Archives and Special Collections
92 Snell Library
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Boston, MA 02115
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Archives and Special Collections Finding Aids

Printable Finding Aid. Back to Browsing Version.

Collection Overview
Title:Benjamin LaGuer papers
Dates:1984-2000 (bulk 1998-2000)
Call Number:M100
Volume:0.15 cubic ft. (1 box)
Scope and Content Abstract:The collection includes: correspondence from LaGuer to Masso between1998 and 2000, requesting Masso's support for Parole Board and other hearings; legal documents, correspondence, and memoranda relating to Parole Board and other hearings between 1984 and 2000; and publicity about LaGuer and his ongoing quest for parole or a new trial between 1987 and 2000.
Historical Abstract:Benjamin LaGuer is a Puerto Rican-American who was convicted of raping a neighbor in January 1984. He consistently maintained his innocence and actively sought a new trial and parole based on lack of evidence, mental incapacity of the victim, and racism on the part of the jury and Parole Board. Over the years, LaGuer gained the support of people in academics, politics, law, and the media. José Masso, Senior Associate Director of Northeastern's Center for the Study of Sport in Society (CSSS) between 1997 and 2000, was one of many LaGuer contacted for support. Also a native of Puerto Rico, Masso had a special interest in Latinos in sports and society, and was an activist in various community organizations. During his tenure with Northeastern, he was a member of Mayor Menino's Office of Cultural Affairs Planning and Assessment Advisory Task Force, and the host of WBUR's bilingual radio program "Con Salsa."
Arrangement:Arranged in one alphabetical sequence.
Subjects and Contributors:
  • Masso, José
  • LaGuer, Benjamin

  • Criminal investigation -- Massachusetts
  • Crime and the press -- United States
  • Crime and race -- United States
  • Discrimination in criminal justice system -- Massachusetts
  • Mass media and criminal justice
  • Prisoners -- Massachusetts -- Correspondence

Restrictions:The collection is unrestricted.
Processor:Finding aid prepared by Linda Carroll, April 2004

Scope and Content Note

The collection includes: correspondence (typewritten and handwritten letters, and notes with attached materials) from Benjamin LaGuer to José Masso from April 1998 through December 2000; legal documents relating to Parole Board and other hearings; and publicity about LaGuer and his ongoing quest for parole or a new trial.

The correspondence is either from LaGuer to Masso or from others to the Parole Board on LaGuer's behalf. In his letters and notes to Masso, LaGuer asks for support on his behalf for Parole Board hearings held in June 1998 (denied October 1998), November 1998 (denied May 1999), and April 2000 (denied August 2000), as well as for hearings regarding DNA testing in March 2000 and June 2000. The letters and notes include copies of letters to and from other supporters, as well as copies of legal documents and publicity. There is no correspondence from Masso to LaGuer, nor other correspondence to or from Masso regarding LaGuer.

The letters and notes from LaGuer to Masso fall into three types: (1) those asking Masso for his help getting political and community support for Parole Board and other hearings; (2) those expressing his fears and frustrations related to pre-hearing activities and post-hearing results; and (3) those sharing information/copies of letters of support from others, including Allen Fletcher (Worcester Publishing); Francisco Gonzalez-Palacio (formerly with Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights); Nelson Merced (Senior Associate, Community Training & Assistance Center); Sheila R. Decter (New England Director, American Jewish Congress); Deval Patrick (former U.S. Attorney General for Civil Rights; attorney with Day, Berry & Howard); Noam Chomsky (MIT); John Silber (Chancellor, Boston University); Don Muhammad (Nation of Islam); Lisamarie Cintron (Acting Regional Director, Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration); William Styron (author); Martin Espada (Professor, University of Massachusetts-Amherst); Bruce Young Candelaria (Executive Director, Hispanic-American Chamber of Commerce).

Legal documents and information about Parole Board hearings include correspondence between LaGuer, his lawyers, and the Parole Board related to dates of Parole Board hearings and appeals, and motions and orders related to DNA testing and preservation of evidence. This folder also includes versions of LaGuer's printed testimony to the Parole Board. Key personalities involved in LaGuer's efforts include Worcester District Attorney John Conte, BU President John Silber, and Parole Board Chair, Sheila A. Hubbard. LaGuer's attorneys were McDermott, Will & Emery of Boston.

Publicity materials include articles, interviews and editorials about LaGuer in the Boston Globe, Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Boston Magazine, Boston Phoenix; articles published by LaGuer; stories about DNA testing that mention LaGuer; and "References," listing the names and dates of stories and interviews in magazines, newspapers, radio broadcasts, and television broadcasts.

Historical Note

The Benjamin LaGuer records were transferred from series 2 of Northeastern University Center for the Study of Sport in Society records, 1996-2000.

José Masso was Senior Associate Director of Northeastern's Center for the Study of Sport in Society (CSSS) between 1997 and 2000. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Masso had a special interest in Latinos in sports and society, and was an activist in various community organizations. He graduated from Antioch College in 1973 and, prior to joining Northeastern, he was a bilingual teacher in Boston public school system, an agent representing Latin entertainment and sports stars, and a producer and promoter of Latin concerts. He also has hosted for many years the WBUR radio program "Con Salsa," a bilingual music program. While with CSSS, he was a member of Mayor Thomas Menino's Office of Cultural Affairs Planning and Assessment Advisory Task Force.

Benjamin LaGuer was born in 1963 in New York and brought to Leominster, Massachusetts by his father and stepmother in 1979. LaGuer dropped out of high school at age 17 and joined the army. He was discharged in June 1983, about three weeks before his arrest for the rape of a neighbor on July 13, 1983. He was convicted on January 30, 1984, and sentenced to life in prison on February 19, 1984.

LaGuer worked in the Norfolk State Penitentiary library and studied law. He eventually graduated magna cum laude from Boston University's Prison Education Program. He filed appeals on behalf of fellow inmates, and also began his quest to be paroled or granted a new trial. From the day he was convicted, LaGuer proclaimed his innocence, based on several factors: lack of clear evidence that directly linked him to the crime scene; no previous criminal record; hospital records indicating that the victim suffered from schizophrenia; admission of racism by a juror and by a Parole Board member; and the subsequent discovery of a misplaced rape investigation kit in a box of evidence in Worcester Superior Court. As of February 2004, LaGuer's lawyers filed a new motion to have the 1984 indictment dismissed (Worcester Telegram & Gazette, February 12, 2004. Local News, page 2).

He became a "cause celebre" among prominent academics, lawyers, politicians, religious leaders, and the media. A prolific writer, he corresponded regularly with Parole Board members, lawyers, and reporters. Individuals writing on his behalf included William Styron, BU president John Silber, MIT professor Noam Chomsky, as well as several religious leaders. Publicity on his behalf appeared in numerous feature articles, interviews in Boston and Worcester newspapers and on Spanish-language radio programs, and stories in national magazines. He was interviewed by Barbara Walters on ABC's "20/20" in 2000. The story of his efforts to be paroled has been broadcast on television regularly since 1987. LaGuer received a 1998 PEN Award for his published memoir "A Man Who Loves His Mother Loves Women."

July 13, 1983LaGuer arrested for rape, assault and robbery of neighbor on July 12, 1983
January 30, 1984LaGuer convicted of rape, assault and robbery
February 19, 1984LaGuer sentenced to life in prison for rape; also to concurrent 12-15 year terms for breaking and entering and unarmed robbery. Eligible for parole in 1999.
1987Motion made for new trial, based on potential mishandling of crime scene evidence
1987 Juror reveals that 1984 deliberations were tinged with racism
February 1988New trial requested
May 1989Court hearing regarding new trial based on mishandling of crime scene evidence
January 1991LaGuer seeks new trial based on juror bias
November 19931987 request for new trial denied; appealed
April 1, 1994Court denies appeal
April 1998First correspondence in collection from LaGuer to Masso
June 29, 1998First Parole Board hearing
October 27, 1998Parole denied (cannot try again until 2003)
November 1998Parole appealed based on Parole Board member admission of racial remarks
May 20, 1999Appeal denied
March 2000Preliminary hearing for DNA testing
April 4, 2000Second Parole Board hearing (first official hearing - first was not allowed)
June 1, 2000Court date set for DNA hearing
August 2, 2000Parole denied
December 9, 2000Final correspondence in collection from LaGuer to Masso
December 2001New evidence that fingerprints left on crime scene were not LaGuer's
January 2002DNA samples sent to lab
March 2002Results of DNA test put LaGuer on the scene
June 2003Parole Board hearing; parole denied
February 2004LaGuer seeks new trial over fingerprint report and DNA contamination

Strahinich, John. "A Reasonable Doubt." Boston Magazine, October 1987, p. 166-232.

Arnold, David. "Convict's cause is tested: supporters shaken by DNA findings." Boston Globe, March 28, 2002.

Farmelant, Scott. "Convicted rapist LaGuer denied parole," Boston Herald, November 6, 1998

Ellement, John. "Convict hopeful of winning freedom," Boston Globe, April 5, 2000

Young, Bob. "WBUR's Masso is Hub's 'Salsa man of the year'," Boston Herald, June 21, 2000.

Bruun, Matthew. "Conte rejects LaGuer claim," Worcester Telegram & Gazette, February 15, 2004.
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1Legal Documents and Parole Board Materials1984-2000