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Crime Parole denied for man who committed 1994 Rockland 'wilding' baseball bat murder

22:40  09 april  2020
22:40  09 april  2020 Source:   patriotledger.com

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a man wearing a suit and tie: Steven James, through tears, described the night in February 1994, when he fatally beat Edward Sullivan in the head with a baseball bat at a Parole Board hearing June 18, 2019. (Joe Difazio/The Patriot Ledger) © Provided by The Patriot Ledger Steven James, through tears, described the night in February 1994, when he fatally beat Edward Sullivan in the head with a baseball bat at a Parole Board hearing June 18, 2019. (Joe Difazio/The Patriot Ledger)

NATICK — Steven James, who as a teen was convicted of murdering a 22-year-old man in a vicious baseball bat beating in Rockland 26 years ago, will remain behind bars after having his parole denied.

The state's Parole Board ruled unanimously that James "has not demonstrated a level of rehabilitative progress that would make his release compatible with the welfare of society," in a late March decision. James appeared before the board in June of last year seeking his release after more than 25 years in prison on a first-degree murder conviction for the fatal attack.

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During the hearing last year James described in painful detail the night in February 1994 when he beat Edward Sullivan to death with a baseball bat, striking him in the head in the parking lot of a D'Angelo sandwich shop. It was on the third and final blow, he said, that he felt the bat go through Sullivan's skull.

"We are pleased the state Parole Board saw fit to deny him parole," said Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz in a statement, calling the murder "brutal" and "senseless."

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James was granted the parole hearing, his first, thanks to a 2013 Supreme Judicial Court decision that struck down life sentences without parole for juvenile defendants. James was 17 when he and his friends beat Sullivan, who was taken off life support two days after the attack at South Shore Hospital.

James was convicted in 1995 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Despite being eligible for parole in 2014 after the SJC's decision, James waited, he said, to get paperwork to document the numerous programs he said he had completed while incarcerated. His lawyer, Rosemary Scapicchio, a prominent Boston defense attorney who began representing him in 2012, was also in the middle of filing what ended up being a failed motion for a new trial.

"I think it's the wrong decision ... he's not the 17-year-old kid he was at the time," Scapicchio said when reached by phone on Thursday. "He's done every program available to him, I don't know what else he can do to rehabilitate himself."

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James will be eligible to come before the board again in a little over two years, and Scapicchio said they will try again. In the mean time the board said it encouraged James to continue to work toward his rehabilitation — completing a victim offender education program and remaining disciplinary report free.

Arguing against his parole last year, was Cruz, prosecutor Richard Savignano, who handled the case in 1995, and Sullivan's family.Sullivan's sister described the heartbreak she and her family endured after his death."On that cold February night when I flew home, I was hoping when I got home his body was still warm and I could hug him," Kellie Cloudman, Sullivan's sister, said through tears. "Nothing prepared me for what he looked like. I will never get that image out of my head."

Cloudman said that through the myriad court proceedings over the years her family has had to listen to the details of her brother's death over and over.Sullivan's mother, Karen Citrano, said life after her son's death has been like walking on glass."It was something that no mother should have to go through," Citrano said. "I had to make decisions no mother should have to make. "Savignano described the attack as "callous indifference."He beat him to death as he lay face down, defenseless, begging for help," Savignano said. "(Sullivan's) last words were 'Enough, that's enough.'"

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An argument started in the parking lot between Sullivan and one of James' friends, when Sullivan grabbed a bat from his van for protection. Savignano said Sullivan didn't swing the bat and was attacked from behind; the bat fell and rolled away. Savignano said James had to walk away during the attack to pick up the bat before returning to beat Sullivan with it.Sullivan wasn't the only person that James had beaten that night.Before ending up at D'Angelo, James beat up a person earlier that night at a bowling alley in Abington, then assaulted another person outside an arcade in Whitman. James describes blacking out during each of the beatings, which prosecutors at the time described as a case of "wilding" by violent youth. The term, first popularized in the racially charged case of the Central Park Five, a group of black youths wrongfully prosecuted for raping and beating a woman in New York City in 1989, came to represent a group of juveniles roaming around on a crime spree.

Parole Board member Dr. Charlene Bonner, who led last year's hearing, described what had been a tough upbringing for James. She called his life a "recipe for disaster.""It's clear you came from a very traumatic history," Bonner said.James was born to a 14-year-old mother with bipolar disorder and a 17-year-old father. James said he was expelled from kindergarten and eventually went through 24 foster home placements.James described how he and his friends got into fights as he got older. He was given the nickname "Crazy Jamesy.""I wasn't under control," James said at the time He turned himself in after the murder and confessed to killing Sullivan, who was at the sandwich shop waiting for his girlfriend.James was one of five young people convicted in Sullivan's murder. Two pleaded guilty to manslaughter and two, both sons of Rockland police officers, served sentences for second-degree murder after convictions in juvenile court. James said he has matured and has learned from his mistakes and wants to "live a life with integrity."James' biological brother and sister spoke in favor of his release last year, as did his fiancée, whom he met while in prison."I've seen him grow and mature," James' brother Joseph James said. "When you look at rehabilitation, he defines it."The board also explored disciplinary violations Steven James had committed since being incarcerated, including an incident in 1996 when he stabbed two other prisoners and threatening a correctional officer in 2014.Reporter Joe Difazio can be reached at jdifazio@patriotledger.com.

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