The state’s Supreme Judicial Court has ruled serial child rapist Wayne Chapman can’t be locked up indefinitely — though he won’t be free yet.
The 71-year-old Chapman — a notorious predator who’s admitted to raping up to 100 boys — can no longer be held as a “sexually dangerous” person, the state’s highest court ruled Thursday.
“We affirm the Superior Court judge’s order allowing Wayne Chapman’s petition for release from civil commitment because neither of two qualified examiners found him presently to be sexually dangerous,'” wrote the SJC in one case.
Between 1967 and 1976, Chapman was arrested and convicted multiple times for assaulting and raping boys in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Chapman has long been a suspect in the 1976 disappearance of Angelo “Andy” Puglisi, 10, of Lawrence.
Chapman, now suffering from Parkinson’s disease, uses a wheelchair.
Under state law, people convicted of certain sex crimes who are then deemed “sexually dangerous” by the courts can be held on a civil commitment — not criminal charges — until the state rules otherwise. Chapman was deemed sexually dangerous in 2007, when his criminal sentence was about to end, and has been civilly committed since.
These inmates can petition to be examined by two independent “qualified examiners” who determine whether the person remains a danger to the public. If one or both say the person is indeed sexually dangerous, a trial is held to determine whether that is in fact still the case.
But if both say the person is no longer a danger, that person is released almost immediately — and that’s what both of Chapman’s examiners wrote last May.
“If both qualified examiners determine that a person is not sexually dangerous, the Commonwealth cannot meet its burden of proof,” Chief Judge Ralph Gants wrote in the SJC ruling.
The state attorney general’s office attempted to step in after Chapman was cleared for release, and the case has been tied up in the courts until Thursday, when the state courts ruled that there is no reason to change the decision made 10 years ago in favor of this process — so Chapman can no longer be civilly committed.
“They made the right decision 10 years ago, and they reaffirmed it today,” Eric Tennen, an attorney for Chapman, said Thursday. “I completely understand how his victims feel about this — I understand why they don’t want him to be released, but we don’t make policy on emotions, and the law says he doesn’t need to be held. He’s not a public safety risk.”
But cops say that when Chapman remained behind bars in the MCI-Shirley state prison last June, he exposed himself in front of a nurse, leading to an indictment last summer on charges of open and gross lewdness and lewd, wanton and lascivious acts.
Chapman will remain held on those charges unless he makes $25,000 cash bail, which Tennen said he highly doubts the long-locked-up Chapman will be able to afford.
Chapman is next due in court for a pretrial hearing May 23, Middlesex DA Marian Ryan’s office said.
If convicted, Chapman could face another three years behind bars.
In a separate case challenging Chapman’s release on the basis of notifications required by law to victims and law enforcement authorities, the SJC also on Thursday affirmed a lower court ruling, allowing Chapman to seek release.