District Attorney Rollins: Verdict Proves Hate Has No Place in Suffolk County
Prosecutors Will Seek Reconsideration of Retroactive Sentence, DA Says
BOSTON, Feb. 15, 2019—The day after a North Reading man was convicted of hate crimes and other offenses for a 2017 assault on a woman from Morocco, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said “there is no place for hate and bigotry in our city.”
After a two-day jury-waived trial in Suffolk Superior Court, SEAN DEVLIN, 35, was found guilty yesterday of violating the victim’s constitutional rights, assault and battery for purpose of intimidation, assault and battery on a person over 60, and wanton destruction of property.
“Everyone is welcome in Boston and Suffolk County,” District Attorney Rollins said. “The defendant’s actions were unconscionable and unacceptable, and the verdict reflects that. But I want to point out and thank the people who stood up for the victim and defended her rights at every step of this case. From MBTA passengers, who witnessed the assault and testified at trial, to Transit Police investigators to Suffolk prosecutors and victim advocates, they proved that racial and religious intolerance have no home here.”
At a sentencing hearing today, Assistant District Attorney David Wittenberg recommended a three-year prison term – the maximum penalty for the most serious offense – followed by two years of probation with orders that Devlin undergo evaluations for substance use and mental health, remain alcohol free, undergo drug treatment and screening as deemed necessary, and perform 100 hours of community service after participating in a diversity program for hate crime defendants.
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders imposed one year of probation following two years in a house of correction, but ordered that sentence nunc pro tunc – or retroactive – to the date of his arrest, making him eligible for release in four months. Because most of the time Devlin spent behind bars since that time was for Middlesex County convictions and not for consequences stemming from his behavior in this Suffolk County case, District Attorney Rollins said she would seek reconsideration of that decision and appeal it if necessary.
“The sentence as it was imposed does not reflect the seriousness of these offenses,” District Attorney Rollins said. “Hate crimes spread fear across entire neighborhoods and communities. There are legal and moral reasons Devlin ought to serve a significant Suffolk County sentence for a serious Suffolk County crime.”
At trial, prosecutors proved that Devlin was riding an Orange Line train on June 19, 2017, when he began shouting anti-Muslim slurs at the 61-year-old victim, who was wearing a hijab as she returned from a prayer service during Ramadan. Devlin mocked the woman, telling her to take it off and return to her country.
“This is my country,” responded the woman, a resident of East Boston who had emigrated from Morocco and recently became an American citizen.
The evidence further showed that Devlin accused the woman of having a bomb in her bag and punched a window near her head, breaking it. As the woman left the train in fear, Devlin struck her.
In an impact statement following the verdict, the woman told the court that she felt tense and afraid in the days and weeks following the assault.
“I used to cry daily and pray for justice,” she said through an interpreter. “Why would someone attack me just for wearing something different? I am so thankful my rights were taken seriously … I am here for peace, tranquility, and safety.”
After thanking the court through the interpreter, she spoke one more sentence – this time in English.
“God bless America,” she said.
All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.