By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Who was George Holmes?

You have to wonder what Bobby Dellelo was thinking. The ex-convict, who served some four decades in connection with the murder of a police officer, allowed himself to become a public face of efforts to reform the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) law. What happened next was inevitable.

Advocates of reform say that prospective employers use CORI to screen out ex-cons, making it impossible for them to find work and turn their lives around. Yesterday the Boston Globe published a longish feature on Dellelo by Megan Tench, complete with an evocative portrait by photographer Dominic Chavez. Tench quoted Dellelo as follows:

“I can’t even get a job driving a cab,” said Dellelo, 68, who holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Curry College.

“I can’t get a home. I can’t get a job. I know how to rob banks. I know how to hotwire armored cars. I did it. What do you think I should do?”

But there is absolutely no mention in Tench’s story of Dellelo’s murder conviction. So would you care to guess what happened today? In what might be termed a double make-up call, the Boston Herald ran an O’Ryan Johnson piece headlined “Globe’s ex-con exclusive excluded killer details: Tale of woe left out conviction in murder.” And the Globe itself ran a follow-up — bylined by Marcia Cramer and Tench — dredging up Dellelo’s past in loving detail.

Johnson’s article quotes Thomas Holmes, who was 9 years old when his father, George Holmes, was shot to death by Dellelo’s accomplice in a jewelry-store robbery. “Why not mention the truth of what he is?” Holmes is quoted as saying. “If it was me they’d go through my background, they’d dig up everything they could. They want to make everyone feel sorry for this guy because he was in prison. My father was shot six times without having his gun pulled out of his holster.”

The print version of today’s Globe includes two photos of Dellelo being forcibly apprehended by authorities, once after his arrest in 1963, and another time after he’d escaped from prison in 1968 — not his only escape, by the way. The article quotes Robert Kenney, president of the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society, as saying, “I think it’s a little disgusting. I think it’s shocking we’re supposed to feel sorry for a guy who killed a police officer…. There is no reason for him to be walking the streets.”

Holmes’ and Kenney’s sentiments are absolutely understandable. But let’s not forget that Dellelo never shot anyone. He and his accomplice, Nicholas Yasaian, had actually gone off in different directions before Yasaian, unbeknownst to Dellelo, murdered Holmes. Yasaian later committed suicide. Legally, Dellelo is just as culpable as Yasaian. Logic and morality, though, would dictate otherwise.

Still, the Globe certainly should have offered more details about Dellelo’s past in its first article — not just because readers have a right to know, but out of respect for George Holmes’ memory and his family. And it’s not as if no one knew. Here is the lead of an April 4, 2004, Globe Magazine piece to which the Herald alludes: “After 30 years in state and federal prisons plus a few years in juvenile detention, Bobby Dellelo thought he had experienced everything there was to life behind bars. He was serving a life sentence for his part in a Boston jewelry heist in which an off-duty police officer had been killed.” That’s certainly clear enough. Aren’t you supposed to check the clips?

As for Dellelo himself, how could he have not known what was going to happen when he stepped forward — especially if he failed to come clean about his past?

For Dellelo, there is one consolation. In yesterday’s Globe story, he was 68 years old. Today he’s 64. Given enough time, maybe he’ll get back a few more of the years he served.

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  1. Anonymous

    If Delello was honest with himself and others, most of his problems (over many years of incarceration) might have been avoided. It is unfortunate that his life took a wrong turn, for which he has paid for years. That said, officer Holmes’s death resulted in numerous other misfortunes to his family, as recounted in both papers. They can’t sue Delello or undo history. Retribution is not everything in the correctional system, but it is by no means NOTHING either. If we trivialize Holmes’s death, we end up victimizing the Holmes family once again. Who speaks for them? The slope gets slipperier by the day.

  2. MeTheSheeple

    The “40 years” is a spurious argument. He last escaped what, 11 years before his release? That’s hardly the model of a penitent, reformed prisoner trying to live beyond his initial sins.He is an odd poster child for the CORI reform effort.

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