RESEARCHER BLEW THE WHISTLE ONCE BEFORE

Author: By Judy Foreman, Globe Staff

Date: 05/10/1989 Page: 4
Section: NATIONAL/FOREIGN

Margot O'Toole, the researcher whose initial challenge of the validity of a scientific paper co-authored by Nobel laureate David Baltimore led to the current round of congressional hearings on that case, was a key witness four years ago in another highly publicized incident. In that case, Boston Police Detective Frank Kelly punched Long Guang Huang, a 56-year-old restaurant worker, during an arrest in Chinatown.

O'Toole last night said she considers both the current scientific dispute and the Huang case "very unfortunate events."

"But I felt that I had no choice in either situation," she said. She rejects the term "whistle-blower" as a description of her actions, adding that there is "a lot of pain and suffering that happens with cases like that, and that includes me. But the point is, you don't turn away. I didn't feel I had the option to turn away in either case. I think I did the right thing in both cases, but it is very difficult to do the right thing."

On May 1, 1985, while O'Toole was an assistant research professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, she was walking in Chinatown at about 10:40 a.m., the time at which Kelly spotted Huang talking with a woman the detective later said he knew to be a prostitute.

Kelly followed the pair down Kneeland Street, convinced they were heading for a house of prostitution, where, without a search warrant, he could not enter. He called the prostitute to his unmarked police car. Huang, who did not speak English, kept walking. Kelly followed him on foot, grabbed him by the collar and led him to the car. Huang resisted. Kelly punched him twice.

The crowd, of which O'Toole was a part, closed in, angrily questioning Kelly's treatment of Huang.

''Mind your own business!" he yelled at them.

Outraged, O'Toole began collecting the names of other witnesses. She also called the Globe, which ran a story about the incident the next day on the front of the Metro/Region section. The day after that, an interview with Huang ran on Page 1.

More than 50 newspaper articles followed, as did television coverage, which included footage of Huang lying on his couch in the South End, his eye badly bruised and swollen shut. Five days after the incident, feelings surrounding the event intensified when Mayor Raymond Flynn visited Huang's home with a bag of groceries and drove Huang to the hospital.

Huang was later acquitted by a judge of the charge of soliciting a prostitute and assault and battery on Kelly. A $1 million lawsuit he filed against the city, contending that Kelly violated his civil rights, is still pending.

Kelly was suspended for a year without pay by the Police Department, a ruling that was upheld by the state Civil Service Commission. That decision, however, was overruled by a Boston Municipal Court judge, who ordered the city to pay Kelly approximately $40,000 in lost wages.

Following protests from the Asian community, which had taken up Huang's cause, and civil rights activists, Attorney General James Shannon appealed the Municipal Court decision to the Supreme Judicial Court. According to Kelly's lawyer, Nancy Merrick, the case is pending following an order several months ago by a single justice of the SJC that the Civil Service
Commission rehear parts of the case.

Of O'Toole's involvement in the current scientific dispute, Merrick said yesterday, "Given her allegations in the Kelly case, I would take a long, hard look at any allegations she is making in this case."

But to Sherry Leibowitz, director of the project to combat racial violence of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, which is handling Huang's civil case, O'Toole, like other citizens who come forward as witnesses, is a hero.

Said Leibowitz last night, "Our ability to stop racial violence often hinges on the willingness of witnesses to testify. O'Toole was very helpful in collecting the names of witnesses on the scene and in providing a statement to the authorities, including the local police and the FBI. Anyone who reports these incidents is a hero, sure."

Last modified: Wed Sep 20 17:00:41 EDT 2000