WORCESTER, Mass. – A man convicted of molesting five children at a daycare center and sent to prison two decades ago was granted a new trial and could be freed on bail.
The judge said Bernard Baran's original attorney was incompetent, calling into question whether he got a fair trial during the national hysteria over child-care sex abuse cases in the 1980s.
On Thursday, Judge Francis Fecteau set bail at $50,000 cash — a sum Baran's lawyer says he cannot yet meet.
The judge said his ruling was not a statement on Baran's guilt or innocence. "The defendant still has a long road in front of him, still uphill," he said.
If Baran can come up raise the bail, the judge must decide whether he can be released given that he has been classed as a sexually dangerous person. Baran is incarcerated at a treatment center for sex offenders.
Prosecutor David Capeless is appealing the judge's ruling for a new trial.
The case against Baran, who is openly gay, began when a mother complained she didn't want "a queer" working with her child. When the Pittsfield daycare center did not fire him, she called police a month later alleging abuse. Another parent also alleged a daughter was abused.
During the investigation, state social workers went to the daycare and staged a puppet show for children, demonstrating the difference between good touches and bad touches. After the show, two boys said they saw Baran touch the other.
A fifth alleged victim came forward the day Baran's trial began. His attorney at the time allowed Baran, then 19, to be prosecuted for the fifth charge, even though he had been given no time to prepare a defense.