Not Bread Alone kitchen coordinator Donald Perry to be released from prison in March
Donald Perry, shown working at the Not Bread Alone soup kitchen in Amherst, will be released on parole in March. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Purchase photo reprints »
NORTHAMPTON — A former soup kitchen coordinator facing a life sentence after being found in violation of his parole on a 1983 armed robbery conviction will be released from prison in March, the state Parole Board has ruled.
Donald Perry, who worked at the Not Bread Alone soup kitchen in Amherst, has been held at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Shirley since he was found in violation of his parole after his July 2012 trial on charges of receiving stolen property ended in an acquittal.
Despite being cleared of those charges, Perry was considered in violation of his parole from a 1983 armed robbery conviction with a life sentence by the Parole Board due to its suspicion that Perry withheld information at his 2012 trial.
“Based on the facts and circumstances of the case, including the GPS evidence, Perry’s possession of the stolen items, and the observations of the state trooper made over a significant period of time, board members unanimously concluded that Perry was knowingly involved in criminal activity and that he has consistently hidden the truth from the police, the jury and the parole board,” according to its decision issued Thursday.
“No board member believed the story, including the claim about a hitchhiker,” according to the decision. “Other factors, including allegations of mishandled evidence, must have contributed to the acquittal.”
Nevertheless, an outpouring of support for Perry was a significant factor in the decision to release him and place him back on parole after serving one year in prison from the date of the hearing, the board wrote in its decision. Perry is scheduled to be released March 12.
About 30 people attended Perry’s March 12 parole hearing. Four spoke in his defense and a petition of support for his release that contained 142,000 signatures was presented, according to the parole board.
Perry’s attorney, Luke Ryan of Northampton, said in a statement he was disappointed in the board’s characterization of his client’s testimony. “These conclusions by the board were not based upon the live testimony of witnesses, but came following the review of a transcript of a trial that culminated with Donald Perry’s acquittal.”
Ryan said Tuesday his client is “a very optimistic guy. He’s grateful for an end date and has been sustained by the outpouring of community support.”
In a statement issued by Ryan, Perry said, “I am relieved to finally have a decision and am grateful for the opportunity to be re-paroled. I look forward to beginning this new chapter in my life.
“I am eternally grateful for all the people who have stood by me and my partner, Elaine Arsenault, during this ordeal. We look forward to having the chance to speak about the experience upon my release in March,” Perry said.
Perry was arrested in August 2011 after police traced a tablet computer stolen from a Leverett home to his vehicle.
When approached by police, Perry said he had picked up a hitchhiker who fled his car, leaving behind stolen items, including the iPad.
Perry was then indicted by a grand jury on charges of unarmed burglary, larceny over $250 and two counts of receiving stolen property.
When forensic evidence did not support the most serious charges, Perry was prosecuted on the receiving stolen property charges and eventually was acquitted by a jury in July 2012.
Despite the acquittal, Perry’s parole was revoked and he resumed his life sentence from the 1983 conviction.
The board said community support is only one factor it considered among others, including Perry’s performance during the 7½ years of parole he served prior to his arrest, the fact that he remained drug and alcohol free during that time, communicated with his parole officer and worked in social services providing food and other assistance to people in need.
Based on all of the evidence, the board concluded that Perry remaining imprisoned until March 2014 would be an appropriate penalty for the parole violation.
“After considering Perry’s long record of success and law-abiding behavior in combination with his extraordinary community support, the board concluded that Perry’s period of re-incarceration is sufficient accountability for his parole violation and subsequent misrepresentations about his conduct,” the board said in its decision.
“He can start the next phase of his life,” Ryan said. “He can continue to live the positive life he was living before all this befell him.”
While on parole, Perry will be required to wear a GPS monitor for at least three years, avoid drugs and alcohol and participate in substance abuse treatment if deemed necessary. In addition, he must avoid gambling and being anyplace where gambling takes place, and have no contact with any of the victims of his previous crimes and the victims of the August 2011 housebreaks, according to the board.
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.