The Wrongful Conviction of Alfred Trenkler
In 1991 Alfred W. Trenkler was a well-educated, hardworking businessman in his mid-thirties, living in Quincy, Massachusetts. He had a loving and financially secure family, step-father John (Jack) and mother Josephine (Jo) and step-brother David. Alfred has always had strong ties to his community having done volunteer work throughout his life. He had worked with the Red Cross and with a group called "Friends of the Blue Hills". Alfred also had given his time to South Shore "react" which worked with the Massachusetts State police and started his own group called South Shore safety squad with a reserve fireman.
Alfred had recently started his own business with a partner (Richard Brown) in June of 1991. His small high-tech business designed, installed and maintained large microwave satellite transmission dishes for television broadcasters and large radio towers, and communication transmission systems for broadcast, police and fire, and other public and private service providers.
In October of 1991 Alfred's company (ARCOMM) was in the middle of a large contract with the Christian Science Monitor Mother Church installing a Microwave backbone system for the World Monitor News world wide television broadcasting network. This was both a financially rewarding project and a project that would open the doors for future business with the Christian Science Monitor and other highly regarded organizations such as Quincy Civil Defence and MIT. During the months of September and October the business was grossing over $30,000 with several more estimates given for future work in the $300,000 range. Alfred's hard work had paid off and his business was experiencing great success.
On October 28, 1991, Boston Bomb Squad officers Jeremiah Hurley Jr., and his partner, Francis X. Foley, were called to investigate a suspicious black box, that had been found at the home of Mary Flanagan of 39 Eastbourne Street, Roslindale, MA. Their investigation was at the request of Thomas Leroy Shay, "Shay Sr" who was the 45 year old live-in boyfriend of Mary. Shay Sr. claimed that the black box had been dislodged from underneath his car while he was pulling out of his driveway. He had informed the BPD that not only had he been in possession of it for a day and a half before contacting them he also had moved the box twice; once throwing it beside his house and then next tossing it between the vehicles in his driveway. While the bomb squad officers were examining the black box it accidentally exploded. Jeremiah Hurley, Jr. was critically injured and would later die from his injuries and his partner, Francis X. Foley, was maimed.
The only person(s) that know who are responsible for this tragedy are those that participated in the building, placing and arming of the bomb; the identity of which has never been truly discovered.
The authorities were under tremendous pressure to find the responsible parties and punish them. One of their own had been killed, another injured and they needed to act swiftly and decisively. Initially the Boston homocide department was responsible for the investigation. They interviewed all witnesses and cornered off the area and waited for the ATF's Northeast Region National Response Team to respond the following day. This joint investigation would lead to confusion in evidence collection and report filing
In it's initial investigation they had both physical and forensic evidence and witnesses to at least one aspect of the crime. There was a proven motive and viable intent, and evidence to defraud an insurance company. However, none of this evidence or witnesses linked Alfred to the crime. In the early days of the investigation there was no need to look at other suspects since Shay Sr. was the only person with a solid motive That is until Shay Sr's son came to learn about the media attention that was surrounding his father.
Shay Jr was a deeply, psychologically disturbed young man in his early 20's that had a troubled relationship with his father, Shay Sr. Shay Jr. had been in and out of several different psychiatric hospitals over the years and had spent his adolescence growing up in boy's schools. Shay Jr. insinuated himself into the investigation by calling press conferences and scheduling interviews where he would blatantly create falsehoods.
Linking Alfred To The Crime
Alfred had never met Shay Sr. and had only met Shay Jr. on 6 separate occasions. These were random encounters which consisted of Alfred feeling sorry for Jr. and driving him to different spots around the Boston area. During one of these chance meetings, Shay Jr. entered Alfred's pager number into his address book. The ATF had begun investigating Shay Jr. after the distorted and outrageous claims he made at his press conference. The ATF found Alfred's name in Jr.'s address book and discovered that five years before Alfred had participated in a prank. He had attached a firecracker called an M-21 Hoffman artillery simulator to the side of a fish truck under pressure from a friend who wanted to put a scare into her former employers. Even though this childish prank caused no harm to people or property the ATF would link it to the fatal explosion in Roslindale. That was all the ATF needed to start plotting their conspiracy theory.
There was no evidence that Alfred obtained any explosives, provided any parts for the bomb, built the bomb, placed, armed or activated it. In other words, the ATF had NO direct evidence whatsoever that linked Alfred to this crime. Retired FBI bomb expert Denny Kline who helped solve the Lockerbie, Scotland airline bombing, testified at Alfred's evidentiary hearing that in all his years he NEVER worked on a case like Alfred's where there was ABSOLUTELY no physical or forensic evidence connecting the defendant to any aspect of the bombing. Instead all the ATF had was a smorgasbord of inconclusive, circumstantial and flawed scientific evidence, combined with inference piled upon inference, 3 unreliable jailhouse informants and the government's biased, wilful withholding of evidence identifying the actual bomb maker.
There was a $65,000 reward for any information leading up to the arrest and conviction of the responsible parties. Greed and self interest were powerful motivators
The Indictment & Arrest & Detention
Alfred Trenkler was indicted on December 16, 1992, arrested at gunpoint and jailed in the Plymouth County House of Correction. The next day he was joined by William David Lindholm. Lindholm, who claimed to have lived at one time on the same street as Alfred in Milton, Mass, had also told him that his father attended the same school's as Alfred; Milton Academy and Thayer Academy (those claims were not true). Lindholm had already given the United States Attorney's office information about his former drug smuggling associates and as a career criminal was well aware of the inner workings of the justice system. He had been sentenced to 97 months in prison for tax evasion and drug distribution. Lindholm had been temporarily housed in a prison north of Boston, but was mysteriously sent to Plymouth and may have been intentionally placed with Alfred and 40 inmates in a 40 X 30 foot dormitory with 20 bunk beds for the explicit purpose of enabling Lindholm to extract information from him. Alfred was an intelligent man and after co-operating with the authorities and being wrongfully incarcerated he knew he could not trust anyone. However this would not stop Lindholm, he simply parroted the information that was published in the media and fabricated the rest. Lindholm had also been in the same Federal Courthouse holding cell as Shay Jr, Alfred's alleged co-conspirator, prior to his later placement with Alfred in Plymouth. Oddly, Lindholm never testified against Shay Jr. who seemed to relish any attention that he received and continuously made up outlandish stories to any and all who would listen.
The prosecution was allowed to depict Alfred as a transient, drug dealing deviant who prayed on younger males. Besides this testimony being utterly prejudicial it was also completely untrue. Shay Jr.'s homosexuality was used as a weapon against Alfred. Since Shay Jr. was gay Alfred automatically was labelled gay as well and hence the prosecution's motive was born. The prosecution would continually show its bias and often ask the witnesses if they were married; clearly making the distinction for the court between the heterosexual and the homosexual witnesses. The prosecution was allowed to enter into evidence testimony from Alfred's supposed "ex-lovers" and testimony that Alfred was a regular at local gay pick up spots. Taking the advice of his attorney, Alfred chose not to testify at his October/November 1993 trial, which allowed these falsehoods to stand uncontested.
At the start of Alfred's trial, the jury had been informed that Shay Jr. had been found guilty of some but not all of the charges against him. In the Summer of 1993 he had been convicted for his role in the bombing and was sentenced to 15 years, 8 months in prison. Shay Jr. had been called to testify by the prosecution at Alfred's trial. Both Jr. and his attorney's were fearful of a perjury charge if he testified since he had given so many false statements throughout the entire investigation. His appearance as a witness would have given the jury a chance to see and hear the young man with whom Alfred was alleged to have conspired with. Terry Segel, Alfred's attorney chose not to demand the testimony of this alleged co-conspirator. Instead, the prosecution was allowed to enter into evidence outrageous statements that Shay Jr. had made over the course of the investigation both to the investigators and to the press. However, since Shay Jr. didn't testify the defence were never able to cross examine him and expose all his lies.
William David Lindholm testified that Alfred had admitted to building the Roslindale bomb. He also embellished his story by explaining that Alfred hated the prosecutor Paul Kelly and that Alfred and him had bonded so much in those 2 days that he confided how upset he was over Shay Jr.'s HIV status. The absurdity of those statements and that they were allowed into testimony is unfathomable. Lindholm testified that he had no agreement with the U.S. Attorney for any reduction of his 97 month prison sentence, should his testimony prove useful; and that he would not seek any deal with the prosecutor in the future. The prosecutor summarized and repeated to the jury the pledge that Lindholm had no expectation of a reduced sentence and that he would not ask for one This would change less than 6 months later. Boston Herald reporter Ralph Rinaldi put it best that the Government won this case with smoke and mirrors.
From the start of the trial, Judge Zobel had insisted that the testimony be completed before Thanksgiving . She issued constant reminders to both the prosecution and defence about this time line and even extended the hours that the court was in session in order to accomplish this. By the time the prosecution had rested there was only about 4 days left before the holiday. Alfred's attorney sped through Alfred's defence in about 3 1/2 days. Time should not been an issue when a man's life and livelihood are at stake.
The Verdict & Sentence
On the morning of the fourth day of deliberations, November 29, 1993 the jury posed 2 questions to the court. The first was how do they weigh the difference between direct and indirect evidence in regards to the law. The second asking how tight the web of circumstantial evidence has to be in order to find a person guilty. Judge Zobel after discussing it with both prosecution and defense counsel, stated that "there is no difference in the weight that may be given to direct or circumstantial evidence". The example the court gave was the turtle and the stump which is if a witness testifies that they observe a turtle on a tree stump 3 feet high that you would infer someone placed the turtle on the tree stump since turtles can't climb trees or in other words inferences may be drawn from a series of facts. The court also gave an example on how you can draw inferences from a single fact with a story about the newspaper being at the door and footprints in the snow leading to and from the house where you could infer that because the newspaper was present and there was footprints that the paperboy dropped it at the door. The court clarified that inferences can't be drawn on inferences. The prosecution's entire case was inference piled on inference cloaked as truth. However, with that winding and non-direct appraoch to the jury's questions the jury ceased deliberations with their verdict a few hours later.
The jury found Alfred Trenkler guilty of:
Receipt of explosive materials
Attempted malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive.
On March 8, 1994 Alfred Trenkler was sentenced to two concurrent life terms in a Federal Penitentiary
Alfred Trenkler appealed his conviction and almost won a new trial when the First Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge, Juan Torruella urged his colleagues to reverse the guilty verdict. Torruella was outvoted, 2-1, and Alfred lost his bid. Subsequently, he has lost several more appeals and is now imprisoned at the Federal Penitentiary in Tucson, AZ..
Post Conviction Activities
With such legal avenues closing down, Alfred chose in March 2006 to bring his case to the people of the U.S. and authorized the creation of a website (later in the summer of 2011 a second website was built). He also authorized the initiation of a "Campaign for Alfred" through which he and his supporters hope to convince the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Boston Police Department (BPD), that his prosecution was a tragic mistake; and for that Department to request the vacating of the judgment against him. On April 4, 2007, Alfred was brought back to Judge Zobel's courtroom for resentencing because his original sentence was incorrectly made without the required recommendation from the jury. Alfred had brought this problem to Judge Zobel's attention in a December 1, 2005 letter. After vacating the two-life term sentence, Judge Zobel sentenced Alfred Trenkler to 37 years in prison, with time served from March 8, 1994. on August 1, 2008 the First Circuit Court of Appeals overruled Judge Zobel and ordered the two life sentences be reimposed, even after admitting Alfred's sentences were illegal. On October 30, 2008 U.S. District Court Judge Rya Zobel reinstated Alfred Trenkler's double life sentence as mandated by the First Circuit Court of Appeals..
In July of 2007, after Alfred had been returned to USP Allenwood in Pennsylvania, he filed a motion with the First Circuit Court of Appeals with the claim that he discovered
new evidence that would have proven his innocence. In the government's December 2007 response it announced that it had destroyed all the evidence in Alfred's case in 2005 and 2006. Alfred made many attempts to find out details of the destruction of evidence to no avail. Finally after contact was made with the Boston Police Department the evidence was located, and used for inclusion in another motion for a new trial. This motion was also denied by the First Circuit Court. Alfred is currently awaiting an answer from the first Circuit Court of Appeals on his motion for an en banc hearing of the full court. In September of 2007, 100 copies of a manuscript for a book about the case, "Perfectly Innocent", were printed and circulated to prosecutors, investigators and others interested in the case. Four of Alfred Trenkler's jurors, including the jury forewoman have read the book and all five have written to the trial judge to disavow their 1993 verdict and to seek a new trial for Alfred Trenkler. A fifth juror did not need to read the book; he wrote the trial judge with the same sentiments after hearing about the first four jurors; he happened to be one of a few holdout jurors that had felt the trial was a scam based on flawed science. In March 2009 Judge Rya Zobel denied Alfred's motion.
Currently, Alfred is fighting this case on the legal front on his own, he has no attorney and files all his briefs on his own from the years of research into this case.
Through further legal challenges to the wrongful conviction and through the "Campaign for Alfred," it is hoped that Alfred Trenkler will be freed. When Alfred is freed, the authorities can then resume their search for the real builder of that 1991 "Roslindale bomb".