PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, APRIL 17, 2012) — First, THE PLANET sends condolences to the Downing family on the loss of Nate Downing, Sen. Ben Downing‘s brother, who died recently. We extend our sympathies at their loss. We know we speak for many on this website when we extend our best thoughts, prayers, and support to the Downing family in this difficult time.



Most of us know about the selfless action of Toby Moore, the little dog who heroically stood by his gravely injured master, pedestrian Peter Moore, as the latter lay unconscious at the side of Winesap Road after being smashed by what police call a hit-and-run driver. The subsequent investigation led to criminal charges being filed against Meredith Nilan. [NOTE: THE PLANET erroneously reported May 5 at Nilan’s next court apperance. The correct date is May 2.]

Here’s a similar story of how an animal’s compassion often dwarfs that of a human being.

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Time and again, dogs have proved that “man’s best friend” is more than just an expression. A black Labrador retriever named Grace is exemplifying that in an entirely new way and being hailed as more than just good companion. She is being called a loyal friend to the end and beyond. A motorist in La Puente, California, captured video of Grace lying down next to her friend, a yellow Labrador retriever who had been struck and injured by another vehicle.

Grace lies patiently next to the other dog as cars whiz by dangerously close to the lane she and her companion are positioned in. She does not seem bothered by the noise or the busy street as she stays by her companion’s side. The motorist who shot the video put out safety cones to protect the dogs and then called animal control.

So far, the video has been viewed almost 200,000 times on YouTube. Unfortunately, Grace’s companion did not survive. As for Grace, she is up for adoption at the Baldwin Park Animal Shelter. Shelter workers say that she appears to have been well cared for, but no owner has come forward yet to claim her. With all the attention she’s getting on the Web and in the news for her loyalty, Grace should have no problem finding a new home.

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It puts the alleged actions of Ms. Nilan in proper perspective, and also shows why Ken Ramsdell felt moved to honor Toby with the Toby II Dog Walk. THE PLANET encourages you to visit a local animal shelter such as Animal D.R.E.A.M.S., the Sonsini shelter, or the Berkshire Humane Society. Please consider giving a new life to an animal companion who will give you lifelong love and devotion.

*  Animal D.R.E.A.M.S. —, PO Box 1073, Pittsfield, MA 01202, 413-528-1328

* Sonsini —, Downing Industrial Park, Hubbard Ave., Pittsfield, MA 02101, 413-448-9800

* Humane Society —, 214 Barker Road, Pittsfield, MA 01202 or Purradise, 301 Stockbridge Road, Gt. Barrington, MA 01230, 413-717-4244.



It’s been nearly 28 years since Bernie Baran was arrested on Oct. 6, 1984 and charged with sexually assaulting a three year old boy. At the time, Baran was working at the Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) in Pittsfield, Mass., his hometown.

Shortly before Baran’s emplyment at ECDC, social workers had removed the boy from him home and placed him at ECDC. The boy’s parents, who had open contempt for gays, complained to ECDC, saying they “didn’t want no homo” working with their child.

The boy’s parents, not so incidentally, were drug addicts and police informants. Bernie Baran was 19 at the time.

Railroaded, and with Great Haste (but Why?)

A MOTHER'S LOVE: Bernie Baran is shown here in a recent photo with his mother, who stood be him for the length of his nightmarish ordeal. (Photo by Richard Stoessen)

On Oct. 5, 1985, the boy’s parents told their connection in the Pittsfield Police Department‘s drug control unit that Baran had molested their son that day. The following day, the PPD made their investigation. Within the week, ECDC sponsored a puppet show meant to elicit comments from the children about any abuse they had experienced or witnessed. Many kids were subsequently interviewed by authorities using anatomically correct dolls, including at a location where Baran did not work!

On Nov. 5, 1984, Baran was indicted on three counts of rape and five counts of indecent assault. In lightning fast pace, 105 days, the Baran case had gone from arrest to indictment to trial. Why?

Court officials ordered parts of the trial closed to the public and the press, without any hearing over this unusual order. Baran’s attorneys protested, claiming that his right to a public trial had been violated. The protest did him no good.

During the trial, officials placed Baran in the court room in a location where he could not hear the testimony against him. Much of the evidence used to convict Baran were heavily edited video tapes made of the child’s responses to investigators. To the best of our knowledge, the raw tapes were never shown not have they ever been publicly seen. Daniel Ford, now Judge Ford but then a member of the DA’s office, prosecuted the case.

On Jan. 30, 1985, Bernie Baran received three life sentences.

All this occurred, despite the inconvneient truth that BERNIE BARAN WAS INNOCENT.

Baran Case Branded Pittsfield Criminal Justice System with Infamy

The Baran Case stands synonymous for “infamy” not only in Pittsfield and Berkshire County, but across the country and around the world.

Baran was convicted and sentenced to three concurrent life sentences. Four days after being sent to Walpole State Prison, Baran was raped. According to the website, “Baran was shuffled around the Massachusetts prison system, where he suffered stomach-churning physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. During his first four years, he was raped and physically assaulted 30-40 times. He suffered serious eye injuries and many broken bones.”

On June 20, 2006, because of the many irregularities in Baran’s trial, Judge Francis Fecteau granted a motion for a new trial that had been filed by Boston attorney John Swomley. On June 30, 2006, Bernie Baran was released on bond. Berkshire Country District Attorney David Capeless appealed Judge Fecteau’s decision, and for the next three years, the Berkshire County DA’s office continued to press for Baran’s guilt.

On May 15, 2009, the appeals court upheld Judge Fecteau’s 2006 ruling granting a new trial. Capeless dropped all charges against Bernie Baran on June 9, 2009. One wonders: Why, if the DA’s office was so convinced of Baran’s guilt, would it give up? What, if anything, did the local Establishment fear from a continued pursuit of Baran? Had the price of going after Bernie Baran finally become too steep?

FREEING BERNIE BARAN, New Documentary Film (2010) Captures the Outrageous Nature of the Case — That Film Must be Shown in Pittsfield

Baran, whom the courts ultimately determined was an innocent man sent up in Kangaroo Court style, wasted away living a nightmarish life in prison for more than two decades.

Why was Baran set up like a bowling pin to be knocked down by the local Establishment? What is the true answer to that question? What did he see? What did he know? Is there more to the Baran Case than even the most jaded among us could guess? Will we ever know why some GOBs thought Baran was so dangerous that he had to be silenced? Will justice ever be had in this case, which in many ways, symbolizes the beginning of a moral cancer than seemingly has gripped Pittsfield since the 80s.

In 2010, Baran’s lawyers, headed by Swomley, began the process of suing multiple parties in civil court on behalf of their client.

Joe Pinhead, a regular contributor to this website, informed our readers yesterday of a 2010 film made about the Baran Case:  FREEING BERNIE BARAN.  Filmmaker Daniel Alexander made the film.

The film company writes this on its FB page, promoting the film: “The notorious true story no commercial network would tell. How a small town [Pittsfield, Mass.] got away with sending an innocent, openly gay teen to prison for life. … The heroic battle 20 years later to set him free … The life saving power of a mother’s love.”

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We share this 2010 online review from aGliff Notes:


There are many highlights on the schedule of the 23rd annual Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival, but one of the biggest is the World Premiere of Daniel Alexander’s documentary Freeing Bernie Baran.

We knew nothing about this case before watching this film, but found ourselves filled with rage at how easily this young man’s life was turned upside down simply because he was gay. Baran’s story is part of a wave of child sex-abuse panic that swept across this country in the early 1980’s. Hundreds of innocent people were accused of horrific crimes in very high profile cases like those against the McMartin preschool in California.

Bernie Baran was 19 and working as a teacher’s aide in a day care center in western Massachusetts when two homophobic parents with a history of drug problems brought the first abuse allegations against him. That began a landslide of terrifying claims, including one that he had raped a 3-year-old girl with a pair of scissors.

With no real evidence, except for edited videotaped testimony from the young children who had been manipulated by the District Attorney, a grand jury indicted Baran and he was sent to prison for three consecutive life sentences. Throughout it all, Baran maintained his innocence and refused to take any plea bargains offered to him. After 21 years in prison (where he survived over 150 attacks on his life and multiple suicide attempts), a new legal team finally began to unlock formerly suppressed evidence to prove his innocence.

This is a difficult film, but a very important one that deserves to be seen. Even though they have covered similar territory in Capturing The Friedmans, we would love to see an organization like HBO Documentary Films pick up this movie so that it can be seen by a wide audience. For now, the only place to see it is at aGLIFF and it should be one of your top picks this weekend.

Freeing Bernie Baran plays at the Alamo South Lamar Saturday at 1:30 with the director and Bernie Baran in attendance. Get more details here. Download the entire festival schedule at the AGLIFF’s site here.

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It is clear. FREEING BERNIE BARAN, the film, needs to be shown, multiple times, throughout Pittsfield and Berkshire County. The Colonial Theater would be the perfect venue, since so many tens of millions of taxpayers dollars were, alone, responsible for bringing the old barn to its current and resplendent glory.

This would be a first step in allowing an infected wound to heal. This wound has continued to haunt Pittsfield, and the time has come for its lancing. Will you support a petition drive to get this film a showing and a hearing in Pittsfield? Let us know how you feel about this vital issue.






  1. Joe blow
    April 17, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    I can’t imagine being sent to prison for a crime that I didn’t commit,especially molestation! There is no amount of money that can make up for the injustice he suffered from but I hope he gets a boatload! I really feel for this guy and hope the people who railroad him rot in hell!

    • george
      April 18, 2012 at 4:52 am #

      You know what is worse? Being a kid and being raped and having to tell about it and then see the guy get out.

      • danvalenti
        April 18, 2012 at 9:02 am #

        Yes, that is worse, but there’s no reason to believe that happened in the Baran Case. Where’s the evidence?

  2. Gene
    April 17, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    Bernie Baran was horribly wronged. I support showing the film. We in Pittsfield need to see it.

    • Scott
      April 17, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

      yeah and we can show Good things to life: GE, PCB’s and our town after.

  3. Molly
    April 17, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    My sincere sympathies go out to the entire Downing family. I can’t even imagine the pain of losing your child, especially so suddenly. Such a big loss and at such a young age. My prayers are with the entire family.

    I think it is vitally important that this film be shown in Pittsfield, and yes — numerous showings to allow everyone who wants to see it, to do so. And I also agree that it should be shown at The Colonial with all of the money that we have spent on that – and at either free or extremely reduced price — enough to just cover their costs. No profit should be made on this one!

    We like to believe that in this day and age, this couldn’t happen to an innocent person but obviously that is just not the case. And that is terrifying! I can’t even begin to imagine what he went through and how he got through it… We can’t do anything to prevent this from happening again unless we fully understand how it happened this time.

    • Diogenes
      April 17, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

      So true. It makes me want to throw up, especially considering how some true pedophiles (A.S., for example) are handled with kid gloves. I can’t even imagine the horrors he endured in prison. I don’t know if this is even possible, but could it somehow be arranged to show the documentary on PCTV, so those who couldn’t make it to another venue could still see it? Seems that’s the very least this crap city can do to start to finally give this man some justice and clear his name!

      • danvalenti
        April 18, 2012 at 9:05 am #

        Great suggestion. This film must be shown TO Pittsfield, rather than IN Pittsfield.

  4. Molly
    April 17, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    Has anyone heard the status of the 56 Circular Ave House? The city had moved the deadline date up to be last week, and now there is no date at all shown on the Pittsfield website. I can’t imagine what the delay would be unless there’s a problem of some kind with the house? I would think that with the huge investment that the city made with this house, that they wouldn’t want it sitting there vacant for any longer than absolutely necessary?

    • Joe blow
      April 17, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

      I heard it was sold for 62,000.

      • Molly
        April 17, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

        I thought the price was $108,800 and then they would hold a lottery to award “the winner” — of course, that is assuming that more than one person wanted to buy it for $108,800!!! OMG – if they sold that house for $62,000 and we spent what – $180,000 or something near there to fix it up…!!!

        • dusty
          April 18, 2012 at 12:59 am #

          Maybe someone from the city will come forward and tell us all about how wonderful this project is and was. Let’s see. Who was in charge of that? Who would be the spokesperson?

          If they do not wish to discuss it, there probably is a nefarious reason for not doing so. Might be a good discussion for the Krol show…unless he would rather not talk about people and taxpayer issues that might involve the protected ones.

          • Molly
            April 18, 2012 at 4:47 am #

            Well, my next post deals with this for the coming year – notice the huge loan payback – I’m assuming it’s for this very house? And when you look at what the city will get for 1.6 million dollars, perhaps a few handrails or one disabled ramp… With LOTS of money going to managing it! And what’s with the requested change to not require a public meeting?

            Can you give me the info on the Krol show – i.e., where do I find it, what day/time, etc.? I’d appreciate it.

          • danvalenti
            April 18, 2012 at 9:04 am #

            Excellent point. Who from the city wants to defend this turkey?

        • Gene
          April 18, 2012 at 8:32 am #

          That would be a Pittsfield-type deal: Buy for $180,000 sell for $62,000.

  5. Molly
    April 17, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    FISCAL YEAR 2013

    “On or about May 15, 2012, the City of Pittsfield, acting by and through its Department of Community Development, will submit its one-year Consolidated Annual Action Plan for FY 2013 to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A 30-day public comment period and public hearing precede this submittal and are detailed in this notice.”


    Included in the Consolidated Annual Action Plan is a proposed amendment to the HUD required Citizen Participation Plan. The amendment proposes eliminating a public hearing to review the contents of the City’s Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (CAPER) prior to submitting the annual report to HUD. The required 15-day comment period will remain in place however because there is no regulatory requirement for a public hearing it will be removed. The City will retain the option of holding a public hearing but it will not be a requirement.”

    “The Consolidated Annual Action Plan includes a budget for the City’s 2013 fiscal year estimated allocation of $1,118,816 in CDBG funds plus program income and reprogrammed funds from prior years. The proposed 2013 fiscal year CDBG budget will cover the time period beginning July 1, 2012 and ending June 30, 2013. CDBG funds are provided annually to the City of Pittsfield through an entitlement grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under Title I of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, as amended. Proposed expenditures are estimates and programs are subject to modification pending final budget allocation from HUD and public review. The proposed budget is as follows:

    CDBG GRANT B12 $ 1,118,816
    PROGRAM INCOME 267,116
    TOTAL $ 1,677,239

    Public Facilities $ 110,000
    Removal of Architectural Barries (Accessibility) 50,000
    Public Services 171,000
    Capital Theater Debt Service Payment 162,150
    Housing Rehabilitation & Accessible Ramp Program 250,650
    Economic Development 52,000
    Section 108 Loan Repayments to Hud 175,684
    Acquisition, Disposition, Clearance 105,000
    Program Administration & Planning 265,031
    Project Administration Costs (Delivery Costs) 335,600
    Contingency 124

    The largest expenditure, by far, is Project Admin. Planning and Costs (two line items) with it being almost 1/3 of spending? And what the heck is “Capital (sic) Theater Debt Service?

    I think this is something that we all need to look into/have input to — anyone else have any knowledge and/or input to this?

    • dusty
      April 18, 2012 at 1:10 am #

      Is this Bianchis idea of open and honest government? uh oh…deja vu all over again?

      • Molly
        April 18, 2012 at 4:50 am #

        I hope not… I keep waiting for some signs of what’s to come and the few that I’m seeing, aren’t good signs… But before everyone jumps down my throat on that, I am still waiting – it hasn’t been that long (yet).

        • Shakes His Head
          April 18, 2012 at 7:05 am #

          This is the standard concolidated plan budget, in the format the state and federal governments require. delivery costs go to support several staff positions in the Community Development department that are NOT paid for by locally collected taxes.

          • Molly
            April 18, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

            The bottom line remains – for 1.6 million dollars, What are the taxpayers getting for that money? Basically, NADA! Format doesn’t mean a thing. And because it’s not paid for by locally collected taxes does not mean that it’s not taxpayer dollars – just from a different bucket!

  6. Scott
    April 17, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    I think the matter of his civil rights being violated and whether he’s guilty or innocent are two different stories. It’s unfortunate we’ll never know the real truth. Let’s not forget there are children who may have been molested or convinced to think they were molested and have had to live through this whole mess as well they’re still victims no matter which way you look at it.

    • Molly
      April 18, 2012 at 5:11 am #

      You’re right Scott – and to me, that is what matters the most – the child victims!!! DV states that a new law firm was able to uncover evidence that was previously supressed to PROVE HIS INNOCENCE — is this true? Was his innocenc e proven? Or were there some technicalities that set a guilty man free? I wish I followed the case at the time, but as I said, I wasn’t living here at the time and didn’t.

      Either way, the victims who were children should come first. Beyond that, if he was innocent, we need to know everything about this case so that we know how to prevent this from ever happening again. If he was guilty and let off because of a legal technicality, then that’s an entirely different matter and we also need to know the details of that so that these violations of a technicality can be fixed.

      Capeless never said why? Aren’t all court documents able to be seen by the public (welllll, unless your lastname is Nilan)?

      • danvalenti
        April 18, 2012 at 9:01 am #

        When I use the word “innocence,” remember, I am not in a courtroom, speaking from the bench. I use it in a less formal way to convey a sense of an opinion after one has viewed the available evidence. From that use, it is accurate to say Baran was felled by trumped up charges, given a mockery of a trial, and wrongly sent to prison for the rest of his life. The court intervened and set him free. The DA dropped all charges. That means he’s innocent.

  7. Jonathan Melle
    April 17, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    What about Carmen Massimiano?
    What about Angelo Stracuzzi?
    How come they didn’t receive jail time?

    • Scott
      April 17, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

      Who was the person that took their own life?

    • Fan Dan Go
      April 17, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

      AS received jail time in the Biddeford case but it was suspended. He was given probation and ordered by the court for psy. testing. Doesn’t look like he complied with either from what came out on this with Conor Berrys stories.

    • Molly
      April 18, 2012 at 4:58 am #

      Every time I forget and click on a link of Jonathan Melle, my computer freezes up. What is with your website, Jonathan? Full of viruses or something? Does anyone else have problems?

      • Bubba
        April 18, 2012 at 6:28 am #

        Never had a poblem clicking on any of Mr. Melle’s links. He truly keeps a definitive chronology of the GOBs. I bet the GOBs wish people did not access Mr. Melle’s website. Maybe their “techie” henchmen have sprinkled “viruses” on your computer, so you think it comes from Mr. Melle.

  8. george
    April 17, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Most of your facts are wrong, but the most important one you left out is that he admitted he did it because he did. Oh, and there’s proof.

    • Molly
      April 17, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

      George – can you elaborate at all? I don’t recall any of the details of the case as I was not living in MA during this time. But I’d be very interested in knowing if they convicted an innocent man of this – or not!

      He admitted that he did it? As in signed a confession? What proof is there (as I said, I honestly don’t know).

      Thank you!

  9. tito
    April 17, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

    Carmen was never convicted of anything.

    • Molly
      April 17, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

      He was also never charged with anything. Although supposedly he was about to be until he backed out of the Sherrif’s race and we then never heard another word about it…

      There are far too many people who make these claims of being sexually abused by him, most at the Boys Club Camp, when they were young boys. I agree that is not a conviction, but what happened to the “pending charges”?

      • Ed Shepardson
        April 18, 2012 at 5:47 am #

        Who are the “too many people” making these claims? I have read of only the one. I’m not defending, I just haven’t heard of any others.

        • danvalenti
          April 18, 2012 at 8:59 am #

          That’s a good question. It deserves a response.

          • Molly
            April 18, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

            For one, the BB reported “talk” of “several different charges expected” and other blogs (including masslive, topix, and the BB) had numerous different people saying that they were victims. Do you really believe that there was ONE? If there was one, there were many! But apparently, we will never know, right?

  10. Ray Ovac
    April 17, 2012 at 11:47 pm #

    DV, above you write that “Baran, whom the courts ultimately determined was an innocent man sent up in Kangaroo Court style… ” Did the appellate court determine Baran actually to be innocent of the crimes alleged, or that the video evidence was edited in such a fashion as to inaccurately portray evidence to the jury, and thus Baran deserved a new trial? The Commonwealth’s not wanting to spend resources on a new trial decades later is not the same as being innocent of all crimes alleged. Did Baran ever submit to a lie detector test?
    Also, who was Baran’s original defense attorney who appears to have failed him so badly and why did it take decades to launch what ultimately was a successful appeal?

    DV, you next ask “What did (Baran) see? What did he know? Is there more to the Baran Case than even the most jaded among us could guess? Will we ever know why some GOBs thought Baran was so dangerous that he had to be silenced?”
    Have you asked Baran for an answer to any of those questions?

    • Scott
      April 18, 2012 at 4:28 am #

      I agree there are two separate issues one of his guilt and one of a civil rights violation I was beginning to think I was the only one who noticed this. Yes the court only determined he gets a second trial it doesn’t mean he’s innocent. The reason it took so long is most likely social as people’s views on homosexuals has changed over the years back then (I hate to say it and I DO NOT feel this way.) people were just like well he’s a fag he must have did it. In reality though most predators live heterosexual married life styles.

      • Molly
        April 18, 2012 at 4:56 am #

        So when Capeless decided to drop all charges and to not proceed with the 2nd trial, did he give ANY reasons for that? I wonder how we can get the actual FACTS of the case?

        • Scott
          April 18, 2012 at 8:30 am #

          Capeless had no choice the evidence was tainted and the DA’s office shamed. One of the children who is in their thirties now lives far away out of state and did not want to come back and testify. (I read that in a press release from DA Capless himself.) I’m sure most involved have just moved on with their lives hopefully for the better.

  11. shelly
    April 18, 2012 at 5:10 am #

    I followed the Baran case. there was a website called It does give you a lot of information about the case.

    I truly believe he is innocent and just a victiom of being poor in a homophobic world ( think back to the eighties)

    Dan the documetary you discuss was out a few years ago at GLIFF is it being released or something I couldnt find anything more on the web

    • Scott
      April 18, 2012 at 8:38 am #

      Isn’t it strange how the general public’s view of homosexuals was so radical yet we had wide spread abuse by Catholic Priest preying on young children (boys and girls alike.) plus all the other recent questionable allegations of prominent members of our very community? It makes me think about the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and how our modern society (and I’m not just talking about homosexuality.) mirrors those two ancient cities. I’m not going to get into a debate on whether or not religion/God is real but there is no denying the relevance to humanity from biblical scripture the people who wrote it knew what the heck they were talking about.

    • Molly
      April 18, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

      Thanks for this info, shelly. I read a good portion of the court documents and it is unbelievable! Also, what’s with the prosecutor, Mr. Ford, being rewarded for “prosecutorial misconduct” by being named a judge? I didn’t know that, either.