Thomas Scully, a Beverly Public Library employee who pled guilty to child pornography possession in 2009, is entitled to have his retirement allowance reinstated, a three-judge Appeals Court panel has ruled, overturning the judgment of lower courts on the grounds that his crimes were not directly related to his job, as reported by the State House News Service.
“While Scully’s conduct was reprehensible, in view of the narrow interpretation that consistently has been given to [state pension law] we are constrained to conclude that the mandatory forfeiture of Scully’s pension was not legally tenable,” according to the unanimous ruling, penned by Judge Ariane Vuono.
Vuono argued that the judges were required to interpret state law narrowly based on prior rulings. “Moreover, despite this consistent interpretation, the Legislature has not modified the statute,” she wrote.
The ruling reinstates the pension of Scully, the Beverly library’s former director of community service. Scully, who began working at the library in 1986, resigned in 2005 after police raided his home and discovered seven images of child pornography on his computer.
The discovery came during an investigation into allegations that Scully had an inappropriate relationship with a library patron who was 15 years old at the time.
Prosecutors alleged that Scully met the boy at the library and invited him to his home, where he regularly allowed him to view pornography.
The State House News Services reports that prosecutors charged Scully with possession of child pornography, distributing obscene material to a minor and indecent assault and battery. However, the assault charge was dropped and Scully struck a plea deal in which he admitted only to possession of child pornography.
After he resigned from the library, Scully applied for a retirement allowance, which he was granted. But after his conviction in 2009, the Beverly Retirement Board voted 3-2 to revoke his pension on the grounds that his crimes involved his relationship with a minor who he met at the library. The decision was later affirmed by the District Court and the Superior Court.
But the Appeals Court, in its ruling, argued that the lower courts misapplied state pension law, which requires forfeiture of a retiree’s pension after a conviction on a criminal offense “involving violation of the laws applicable to his office or position.”
“Scully contends that the record fails to establish a direct link between his convictions of possession of child pornography and his position at the library,” Vuono wrote. “While we do not ignore the severity of the offenses to which Scully pleaded guilty, we conclude that the facts underlying the convictions do not present ‘the type of direct link intended by the Legislature.’ “
“Initially, we note that there is no evidence in the record that Scully either stored or accessed child pornography on library computers. Furthermore, Scully did not use his position to facilitate the crime for which he was convicted,” she added. “Here, the criminal conduct at issue — possession of child pornography — occurred at Scully’s house and involved his personal computer. Although we do not condone Scully’s conduct, in particular his interaction with [the boy], a direct link between Scully’s position and the conviction for possession of child pornography must be shown.”
Vuono’s ruling was joined by Appeals Judges Cynthia Cohen and Gary Katzmann.