Tempers flared outside Salem Superior Court in Massachusetts Wednesday as several people who have lost loved ones in the heroin epidemic protested Judge Timothy Feeley's decision last week to give an admitted heroin dealer who faced deportation probation but no jail time.
"To me, it shows other drug dealers that it's OK and that they can keep going out and doing what they're doing and killing people," said Frank Lehman of Beverly, who lost a friend two days ago to a heroin overdose.
"There's just been dozens and dozens of people dying every year, and it's clearly a huge issue, so why wouldn't something so simple as putting someone away that clearly got caught be done?" asked Hilary Richard of Gloucester, who lost her best friend to heroin.
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Attorney John DiPiano, who lost a brother to a methadone overdose, sent a scathing open letter to the judge calling for his "immediate retirement."
DiPiano said he believes Judge Feeley was trying to be compassionate, but ended up being negligent.
"We can't be persuaded so much by our heart that we lose our head," DiPiano said.
"My daughter Nicole was 20 years old and she was hanging out with the wrong crowd, obviously, and she stuck a needle in her arm and she was found dead," said Tracy Tanzella.
Tanzella hopes Judge Feeley thinks of her daughter when he reflects on his decision.
"They're going to keep on selling, our kids are going to keep on dying," she said.
Last week, Rep. James Lyons (R-Andover) introduced HD 4822, a bill requesting Gov. Charlie Baker to remove Feeley from the bench. A group of fellow Republican lawmakers cosponsored it.
A petition on change.org pushing for Feeley's impeachment is seeking 7,500 signatures. As of 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, it had nearly 6,000 signatures.
Late Wednesday, the Committee for Public Counsel Services and the Massachusetts Bar Association said removing judges because some don't like their decisions undermines the judicial system.
A larger rally to demand the removal of Judge Feeley is scheduled at the courthouse for Thursday at 4:15 p.m.