For Immediate Release

Candlelight vigil for restraining order abuse victim to be held Sunday evening

Third vigil for Harry Stewart outside Dedham jail

QUINCY, September 12, 1999—The Fatherhood Coalition, a Massachusetts based father's rights organization, will hold a candlelight vigil outside the Norfolk County House of Correction in Dedham this Sunday evening from 7 to 9 p.m.

The FREE HARRY! campaign began on August 18 this year when Harry Stewart, a lay minister from Quincy, began serving a 6-month sentence for violating the conditions of a domestic abuse prevention ("209A") order. Stewart was charged with violating the order when he exited his car to assist his son return home to the mother following a court-ordered visit in 1997.

Under the conditions of the restraining order, Stewart was constrained to stay in his car at visitation pickup-dropoffs. On this occasion, the mother failed to acknowledge their arrival and open the inner locked door of the housing complex. After waiting several minutes, Stewart left the car because his 5-year-old son had to go the bathroom and was unable to open the outer door by himself. This was the extent of the violation for which a jury convicted Stewart on June 21.

Stewart was sentenced to two-years probation and a 6-month suspended sentence contingent on his completing the Common Purpose so-called "batterer's intervention program." Stewart was prevented from entering the program when he refused to sign the self-incriminating "Guidelines and Agreement" document required for entry. The document is a confession of acts of domestic violence, of which Stewart is innocent and never been charged.

The Fatherhood Coalition will have music and speakers at the vigil, and the giant FREE HARRY banner will be draped over the highway overpass.

Fatherhood Coalition Brings ch.209A Law to Federal Court and State SJC

Stewart's case has ignited a furor of public debate on the issue of domestic restraining orders. In related events, the Fatherhood Coalition filed a federal lawsuit against the judges of the state's trial court last week. Among other charges, the suit calls for the voiding of the state's abuse prevention law on grounds that it violates the U.S. and state constitutions.

Also last week, the Fatherhood Coalition sent a Supreme Judicial Court Petition to the Governor and the Judiciary Committee. The petition requests the immediate release of Stewart and a ruling on the constitutionality of 209A. Under the State Constitution, the Governor and the Legislature are empowered to request legal opinions from the SJC.


For further information on the FREE HARRY! campaign, contact:

Mark Charalambous

CPF Spokesman

Phyllis Field, Esq.

(Stewart's attorney)

John Flaherty

CPF Co-Chairman




CPF - The Fatherhood Coalition

A non-profit, all volunteer organization of men and women advocating for fatherhood since 1994

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