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The Bolesta Letter

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  • Freeing Willie Willie Featherstone is a sexual predator, but he keeps getting out of prison. A former law clerk and corrections employee wonders why | 10/13/2010

Before passing away on Aug. 19, former Baltimore Police Col. Joseph Robert "Bob" Bolesta Jr.  wrote a letter addressing some of the arguments Hal Riedl explored in an early draft of his story on repeat offender Will Featherstone ("Freeing Willie," Feature, Oct. 13, 2010). Tanya Smith, operations administrator at the Maryland Parole Commission, says during an Oct. 8 afternoon phone conversation that this letter was left with Bolesta's wife, who passed it to Smith. Smith says that she first contacted City Paper editor Lee Gardner about the letter in early September; due to a technical issue with the attachment Smith used to e-mail the letter, it was not opened and read until Oct. 1. During the Oct. 8 phone conversation, Smith said she could grant City Paper permission to publish the letter, which appears below.

It appears on Mr. Bolesta's stationary . It reads:

Dear Editor,
City Paper

Hal Reidl's writing on Willie Featherstone and the Marlyand Parole Commission had several glaring inaccuracies. As a recently retired member of the Commission and a Baltimore City Police Office for thirty-three years, I feel this allows me a far better perspective than a low ranking former correctional employee with an obvious axe to grind. To question the integrity, intelligence or commitment of Chairman Blumberg, Commissioner Blount and Commissioner Beckett is irresponsible and destructive. I have never in my half century of work in criminal justice met more dedicated professionals. While no one can make perfect decisions, Mr. Reidl's hindsight is 20/20. I just would have hoped his knowledge of Maryland law was as flawless. When Commissioner Blount revoked Featherstone in 2007 the offender received all his credits automatically; that is Maryland law. Don't blame the Commissioner for doing his job. Secondly, Chairman Blumberg and Commissioner Clay had no choice but to release Mr. Featherstone at subsequent revocation and subpoena hearings because they had no basis to hold him. All criminal charges had been dropped by the courts. Neither Commissioner could invent rule violation at that time to keep him in custody. The fact of the matter was even if Mr. Featherstone had been denied parole and released mandatorily (by operation of law) he would have been out of prison 23 months before his new offense took place. The parole did not cause this new conviction. Hal Reidl needs to get his facts straight before he takes off after these hard working public servants and the very difficult job they perform so admirably.

Sincerely,
[signed Joseph R. Bolesta]

Hal Riedl responds: Excerpts of an earlier draft of this article were forwarded to David Blumberg for comment; he never did. Apart from this letter, former Parole Commissioner Bolesta had nothing to do with Featherstone's case. Featherstone's return to prison in March 2009 was occasioned by a new arrest for a violent sexual assault in January 2009. Although most of those charges were nol prossed in District Court, three of them remained on an inactive docket that the State's Attorney was free to reopen. When Blumberg recalled the warrant in April, and Clay continued Featherstone on mandatory release in May--both actions resulting in Featherstone's freedom--the commissioners were exercising discretionary powers. They could have chosen to keep Featherstone in state custody.

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