By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE — A Westford target shooter pled his case before the Governor’s Council on Wednesday, seeking a pardon for a felony larceny conviction in his youth that is now preventing him from obtaining a firearms permit.
Guy James Coraccio appeared before the eight-member council to make his case for a pardon, one of four recommended by Gov. Deval Patrick as he prepares to leave office.
Coraccio’s application for renewal of his gun permit was denied in 2008 due to the felony conviction after 36 years of being licensed to carry a weapon that he used to compete as a skeet shooter.
“It’s a very compelling case,” Councilor Michael Albano said during the hearing, which featured questions from councilors about why he was able to obtain a gun permit for years before being denied, and some skepticism over whether his circumstances rose to the level of needing a pardon.
Both the Middlesex district attorney’s office and the Westford police chief have told the council they do not oppose Coraccio’s attempt to renew his gun permit.
Coraccio was 20 years old in 1971 when he was charged with felony larceny over $250 after riding in the back seat of a car with friends who, without his prior knowledge, jumped out of the car and stole a door off a parked vehicle. Citing his father’s advice and the ethos of his Italian family, he said he did not obtain a lawyer for his case, accepted responsibility and was sentenced to one year of probation.
The mention of his heritage prompted Councilor Robert Jubinville to interject, smiling when he said, “Wait a minute. We’re going to give you a gun, and you’re Italian?” The comment prompted some laughter from the council, and Councilor Marilyn Devaney said, “I object.”
During his hearing, Coraccio detailed his life since the conviction, including his employment history in machine parts and auto sales, and his youth coaching experience. Coraccio started a youth basketball tournament that has run for 24 years and raises money for college scholarships.
“I’ve done nothing over the past 40 years but demonstrate that I’m a responsible adult,” he said.
Coraccio is seeking a pardon so that he can return to his passion of target shooting. He said his son-in-law has taken up the activity, and his son is also interested in getting involved in skeet shooting.
“I would dearly love to do it again with these kids,” Coraccio said.
On his 2008 renewal application, Coraccio failed to check the box to indicate that he had ever been convicted of a felony, but did list his prior offense on another section of the application. He said the omission was a mistake due to his lack of understanding that his crime was a felony.
“I had no idea it was a felony,” he said.
Asked Jubinville whether he had omitted his conviction on past permit applications, Coraccio said he couldn’t remember and Parole Board Chairwoman Charlene Bonner said prior applications were sought but not kept on file by police.
Jubinville and Councilor Terrence Kennedy, both defense attorneys, questioned Coraccio about why he sought a pardon rather than hire a lawyer to seek a new trial. Jubinville said judges tend to look favorably upon cases like his, and the state rarely can pursue a new trial for a crime committed so long ago. “I would have taken your case,” Jubinville said.
Coraccio said he did not know that was an option for him. Jubinville also questioned why Coraccio couldn’t just go to the skeet shooting range as a guest of a gun club member, which does not require a permit. He said he would support the pardon request with a condition that Coraccio’s gun permit be limited to target shooting. The applicant said it would be a hardship to not be able to transport or own his own guns.
Councilor Christopher Iannella said he did not know how he would vote, but suggested he was struggling with whether Coraccio’s circumstances rose to the level of meriting a pardon after hearing from others seeking pardons for drug crimes that have prevented them from gaining employment.
Councilors Oliver Cipollini, Marilyn Devaney and Eileen Duff expressed their support for Coraccio’s pardon bid. Devaney said she was impressed by the number of law enforcement officers, including a retired Lawrence detective who appeared as a witness, who were willing to stake their reputations on Caraccio’s petition.
“I think over time you’ve made, somewhat, amends,” Cipollini said. “I think things are going to work out for you.”