PDT Staff Writer
While the whole world is watching the case of the bomb explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, a Northwest High School and Shawnee State University graduate is smack dab in the middle of the legal proceedings involving the surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Brandy Donini-Melanson works in the Massachusetts district office of the U.S. Attorney and has helped deal with the media throughout the bombing ordeal.
“I wear many hats,” Donini-Melanson said. “My official title is law enforcement coordinator, but I also act as a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney. That’s more of a secondary responsibility. We have a full-time public information officer, but in light of this case and several others that are high profile and require a lot of media assistance, I assist her with commenting to the media.”
Donini-Melanson says when it come to disseminating information it is a little different in the court she works with in Boston.
“It varies from federal court to federal court,” Donini-Melanson said. “What happens in this district in Massachusetts, we have really strict local rules on what we can report to the media. Obviously we are restricted to the public record. So as long as the information is in the public record, I am allowed to report that information.”
The language is eerily graphic in the criminal complaint filed by Daniel R. Genck, Special Agent with the FBI - “I have reviewed videotape footage taken from a security camera located on Boylston Street near the corner of Boylston and Gloucester streets. At approximately 2:38 p.m. (based on the video’s duration and timing of the explosions) —i.e., approximately 11 minutes before the first explosion — two young men can be seen turning left (eastward) onto Boylston from Gloucester Street. Both men are carrying large knapsacks. The first man, whom I refer to in this affidavit as bomber one, is a young male, wearing a dark-colored baseball cap, sunglasses, a white shirt, dark coat, and tan pants. The second man, whom I refer to in this affidavit as bomber two, is a young male, wearing a white baseball cap backwards, a gray hooded sweatshirt, a lightweight black jacket, and dark pants. As set forth below, there is probable cause to believe that bomber one is Tamerlan Tsarnaev and bomber two is his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.”
Donini-Melanson summed up the recent events involving Tsarnaev, and the procedures to follow through an official statement.
“Consistent with the Rules of Criminal Procedure, following the filing of the criminal complaint in this matter on Sunday, April 21, the Court, that evening, scheduled an initial appearance for Monday, April 22, which it then coordinated with the prosecutors, federal defenders Miram Conrad, Timothy G. Watkins and William W. Fick, court reporter, U.S. Marshal Service and the hospital. The Rules of Criminal Procedure require the Court to advise the defendant of his right to silence and his right to counsel during the Initial Appearance. The prosecutors and FBI agents in Boston were advised of the scheduled initial appearance in advance of its occurrence.”
Tsarnaev is officially charged with use of a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death. Contrary to what some media outlets are saying, Tsnaraev has yet to be indicted. And there is a strict procedure that is followed where indictments are concerned. When a defendant is charged by way of a criminal complaint, a hearing is set to address probable cause. Tsnaraev is scheduled for a probable cause hearing on May 30. If a grand jury indicts before the probable cause hearing, the hearing will not occur. The grand jury has 30 days after the defendant’s initial appearance to indict, which would make that date May 22.
Donini-Melanson took time to say she has fond memories of her years at Northwest.
“Believe it or not, I am a country girl,” Donini-Melanson said. “(Scioto County Sheriff) Marty (Donini) is my uncle.”
Donini-Melanson has high regard for her uncle, but says her father was a great influence in her career.
“My father worked for the Bureau of Prisons for many many years. He retired from the Bureau of Prisons,” Donini-Melanson said. “I think that that probably played the biggest role. I was a paralegal. I worked for Todd Book and Alan Lemons. I still maintain contact with them.”
Donini-Melanson, armed with a degree in Social Science and an Associate’s Degree in Legal Assisting (paralegal), in 1997, packed up and headed for Columbus to chase a dream, though incomplete at the time. She worked as a paralegal, then made the decision to follow in her father’s footsteps because she had always thought it was a stable career. She finally got picked up by the BOP in Milan, Michigan. She made her way back down to the penitentiary at Big Sandy (Inez, Ky.).
“I did that for a short time, and I’ll tell you, that’s a tough, touch environment,” Donini-Melanson said. “I worked for BOP for about seven years, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. It’s such a negative environment. The people who work in those prisons, God bless them. It is a tough, tough job.”
So, in her search for a new job she latched on with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Virginia, where she did victim work. She then ended up transferring to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston.
“I would have never thought in a million years that I would have ended up in Boston,” Donini-Melanson said. “It’s like a world away. It has been pretty wild. Being exposed to some of the work that we’re exposed to. We had the Whitey Bulger case, and obviously this terrorism case now. Can you imagine a girl from Portsmouth?”
James Joseph “Whitey” Bulger, Jr. is a former organized crime figure from South Boston. Based upon the testimony of former associates, Federal prosecutors have indicted Bulger for 19 murders. Associate Kevin Weeks has testified Bulger claimed he had “killed 40 men” in his life.
Donini-Melanson knows who to credit with her success in obtaining her education and a firm foundation in her career.
“My parents did the best they could, and God love ‘em, I don’t know how they did it,” Donini-Melanson said. “They put me through college, and I cannot thank my parents enough for relieving me of that burden. If I would have had college tuition and student loans to pay back, I don’t know how I would do it. That is a success story, right? We were fortunate to have that. A lot of kids don’t.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.