Rachelle Bond’s Sentence in Bella Bond Murder: A Tough Legal Choice

Here in Massachusetts and indeed across the country, most of the public who have watched the sick and twisted saga of the murder of young Bella Bond, are understandably outraged at the extremely lenient sentence that the dead girl’s mother, Rachelle Bond, was given today by a Massachusetts Superior Court judge.  That sentence?  Time already served while incarcerated in this matter – approximately 2 years – plus 2 years of probation & drug monitoring.  She will walk free by this Friday, into a rehab program at a halfway house.

The Boston Globe has called this sentence – with justification – “The Mother of all Leniency.”  I share in the regret over the necessity of this awful outcome. A 2 year-old baby, murdered; her body eventually placed in a trash bag on a Boston Harbor island.  It’s nauseating.  But as a Boston criminal defense attorney, I need to emphasize to people the word “necessity” in the above sentence.  There were two defendants in this murder:  Rachelle Bond’s boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, who was accused and charged with the actual murder – and Rachelle Bond, who was not charged in the child’s murder, but was charged with covering up the girl’s murder for over 3 months after the child’s body was found, as well as being charged with accepting welfare checks issued in the dad girl’s name. Her defense?  That she was addicted to heroin at the time, and was pressured/threatened by Michael McCarthy to cover up the murder.

Hardly an anywhere-near morally acceptable ‘excuse.’  The sight of her makes many people, including myself, sick.  But the public needs to understand:  This was a plea deal – a legal calculation by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office that without Rachelle Bond’s truthful testimony against Michael McCarthy, McCarthy might have been acquitted at trial, and walked free.  Instead, he was convicted of Murder in the Second Degree, and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 20 years.  And you can trust me, his time in prison is going to be quite otherworldly, and the definition of human misery.  Rachelle Bond pled guilty to both of the above counts she was charged with, in exchange for this sentencing recommendation that the judge adopted today.

I’ve defended (and earlier in my career, prosecuted) many a case where highly undesirable plea deals had to be made, in order to secure a conviction against the more guilty of multiple co-defendants.  Our system of criminal law and criminal justice is not perfect; it often fails to achieve its objectives.  But if an inflexible, non-negotiable position is taken by the prosecution in each and every case where two or more defendants acted to commit or further the same crime, many times both (or all) defendants will walk free.  Without truthful, incriminating testimony against one of more of multiple defendants, juries often cannot sift out who is truly guilty of the charge(s) beyond a reasonable doubt.  This can easily result in a “Not Guilty” verdict.  Simply ask yourself this:  If the DA’s office had refused to make the sentencing recommendation for Rachelle Bond that they did, and she refused to testify against Michael McCarthy, McCarthy might be walking the streets of Boston right now.

Legal idealism, and the laudable concept of justice in its purest, most undiluted form, should always be the first objective of our legal system.  But we must also live in the real world, to – sometimes 0 achieve a lesser form of justice.  Somewhere beyond the bounds of this earthly existence, I hope Bella Bond can understand this.