Mr. Baran.”
Baran was released from prison pending the appeal of his motion for a new trial. The appeals court did not ultimately decide his case until 2009. Only then could he file a civil lawsuit seeking compensation, in which he did so, agreeing to a settlement with the Commonwealth in 2012 in the sum of $400,000.
Though Baran settled, he also stipulated with the court to exercise the right to file for expungement, which he also did in late 2012. The Commonwealth strictly opposed his motion, saying Baran chose to waive his right to have a jury reach a “judgment in his favor,” instead, voluntarily settling for money.
This opposition is being upheld by Attorney General Martha Coakley, and on Feb. 26, 2013, a hearing was held at the Suffolk Superior Court as to the matter of Expungement of Records.
“The judge did not decide anything on the 26th,” Tennen told EDGE. “She took the matter under advisement. Baran settled the matter with the state. Typically, when that happens, you jointly dismiss the case because there is nothing left to do. However, we specifically left open the issue of expungement. And now we are raising it.”
Tennen said that the Commonwealth has argued that they first need a judgment in Baran’s favor (according to the statute) and since that is not possible without a trial, they cannot ask for expungement.
“It seems like a horrible rule as a matter of fairness and policy,” said Tennen. “We argued the judge had the inherent authority to enter that limited judgment now ordering expungement.”
Baran is fearful the decision will not end up in his favor. “This is a new judge on the bench and they [new judges] don’t like to make big decisions,” Bernie said. “They [the system] took everything from me. They could at least show some humanity and common sense.”
Baran is currently living in Woburn, suffering from chronic pancreatitis that hinders his ability to work. He occasionally speaks at Suffolk College about wrongful convictions. And though he calls the past behavior of those that contributed to his incarceration “disgusting,” he also said this tragedy is kind of a blessing. It brought powerful people such as John Swomley, Harvey Silverglate, Bob Chatelle and the National Center for Justice and Reason to become advocates for innocent men who happen to be gay.
St. Patrick himself may have had a relationship tinged with homoeroticism. Tirechan, a late seventh century cleric who wrote about St. Patrick, tells the story of a man Patrick visited and converted to Christianity, who had a son to whom Patrick took a strong liking. Tirechan wrote that “he gave him the name Benignus, because he took Patrick’s feet between his hands and would not sleep with his father and mother, but wept unless he would be allowed to sleep with Patrick.” Patrick baptized the boy and made him his close lifelong companion, so much so that Benignus succeeded Patrick as bishop of Armagh.
This article was originally posted on the Bilerico Project and written by Terence Weldon, a UK based gay Catholic activist, one of the organizers of the London Soho Masses for LGBT Catholics. He is currently researching a book on queer church history, and writes on general matters of faith and sexuality at Queering the Church, and on LGBT church history at Queer Saints and Martyrs.
I also saw this on SteveXS ‘s .All Natural and More.
For decades the Catholic hierarchy has been in need of desperate reform. In his life, Jesus condemned gays zero times. In Pope Benedict’s short time in the papacy, he made a priority of condemning gay people routinely. This, in spite of the fact, that the Catholic hierarchy had been in collusion to cover up the widespread abuse of children within its care. We hope this Pope will trade in his red shoes for a pair of sandals and spend a lot less time condemning and a lot more time foot-washing.