Romney: Judge He Appointed Should Resign

The Associated Press
Saturday, November 24, 2007; 11:01 PM

DERRY, N.H. -- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Saturday a judge he appointed while Massachusetts governor should resign because she released without bail a convicted killer now charged with murdering a young couple.

The decision by Superior Court Judge Kathe Tuttman to free Daniel Tavares Jr. "showed an inexplicable lack of good judgment in a hearing that decided to put someone on the street who had not only in the past been convicted of manslaughter, but had threatened the lives of other individuals and was a flight risk," Romney told reporters during a campaign stop in Derry.

"And I think on that basis, that despite her record as being a law and order prosecutor, her lack of judgment suggests that she needs to resign from that post."

Tuttman declined comment but Joan Kenney, speaking for the court, said the judge is highly competent and qualified. "Her decision was based on the bail statute and the facts of the case before her," she said. Tavares had completed his manslaughter sentence and had been charged with assaulting two prison guards when he was freed.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said that the 41-year-old Tavares, while imprisoned in Massachusetts, had threatened to kill Romney and other state officials. The threat was made in a letter intercepted by prison officials in February 2006.

In June, Tavares completed a 16-year sentence for manslaughter for killing his mother but prosecutors tried to keep him in prison for the alleged guard assaults. A district court judge approved bail of $50,000. In July, Tuttman overturned that decision and freed Tavares on personal recognizance.

The transcript of that hearing shows that prosecutors did not mention Tavares' alleged threats against Romney and others and did not ask the judge for a separate hearing on whether he would be dangerous if released while awaiting trial on the assault charges. Instead, they underscored his history of violence and asked that if he were to be released, he be monitored with a GPS device.

The judge declined to impose a monitoring system, saying she was presented with no evidence that he was a flight risk, and ordered Tavares freed on condition he call probation officers three times a week, live with his sister and work.

Tavares fled to Graham, Wash., with a woman he met while in prison. On Monday, Tavares was arrested for allegedly shooting to death Brian Mauck, 30, and Beverly Mauck, 28, who lived near him.

Seizing on the case, one of Romney's GOP presidential rivals criticized the former governor's record on crime.

"The governor is going to have to explain his appointment and the judge is going to have to explain her decision," Rudy Giuliani told The Associated Press during an interview aboard his campaign bus during a stop in Laconia, N.H.

Giuliani pulled a sheet of paper out of his pocket that listed FBI crime statistics for Massachusetts while Romney was governor. Murders were up 7.5 percent, robbery was up 12 percent, he said.

"He had an increase in murder and violent crime while he was governor," Giuliani said. "So it's not so much the isolated situation which he and the judge will have to explain _ he's kind of thrown her under the bus, so it's hard to know how this is all going to come out. But the reality is, he did not have a record of reducing violent crime."

Edward P. Ryan Jr., a past president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, said the judge made the correct call based on state law "and for Romney to call for her to resign is nothing more than political expediency."

"If Romney had any courage, he would stand up and say this judge did the right thing," he said. Prosecutors "offered no facts other than to refer to his record" in arguing for him to be held on bail.

Tavares was accused of spitting on a guard in February 2006 and of hitting a guard in December 2005. His lawyer told the hearing that prosecutors waited more than a year to bring the charges against him as a way of keeping him behind bars past his manslaughter sentence.

Romney appointed Tuttman in April 2006. Fehrnstrom said Tuttman, a career prosecutor, had a reputation that suggested she would be a "law-and-order" judge.

"Otherwise, she never would have been appointed," Fehrnstrom said.

Romney was in the Seattle area on Monday and was warned that Tavares might be in the Washington state area, Fehrnstrom said.

Romney does not now have Secret Service protection. The Secret Service decides when to begin protecting presidential candidates based on considerations including the nature of threats made against them, and the likelihood of them becoming the nominee.

The Tavares case has echoes of a presidential campaign controversy two decades ago involving a Massachusetts felon named Willie Horton. Horton, serving a life term for murder, was granted a weekend furlough under a program overseen by then-Gov. Michael Dukakis. Horton escaped to Maryland, where he robbed and raped a woman.

A TV ad in the 1988 campaign associating Dukakis, the Democratic nominee, with the incident hurt him in his race against Republican George H.W. Bush, who won the election.


Associated Press writers Holly Ramer in Laconia, N.H., and Cal Woodward in Washington contributed to this report.

© 2007 The Associated Press