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I-Team: Mass. Law Doesn’t Protect People Falsely Accused Of Crimes

By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV I-Team
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BOSTON (CBS) – If you are falsely accused of a crime, you better hope it is not in Massachusetts. The I-Team discovered our state is far behind most other states in laws to protect the innocent.

Tim Kelly found out the hard way how unfair the system can be. On an April day back in 2012, Tim was working on his antique cars with his dad, but that is not what a fellow Leominster High School grad told police. She claimed on that day Tim Kelly raped her.

“I was shocked. I didn’t really know what to think,” Kelly said.

Kelly was arrested and charged with aggravated rape and several counts of assault. The story hit the local newspapers. Tim’s father, Dan, knew his son was innocent.

“Thankfully, for the day this incident allegedly happened, we could account for all of Tim’s time,” Dan Kelly explained.

Tim and his dad say police never asked for his side of the story, but an attorney they hired discovered surveillance video from a gas station. It shows Tim pumping gas at the exact time of the alleged attack. Cell phone records also convinced police that Tim could not have been the attacker. Several weeks later, Leominster Police Lt. Michael Goldman signed a report stating: “I have formed the opinion from all the evidence that Mr. Kelly had no involvement in any assault if indeed one even occurred.”

An independent report found the Leominster Police made plenty of mistakes the night they arrested Tim Kelly. Even though all of the charges were dismissed, the nightmare wasn’t over for him. Even though he did nothing wrong, Kelly still has a record that says he was charged with five felonies.

Kelly reached a $26,000 civil settlement with the city of Leominster, but Tim’s dad says that’s not enough.

“Just because something says dismissed on a record doesn’t mean someone didn’t do it,” he said. “In Tim’s case, it’s been proven that he hasn’t done it, so it should be erased,” he argued.

Ross Currier is in the same boat. You may recall he was arrested for attacking a woman in the North End. Charges were dropped when police realized they had the wrong guy.

“I’m an innocent person, my record should reflect that,” he said.

The I-Team found that Massachusetts is one of only a handful of states that does not have a law to erase or expunge records in cases like these.

Senator James Eldgridge of Acton calls this a travesty of justice, that’s why he sponsored a bill to change that. But it’s been tied up in committee at the Statehouse.

“I think it comes out of fear of elected officials being cast as weak on crime,” he said.

That leaves Tim Kelly and Ross Currier stuck with an arrest record they don’t deserve.

“I have a job right now, but if I was ever to search for a new job, I would have to explain it,” Kelly said. “I don’t want this to hang over my shoulder for the rest of my life,” he said.

Tim is petitioning to have his record sealed. Even if a judge were to agree to it, a sealed record still exists in the system and that can raise questions.

Send tips for the I-Team to iteam@cbsboston.com.

MORE LOCAL NEWS FROM CBS BOSTON

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