The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ordered the release of serial child rapist Wayne Chapman.
State lawyers and attorneys representing Chapman's victims had asked the state's highest court to block his release, saying they believe he is still a danger to the community.
But it does not appear that Chapman will be released anytime soon, as he is still being held on $25,000 bail on new charges of open and gross lewdness and lewd, wanton and lascivious acts stemming from an incident last June where he was accused of exposing himself and masturbating in the view of prison staff at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution – Shirley.
Chapman, 71, was sentenced to 30 years in prison after he was convicted of raping two boys in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1977. He spent years fighting for his release, but court documents show he was found too dangerous each time.
He was convicted in three states and had roughly 50 victims over a span of 10 years. He was also the main suspect in the 1976 disappearance of 10-year-old Andy Puglisi, who went missing after visiting a Lawrence pool.
His prison term ended in 2004, but he remained civilly committed until last summer.
Chapman's attorney, Eric Tennen, said the move by the state's highest court is something they had been anticipating. He said despite the scrutiny, his team knew they had a strong case under state law.
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"Where both qualified examiners conclude that the individual is not sexually dangerous, the balance shifts in favor of discharge," said Tennen. "The legislature has had 10 years to change this if they wanted to, they haven't, so it remains good law today."
Tennen said he hopes Chapman will be acquitted of the charges from last June at trial next month, and ultimately freed.
Wendy Murphy, an attorney for Chapman's victims says the news is devastating.
"My clients are very worried, very frightened and for good reason," said Murphy. "So the SJC deciding that it's OK to release a guy like Wayne Chapman makes me worried not only for victims of Wayne Chapman... but for public safety generally."
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey released a statement on the SJC's decision:
"Following this decision, it's now even more important to enact needed changes to our laws to protect our communities from sexually dangerous people and support victims who deserve to be heard in the process," Healey said in a statement. "We will be working with our partners in government on legislation."