To the Editor:
On August 1, Michael Bryant pleaded guilty to stealing thousands of oysters from farms in Barnstable and Dennis, this was a substantial financial loss to local shellfishermen trying to make a living. Joe Vaudo, owner of Joe's Lobster Mart, pleaded guilty to purchasing 800 of the stolen oysters from Bryant in March 2014.
District Attorney Michael O'Keefe stated that his office does not know what happened to the remainder of the thousands of oysters Bryant stole from local shellfishermen.
Bryant was sentenced to two years in the Barnstable House of Correction with ten years of probation, during that time he must pay restitution. This means that Bryant will have up to twelve years to pay an estimated 25,000.00 to the victims.
During Bryant’s plea hearing, Justice Gary Nickerson asked him specifically what he’d done with the all of oysters he stole. Bryant stated on the record that he “sold them to Joe”. It now appears that we know where all the other oysters went. This is on the record in a court case.
As District Attorney, I would immediately use this new evidence to indict Vaudo and give him a choice, prison time or pay restitution to the shellfishermen who were victims of the crimes that created a profit for his fish market.
Vaudo is known to have given financial support to members of O’Keefe’s political circle. Instead of indicting Vaudo for accepting all of the oysters stolen by Bryant, our current DA has written a letter to the MA Board of Health supporting Vaudo in his struggle to keep his license to remain in business.
I applaud the hard work of the Barnstable, Dennis and Environmental Police that resulted in the arrest and conviction of Bryant. But clearly Bryant isn’t the only guilty party; our current District Attorney has blundered another one. How can he indict someone who he has supported in writing?
Not only have local shellfisherman lost money that may never be recovered, some of the oysters stolen by Bryant and sold to Vaudo to be sold in his fish market came from contaminated beds. Those oysters were not intended for sale, they were a public health risk.
I understand what all of this means to the local fishermen and the local public. I have worked a shellfish grant myself and understand the kind of sweat effort it takes. Unlike our current DA I don’t live in a gated community, I have a family and am raising my kids in a neighborhood shared by fishermen and many other people who work hard for a living.
I won’t put political favors before justice for the rest of us. It’s time for a change.
Barry (D-Cotuit) is a candidate for Cape & Islands District Attorney.