BOSTON — The Ayer Board of Selectmen met in a special Boston session Wednesday afternoon at the State Street offices of the law firm of Goodwin Proctor.
Selectmen Rick Gilles, Jim Fay and Carolyn McCreary were on hand to open the meeting at noon, whereupon the selectment immediately voted to go into executive session for the purpose of attempting to broker a multi-party settlement in the Dennis Maher wrongful incarceration case.
Soon thereafter, Selectman Gary Luca arrived. Chairman Connie Sullivan arrived later but not before The Public Spirit left the meeting upon the call for executive (or closed door) session.
Maher was exonerated and released from prision in April 2003 after having served 19 years of a life sentence for an alleged 1983 Ayer rape that DNA evidence later proved he didn’t commit. Attorneys for Maher brought a civil action against the town in 2005 that is to proceed to trial in the coming weeks, claiming his civil rights were violated due to alleged negligent management and training of an Ayer Police Department investigator, now-retired officer Nancy Taylor-Harris.
Before the selectmen’s meeting began Wednesday afternooon, Taylor and her husband, Jim, were ushered into the selectmen’s room, apparently in error. She greeted the selectmen with handshakes and introductions. Soon after, she was led away to a diferent conference room where her attorney was awaiting her arrival.
Negotiations were set up over several floors at the high-rise law firm Wednesday afternoon between the interested parties, including six insurance companies the town argues are liable, in some share or another, to indemnify the town for the litigation and any settlement expenses.
In December, Maher’s attorneys settled a similar wrongful imprisonment suit for $160,000 over a later-disproved 1983 Lowell rape charge investigated by the Lowell Police Department. Among the detectives on the Lowell case at the time of the 1983 investigation was Edward Davis, who subsequently became the superintendent of the Lowell Police Department and now leads the Boston Police Department.
Maher’s attorneys claim the Lowell woman at the center of the rape allegation struck a deal with the Ayer police to identify Maher as the perpetrator of a sex crime in return for dropping an unrelated charge against her. Ayer town counsel denies any such deal existed.
The Maher talks come hot on the heels of a $3.4 million partial settlement struck last week with five of the town’s six insurance companies over the Kenneth Waters wrongful incarceration suit. One insurance company, Western World, held out and has refused to settle on the deal. Waters, wrongfully incarcerated for 20 years for a murder he didn’t commit, was evenutally cleared via DNA evidence. Waters died six months after completing his sentence.
Watch the Nashoba Publishing Web site at www.nashobapublishing.com for details as these matters unfold.