Bernard Baran free for keeps
In a plain office on the second floor of the Probation Department, Baran rested his foot on a metal chair while the last remnant of his imprisonment an electronic monitoring bracelet belted around his ankle was cut loose. After 21 years in prison and three years under close court supervision, he was free.
Back outside in the damp afternoon, Baran and his small group of friends and family huddled briefly. There were no plans for a celebration, just a trip home.
"I came (to the Berkshires) today because my mother had to watch her innocent son being taken away 24 years ago, and I can't imagine what that was like for her," he said. "I knew today that I had to be here be here with her when we got the news, whether it was good or bad."
Baran's older brother, Santo, was turned away on Tuesday morning when he tried to attend the press conference where Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless said he would not seek to prosecute Baran on child molestation charges. He waited outside for word and then relayed the news to Baran.
"It's been a long time coming," Santo said. "Too long."
Baran has been living and working in the Boston area since a Superior Court judge overturned his guilty verdict in 2006. For three years, he said, he has lived with the constant threat that he could be returned to prison, perhaps by a ruling from the appeals court or a change in the terms of his bail.
"I never could really enjoy life because I always worried about the what ifs. How close do you get to your family before you get ripped away again?" he said.
"I don't feel glorious in this for the simple fact that there is still a lot of hurt to a lot of different people," he added.
For Baran's mother, Bertha Shaw, Capeless' decision ended 24 years of worrying and praying.
"It feels like it's not real," she said. "I prayed and I never gave up, because I knew from day one, when I asked him, 'If you did this, we can get you help,' and he looked right at me and said, 'Mom, I didn't do this. Don't worry.' So I knew that I would never give up. There were times when I wondered if we would ever see this day, or if I would live long enough to see it, but I never gave up."
Asked what he plans to do now, Baran said he will "take it one day at a time, real slow." He said he knows he can't regain what he lost.
"One thing I have learned is that you can't make up for anything. If you try, you get lost in the pain of realizing how much you missed," he said. "So I've got to start over."
And he said he will never be the person he was before he was imprisoned.
"Everything that I went through will never be over for me, and I am a different guy than I was before. I don't trust. I worry. I'm nervous about everything, and I worry for my family," he said. "I just want to move on and be with my family and embrace the life that I desperately fought to get back."
To reach Jack Dew: email@example.com, or (413) 496-6241.
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