Posted Jul 31, 2018 at 3:12 PM
Updated Jul 31, 2018 at 6:49 PM
In days since fatal Cape Cod crash, Judge Thomas McGuire has been criticized for action that released Rivera from jail
FALL RIVER — In his nine years on the bench and in the prior decades when he was in private practice and as a city attorney for Fall River, Thomas F. McGuire Jr. built a reputation as a respected and intelligent lawyer and judge who knew the law inside and out.
When he was sworn-in to the state judiciary in June 2009, McGuire, then 50, was the first Superior Court judge to come out of Fall River in 36 years, according to the Herald News archives.
“Thomas McGuire has always been, honest, a straight-shooter. On the bench, he’s been nothing but an outstanding jurist with a moderate temperament, which is what we want, and clear, concise decision-making,” said defense attorney Drew Segadelli, who has known McGuire for more than 30 years.
“He’s the epitome of a trial judge. He’s smart. He’s fair. He’s objective. Of course, he’s going to make decisions that you’re not going to agree with, but certainly he’s been an excellent judge,” said defense attorney Kevin Reddington, who has defended clients in trials before McGuire.
“He’s extremely competent and very professional,” Reddington said. “He’s a judge who applies the law as it is given to him regardless of what his own personal feelings might be or the possible criticism.”
On social media and in news reports over the last two days, McGuire has been the target of withering criticism over his decision last September to reduce the cash bail of Mickey Rivera, a 22-year-old Fall River man who had a pending armed robbery case that stemmed from a 2015 murder in Fall River.
After more than two years in custody, Rivera was released on Sept 19, 2017, after McGuire lowered his bail from $35,000 cash to $1,000.
This past Saturday, just after midnight, Rivera was reportedly being chased by Mashpee police for speeding and driving recklessly when he crashed head-on into a sport utility vehicle driven by Kevin P. Quinn, 32, of Mashpee, a 32-year-old Marine veteran who the Cape Cod Times reported served two combat tours in Afghanistan and was a new father.
Quinn and Rivera both died from the crash. A female passenger in Rivera’s car was transported to a Boston-area hospital and was last listed in critical condition.
Rivera’s case file in Fall River Superior Court indicates that Rivera’s attorney, in December 2016, filed a motion to reduce the bail “due to changed circumstances” that consisted of police detectives not finding Rivera’s DNA on items that they had tested. Prosecutors opposed the motion, which a different judge rejected.
McGuire reduced Rivera’s bail a little less than a month after the Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling in Commonwealth v. Brangan that directed lower court judges to consider defendants’ financial resources when setting bail. Rivera’s attorney attached the Brangan decision to the motion, and added that Rivera’s family had only been able to raise $1,000 toward his bail. The court had already determined Rivera — who before being arrested lived paycheck to paycheck while working at Papa Gino’s — to be indigent.
“A bail that is set without any regard to whether a defendant is a pauper or a plutocrat runs the risk of being excessive and unfair,” now-retired Supreme Judicial Court Judge Geraldine S. Hines wrote in the Brangan decision.
Several defense attorneys who spoke to The Herald News — most of them on background because they have cases pending before McGuire — defended the judge by saying he was following the SJC’s precedent. Segadelli added that the entire judiciary is under intense scrutiny because of incidents where police officers and others have been killed by people with long criminal records and pending court cases.
“Judges don’t have a kaleidoscope into the future,” Segadelli said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Attorneys also expressed frustration with the public’s criticism over defendants not receiving high cash bail, which they said is only meant to ensure a defendant’s appearance in court, not to serve as a punitive measure.
“These judges are really getting bad rap with these bail issues,” Reddington said. “The SJC tells judges you can’t hold people on high bail. You have to look at their ability to pay, so either people are given bail in an amount they can afford, or the prosecution can try to have them held on a dangerousness hearing.”
Rivera’s case file does not indicate that prosecutors in Superior Court ever requested a dangerousness hearing, which allows a defendant to be held for 120 days with no bail while the case is pending. Prosecutors argued against Rivera’s bail being lowered, and said that the Brangan decision still permits judges to set high cash bail amounts if they can justify them.
“I was very disappointed the court reduced the defendant’s bail so drastically, based on the defendant’s criminal record and the serious nature of the charges,” Bristol District Attorney Tom Quinn said in a prepared statement.
However, McGuire’s ruling was not the only bail-related decision that permitted Rivera to be out of jail this past weekend.
Rivera was arrested two months ago for an alleged drunken driving offense in Hyannis. Though he still had the pending Superior Court case in Fall River, the Boston Globe reported that a district court prosecutor only asked for a bail warning and suggested that Rivera be released on personal recognizance. On Monday, Cape and Islands District Attorney told the Globe that the prosecutor handled the case improperly.
State Rep. Carole Fiola, who was on the Governor’s Council that unanimously voted in April 2009 to appoint McGuire to the bench, said a bail request by the Cape Cod District Attorney’s Office “would have landed Mr. Rivera back in jail and this tragedy could have been averted.”