RESEARCHER BLEW THE WHISTLE ONCE BEFORE
Author: By Judy Foreman, Globe Staff
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
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
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."