Former Newburyport official admits to child rape

Staff file photoFormer Newburyport City Councilor Burt Reed and his attorney, Anthony Papoulias, left, appear in Newburyport District Court for Reed’s arraignment on various charges.

NEWBURYPORT — A judge sentenced a former Newburyport City Council president to 2½ years in state prison Monday after he pleaded guilty to child rape and other charges. 

Bert Reed, 44, who also served on the city’s School Committee and in more recent years worked as a maintenance worker at Gordon College in Wenham, entered the guilty pleas Monday — the day his trial was to start in Salem Superior Court. 

Reed admitted in court that he met a boy, then 15, on Grindr, an online app that allows people to meet for sexual encounters. 

The two communicated through the app and in text messages, exchanged photos, and then arranged to meet, prosecutor Erin Bellavia told a judge. Reed, his attorney said, believed the boy was 16, although he knew the boy was in high school. 

On Sept. 3, 2017, after several months of messages and photos, Reed took the boy to a church on Hale Street in Newburyport, where Reed worked as a custodian, and engaged in sexual acts. 

The incident came to light a few months later, in April 2018, after the boy’s parents went through his phone and discovered text conversations and photos. Police later found the same on Reed’s phone, the prosecutor said. 

The sentence was the result of a plea agreement between his attorney and the prosecutor, accepted by Salem Superior Court Judge Thomas Drechsler, who said he was doing so in part to spare the victim from having to testify. 

Drechsler cited a written victim impact statement from the boy in his decision to go along with the proposed sentence, which will require Reed to serve 2½ years in state prison, followed by three years of probation, “because it means he doesn’t have to go through the trauma of testifying,” the judge said. 

Reed pleaded guilty to three counts of rape of a child, which prosecutors reduced from aggravated child rape, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence. He also pleaded guilty to one count each of child enticement, disseminating obscene material to a child and possession of child pornography. Three other child pornography charges were dropped by prosecutors as part of the plea agreement. 

Reed, who was held without bail for four months last year before being released on $7,500 bail, was taken back into custody in the courtroom. 

He was given credit for the four months in custody, but will have to serve 30 months in state prison before he can be released. During his five-year probation, he will be required to wear a GPS monitor, stay away from the victim and the boy’s family, take part in a sex offender evaluation and treatment, and register with the state as a sex offender. 

His lawyer, Scott Gleason, told the judge his client had been a “very active member of the Newburyport community” for years before his arrest. 

Reed, who attended Salem State University, was elected to the Newburyport School Committee in 1998 when he was 23 years old. He also served two terms on the City Council, including a brief stint as council president. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2003. 

The victim was not present in court, but his mother was, appearing visibly upset as her son’s name was mentioned in open court during the hearing. 

“Being a young, gay boy is hard enough,” the mother wrote in an impact statement read by Bellavia, “without the defendant exploiting him.” 

Still, while what happened caused her son pain, “his life will not be ruined. The defendant’s life will be ruined.” 

“My son is destined for great things,” his mother wrote, and Reed “will not take that away.” 

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis. 

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