Escaped Mass. inmate learned of indictment before staff

By Marie Szaniszlo and O'Ryan Johnson
The Boston Herald

BRIDGEWATER, Mass. — Authorities said a convicted robber learned of his rape indictment from media reports before prison officials were informed, apparently spurring his escape from his minimum-security facility, a massive hunt and furious finger-pointing between law enforcement agencies.

Manson Brown, 51 - who remained at large as of last night - was serving a 10-year sentence for armed home invasion and armed robbery when he walked away from Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater on Friday evening, after hearing media reports that he had been indicted for two counts of rape and other charges.

But news of an alleged positive DNA match between Brown and evidence collected in a brutal 1996 Cambridge rape and home invasion had not yet reached prison officials, the Department of Correction stated yesterday.

According to a DOC statement, the protocol of prosecutors notifying the Department of Correction was followed correctly, but the announcement to the press was faster than communication between the two agencies. That gave Brown the advantage.

"The media reports of Brown's new indictment and the standard procedures through which DOC is notified about changes in inmate status, such as charges in new crimes, occurred at the same time,'' the Department of Correction said in a statement. "Once that official notification had been completed, the DOC would have returned Brown to a higher level of security.''

But Middlesex District Attorney spokeswoman Jessica Venezia said her office believed notice of Brown's indictment had moved through proper channels.

"Multiple agencies were aware of the indictment. We assumed there was notification,'' she said. "I would assume the Department of Correction had some sort of system. Usually, agencies coordinate together.''

Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union President Steve Kenneway said his organization is also looking in to the apparent communication breakdown.

"We have a lot of concerns about how this person could have slipped through the cracks,'' he said.

Brown's status as minimum security and his kitchen job allowed him to go outside the prison's fence. However, DOC spokesman Steve Fallon said Brown was behind the fenced-in minimum security area when he was last seen at 5:40 p.m. Friday.

Copyright 2009 Boston Herald Inc.

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