Convicted child rapist set for release facing new charges
BOSTON (AP) — A 70-year-old convicted child rapist from Massachusetts who was set to be released from custody after two experts concluded he was no longer “sexually dangerous” will remain locked up after he was arrested Wednesday on indecent exposure and lewd acts charges, authorities said.
Wayne Chapman, who sat in a wheelchair with his ankles shackled, was held without bail after not guilty pleas to the new charges were entered on his behalf at his arraignment in Ayer District Court. He did not speak but nodded when a judge asked him if he understood.
Chapman will remain in custody until at least June 27 while the sides determined whether they want to seek bail or ask for a dangerousness hearing.
Chapman was convicted in 1977 of luring young boys into the woods by pretending he was searching for his missing dog and then sexually assaulted them, court records say. A court found Chapman had at least 50 victims, and Chapman has said he raped up to 100 children, said Wendy Murphy, an attorney for some of the victims.
“Today’s arrest provides the one point we have been trying to make all along, which is this is not an elderly man with a walker,” said Murphy, who filed an emergency petition with the state’s highest court Monday to keep Chapman locked up. “This is a very dangerous man who in his own words has raped up to 100 children.”
The Massachusetts Department of Correction said the new charges for Chapman stem from acts Sunday and Monday at the prison where he’s being held. Prosecutors say staff saw Chapman with his genitals exposed and masturbating in his cell.
Chapman’s lawyer, Eric Tennen, said Chapman can’t live independently because of health issues and was seeking a bed in a facility that can address his medical needs. Tennen didn’t immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press but told The Boston Globe he had not been made aware of Chapman’s arrest and had “literally no idea what is going on.” Tennen was not in court Wednesday.
Chapman’s impending release sparked outrage from Chapman’s victims and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker. Prison officials had said in court documents their hands were tied because two examiners found Chapman was no longer dangerous.
Chapman’s prison sentence ended in 2004, but Massachusetts, like many other states, allows officials to civilly commit certain inmates after their terms are over if they are deemed “sexually dangerous.”
Justice Scott Kafker of the Supreme Judicial Court said in a ruling released Monday that Chapman’s victims were “understandably upset and frightened” about his potential release, but he said Chapman had to be freed because the proper requirements were followed under the law.
In response to Chapman’s case, Baker filed legislation Wednesday aimed at toughening penalties for child rape.
Baker’s bill would require a court hearing over whether a sexually dangerous person should be released. Current law requires an individual held under civil commitment be released when two qualified examiners determine the person is no longer sexually dangerous, even if other experts disagree.
The bill would also increase mandatory penalties for rape of a child with force by a person previously convicted of sexual offenses to life without parole.
Associated Press reporters Mark Pratt and Steve LeBlanc contributed to this report.