Joseph R. Yandle, the convicted first-degree murderer whose purported Vietnam War heroism helped persuade then-Massachusetts Governor William Weld to endorse his release from prison in 1995, admitted this week that he fabricated his war record and detailed backup documents to dupe state officials into freeing him.
"Ever since the commutation, I've been waiting, knowing this other shoe would drop," said Yandle from his home in Rutland.
The Bay State's Acting Governor Paul Cellucci said he would move immediately to reverse Weld's decision to commute Yandle's life sentence without parole. But as Lieutenant Governor, Cellucci played a role in Yandle's release. He presided over the Govenor's Council, the panel that voted to commute the sentence. As reported by The Boston Globe, Aug. 26, Cellucci said the administration had documents purporting to show Yandle had served in Vietnam. But he acknowledged that he probably had been duped. And Cellucci said he would ask the Governor's Council to return Yandle to prison.
Cellucci's role in the commutation hasn't been ignored by his Republican gubernatorial primary opponent. To quote State Treasurer Joseph Malone: "One of the few constitutional duties of a lieutenant governor is to preside over the Governor's Council. He (Cellucci) bought hook, line and sinker this soap opera story. He proceeded to set free a convicted murderer against the wishes of the victim's famiily."
Malone's criticism of his fellow Republican sounds a bit like the GOP attacks on Bay State Democrat Michael Dukakis after Willie Horton was let out of the clink. But this shouldn't be a matter of merely blaming one's political opponent even in an election year. Yandle received national exposure when the CBS program, "60 Minutes" took up his case. The Vietnam Veterans of America lobbied in his behalf in 1994. And that helped to influence Weld in the first place. But regardless of how this plays out with Massachusetts voters, we continue to believe convicted lawbreakers should serve their full time. And until they do, many New England folks will continue to have a cynical attitude about the legal system.