Date Set for Burbine Trial

08Jan14

Court OKs defense request for mental evaluation of accused child sexual abuser

By Mark Sardella (Wakefield Daily Item 1/7/2014)

A date has been set for the much-anticipated trial of John Burbine, the Wakefield,Massachusetts man accused of over 100 counts raping and sexually abusing more than a dozen children.

Burbine Trial Date SetIn a status hearing yesterday before Judge Kimberly Budd at Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn, a date of Thursday, May 1 has been set for the start of jury selection with opening arguments anticipated to begin as soon as Monday, May 5. The court also set a date of April 17 for a pre-trial conference to finalize such issues as juror questions and for the court to rule on any motions to eliminate evidence.

Middlesex County Assistant District Attorney Katherine Folger said that she anticipated a lengthy trial lasting as long as a month.

Burbine was in court yesterday with his attorney, William Barabino of Wakefield. Burbine, handcuffed and wearing a blue shirt and black pants, appeared to have lost weight. His hair was almost white.

The court yesterday also gave Barabino the go ahead to proceed with a psychiatric evaluation of Burbine and approved up to $7,500 to pay for that assessment. Barabino stated in court that psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow has agreed to conduct the examination of Burbine.

Folger indicated that pending the results of Ablow’s evaluation, the prosecution would also be seeking the court’s authorization to have Burbine examined by its own psychiatrist.

Burbine has been held without bail since being indicted in December of 2012 on more than 100 counts of child sexual abuse. The charges include 40 counts of aggravated forcible rape of child; 17 counts of aggravated indecent assault and battery on a child; 12 counts of posing a child in a state of nudity; 11 counts of posing a child in sexual conduct; and 13 counts of possession of child pornography. His alleged victims ranged from 8 days-old to 3 years-old.

When the charges against Burbine were brought, then Middlesex County District Attorney Gerry Leone called them “among the most troubling and disturbing cases of child abuse ever prosecuted in Middlesex County.”

Prosecutors have said that Burbine gained access to children through an unlicensed Wakefield-based daycare business, Waterfall Education Center, operated by his wife, Marian Burbine on Lincoln Street. Marian Burbine also faces trial on six counts of reckless endangerment of a child and two counts or operating an unlicensed daycare facility.

In 1989, John Burbine was convicted on three counts of indecent assault and battery on a child and received a six-month suspended jail sentence plus two years of probation. He was later classified as a Level I sex offender.

In 2005 and 2009, there were separate complaints against Burbine for sexual abuse of two boys. Authorities later said that they didn’t have sufficient evidence to prosecute those cases.

Outside of court yesterday, Barabino said that the defense will attempt to show that Burbine is mentally ill and lacks the ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his acts. Barabino also pointed to the fact that Burbine, despite a background in computer technology, made no effort to hide or encrypt the numerous pornographic images of children, including his victims, found by police on his home computer. Barabino suggested that this further suggests that his client did not appreciate the criminality of his actions.

Barabino said that at trial, in addition to Ablow, he expects to call as a witness Woburn Police detective Michael Pandolph who investigated Burbine in the 1989 case. Barabino pointed to a Boston Globe article where Pandolph described an “emotionless” Burbine. “He didn’t think it was bad, what he did,” Pandolph told the Globe. “I remember he had that blank stare.”

Barabino told the Wakefield Daily Item yesterday that would also call a computer expert as well as several other “civilian witnesses” to testify at trial.

The defense attorney said that his hope is to have Burbine found not guilty due to mental illness which affects his ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his acts. Barabino said that he would seek to have Burbine committed to a locked mental health facility potentially for the remainder of his life.

Under that scenario, Barabino conceded that while theoretically Burbine could be released if he were ever found to be not a danger, he did not expect that to happen.

“That is, I think, unlikely,” Barabino said.

[This story originally appeared in the January 7, 2014 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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