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State Seeks To Keep Juvenile Offender In Custody

December 19, 1991

BOSTON (AP) _ A 22-year-old convicted as a juvenile eight years ago of killing a young neighbor should remain locked up even though a psychological evaluation found he’s no longer dangerous, officials said Wednesday.

The state filed court papers seeking to keep Matthew Rosenberg in custody for two years after his scheduled release date, March 17. Wednesday was the deadline to seek an extension.

Gov. William F. Weld, who has been pushing a bill to prosecute accused juvenile killers as adults, encouraged the state action.

″The governor was outraged that this situation could occur,″ said Mark Robinson, Weld’s chief of staff. ″We’re going to make damn sure that the person isn’t dangerous before he’s released.″

Rosenberg was convicted of sexually assaulting and drowning 5-year-old Kenny Claudio in 1983. The child’s body was found stuffed in Rosenberg’s closet.

At the time of the crime, state law required that juveniles be freed at age 18 unless they were dangerously mentally ill. The law was changed last year, extending the age limit to 21.

A November 1990 evaluation indicated Rosenberg was dangerous due to mental illness. But an evaluation conducted this month, as well as evaluations from clinical staff members who work with him, determined he isn’t dangerous.

Department of Youth Services Commissioner Edward Loughran filed the petition to extend Rosenberg’s incarceration, asking for more time to conduct further psychological evaluations.

Rosenberg’s attorney opposed the request.

″He’s already had a further evaluation. He doesn’t have to have any more evaluation,″ Matthew Feinberg said. He added he may ask the state’s highest court to grant his release.

Feinberg said improper pressure from the governor and other government officials was to blame for the decision.

″They understand what the law is and says,″ he said. ″They’re refusing to follow the law.″

The filing Wednesday followed a day of uncertainty in which Loughran said the state had no grounds to continue holding Rosenberg.

Loughran said Tuesday: ″It’s the evaluation of the program he’s in and of an independent psychologist that there is no presence of mental illness.″

On Wednesday, Loughran deflected suggestions that pressure from the governor prompted him to change his mind.

″It’s not a question of prodding,″ he said. ″This is a very high-profile case, one of the most serious cases the department has ever had.″

Marilyn Abramofsky, a friend of the dead boy’s family who speaks on their behalf, said she was pleased by Weld’s decision to step in.

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