Asked by a state parole board last month if he had anything to say about the crime he was convicted of, Edwin Tirado first asked for the question to be repeated.
The parole board member did so. In terms of the crime itself, was there anything that he would like to say about it.
The crime the board member was referring to was Tirado’s 2007 conviction of second-degree manslaughter in the smothering death of 13-year-old Jonathan Carey, an autistic boy who was in Tirado’s care.
What came next was an admission of remorse. Shown the transcript of Tirado’s appearance before the parole board, the boy’s father Michael Carey said it was the first time he had ever heard Tirado express remorse for what Tirado did to Jonathan.
But, the father noted, he still hasn’t heard it from Tirado directly.
To the parole board, Tirado started into his response: “That I am very remorseful about what happened and I take full responsibility for the choices that I made, or the past choices that I made,” Tirado told the board.
Tirado continued: “And that I understand that through my choices, that it has affected a lot of people, it has affected the [blacked out], it has affected my family and myself and I take full responsibility.”
The account comes in the full transcript of Tirado’s first parole board hearing, held at Groveland Correctional Facility near Rochester May 22. The hearing was to determine if Tirado should be paroled; he was sentenced after his conviction in 2007 to a total of five to 15 years in state prison.
The hearing also resulted in the parole board denying Tirado’s release. He is due next before the board in 2014.
Michael Carey had yet to see the transcript, until shown it Friday by The Daily Gazette. Parole decisions are generally made public and the transcripts are released a couple weeks later. Tirado’s transcript was released Friday for the first time.
“I would say obviously I hope he is remorseful,” Carey said Friday, “But he’s never shown that to my wife or myself — and he’s had opportunities to do that.”
Those opportunities came both at Tirado’s trial and during civil depositions in the family’s lawsuit against he state over Jonathan’s death. They heard nothing from Tirado on either occasion.
Tirado was convicted in an October 2007 trial of second-degree manslaughter. The jury deliberated for less than five hours, finding Tirado knew the risk of restraining the boy and was criminally responsible for his death.
The jury found Tirado had improperly restrained Jonathan during the Feb. 15, 2007, outing in a van from O.D. Heck in Niskayuna to Crossgates Mall. Tirado compressed his body against the boy’s and caused him to stop breathing. And after the boy stopped breathing, Tirado failed to provide medical help for him.
Tirado was with an aide-in-training at the time, Nadeem Mall. Mall pleaded guilty to a count of criminally negligent homicide as part of a plea agreement and served six months in jail.
In a written statement and a videotape reenactment with police shortly after Jonathan’s death, Tirado admitted he restrained the boy and showed how he pushed his back and buttocks into the boy’s chest.
At trial, though, Tirado testified that his statements to police and on the videotape were inaccurate and he blamed it on his own exhaustion and nervousness when interviewed by police.
Afterward, Albany County prosecutor David Rossi told reporters that Tirado accepted “zero responsibility” for Jonathan’s death and he said then even after the verdict Tirado didn’t display any remorse for the youth’s death.
The Careys communicated with the parole board, asking them to deny Tirado parole.
Tirado, Carey said, got a light sentence as it is. The Carey’s say he should serve out the full 15 years.
Carey cited other documents that surfaced in the court case that suggested that Tirado was the one on duty at other times when Jonathan was injured.
“We believe he has violent tendencies, we believe he needs to serve out his full sentence,” Carey said.
Jonathan’s parents have since become activists on behalf of disabled children, activism that has led to several changes in state law. Jonathan’s Law, passed after his son’s death, provides access to information for parents of disabled children, including records and reports on incidents and abuse.
Carey continues to fight for the passage of other laws, including one that would require surveillance cameras in facilities for the disabled and their vehicles, which would act as a deterrent to inappropriate or dangerous behavior.
The family also won a $5 million settlement from the state last year in a lawsuit. Their attorney said the settlement represented an acknowledgement of the state’s culpability in the boy’s death. There was clear evidence of systemic problems in the state mental health system long before Carey’s death, the attorney said.
Reading the parole transcript, Carey said they hope Tirado is truly remorseful and that one day he will be able to express that properly to the family.
Carey also said he doesn’t know what’s truly in Tirado’s heart.
One thing the father found telling, though, was that Tirado didn’t address Jonathan by name, or even Jonathan’s death specifically. He referred to it only as “what had happened” and “the choices that I made.”
Carey agreed that in the blacked out portion of the text that Tirado likely referred to the Carey family by their last name. Names of victims are routinely blacked out in the publicly released transcripts.
“It’s one thing to say your remorseful,” the father said. “Some people are remorseful because they got caught. But he’s not saying ‘I’m sorry I took the life of this precious boy under my care.’”
Regarding the impact of what Tirado now says he is remorseful for, Carey said that impact is never ending.
“He’s caused our family lifelong grief,” the father said. “We miss Jonathan every day. Our life will never be the same.”
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Categories: Schenectady County