PLANET EXTENDS CONDOLENCES TO DOWNING FAMILY ON SUDDEN DEATH OF NATE … TOBY MOORE, NOW GRACE: HOW THEY PUT HUMANS TO SHAME … plus … “FREEING BERNIE BARAN,” NEW DOCUMENTARY FILM, MUST BE SHOWN IN PITTSFIELD
By DAN VALENTI
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.
DOG’S COMPASSION SHAMES HUMANS, AGAIN
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. — email@example.com, PO Box 1073, Pittsfield, MA 01202, 413-528-1328
* Sonsini — firstname.lastname@example.org, Downing Industrial Park, Hubbard Ave., Pittsfield, MA 02101, 413-448-9800
* Humane Society — www.berkshirehumane.org., 214 Barker Road, Pittsfield, MA 01202 or Purradise, 301 Stockbridge Road, Gt. Barrington, MA 01230, 413-717-4244.
BERNIE BARAN: TOO SOON, BUT NEVER TOO LATE
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?)
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 www.freebaran.org, “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:
FREEING BERNIE BARAN [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.
WHO CLAIMED THE SKIES, DISPEOPLED OF AIR AND FLOODS? THE LONELY LORDS OF EMPTY CITIES AND WOODS?
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.