By SCOTT JACKSON
A former Massachusetts secretary of public safety has been appointed to prosecute the criminal cases against the two men charged in connection with a fight outside the Nickerson Post in Squantum that resulted in the death of a 44-year-old father of three from Bridgewater.
Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey on Thursday named Daniel Bennett the independent special assistant district attorney to oversee the case. In a statement, Morrissey said his office has no direct conflict of interest, but public confidence would be reinforced by the appointment of an independent prosecutor.
Bennett served as the secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security during Gov. Charlie Baker’s first term in office. Before working under Baker, Bennet had been the first assistant district attorney in Worcester County and prior to that had been a prosecutor in Middlesex and Suffolk Counties.
As a prosecutor in Middlesex County, Bennett was on the trial team that won first degree murder convictions against Neil Entwistle, the British man who had been accused of killing his wife and daughter inside their home in Hopkinton. That case is one of several high profile homicides Bennett has prosecuted.
Morrissey said Bennett would have full autonomy as an independent special assistant district attorney; the appointment of an independent prosecutor removes any involvement in the ongoing decision-making process from the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office and puts it directly in the hands of the independent counsel.
“My purpose here is to remove any question or appearance of conflict while placing the case with a prosecutor of extensive experience and skill,” Morrissey said in a statement.
“The independent prosecutor statute exists to avoid both actual conflict of interest or the appearance or perception of conflict of interest, at any stage in a prosecution or investigation,” he added.
“There has been no single precipitating factor in my decision to assign this to an independent prosecutor. While there is no direct conflict of interest, I have grown increasingly aware of the perception, particularly within the Squantum community, that public confidence will be reinforced with this matter placed with an independent prosecutor.”
Morrissey thanked the Massachusetts State Police detectives who conducted interviews and investigation across several months.
“This matter was brought through the grand jury process by one of my most experienced and senior prosecutors and I feel fortunate that the prosecution will be undertaken by an attorney of Daniel Bennett’s caliber and experience,” Morrissey said.
The two brothers charged in connection with the fight outside the Nickerson Post, including the man accused of fatally striking Christopher McCallum, were arraigned Nov. 6 in Norfolk Superior Court. Both pleaded not guilty and are due back in court for pre-trial conferences Jan. 10.
Matthew Potter, age 36 of Weymouth, was indicted for manslaughter of McCallum, two counts of indecent assault and battery on a second person and simple assault of a third person.
The maximum sentence for a manslaughter conviction is 20 years in state prison.
Steven Potter, age 34 of Boston, was indicted on two counts of assault and one count of assault and battery causing serious bodily injury. His charges are not related to McCallum’s death, prosecutors said, but to two other victims from the same incident.
McCallum, 44, of Bridgewater died Jan. 28 after being taken off life support. He was rushed to Boston Medical Center around 1 a.m. on Jan. 27 after he was found bleeding and unconscious outside the Nickerson American Legion Post on Moon Island Road after police responded to a report of a large disorder.
An autopsy determined McCallum’s death was a homicide caused by blunt force trauma.
McCallum grew up on Deerfield Street in Squantum and was a 1992 graduate of North Quincy High School. He was captain of the Red Raiders football and hockey teams his senior year and was inducted into the Quincy-North Quincy High Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
McCallum was survived by his wife Kathy and their sons Ryan, Michael and Christopher.