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Accused of child sex abuse, Massachusetts man proposes castration

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Massachusetts man facing charges of sexually abusing 13 children, including a newborn, offered on Wednesday to have himself castrated in exchange for a lighter prison sentence.

John Burbine, 50, was arrested in September 2012, and faces 100 criminal counts related to sexual assault of children, ranging in age from 8 days to 3-1/2 years, to whom he gained access through his wife's unlicensed day-care business.

His attorney, William Barabino, said he made the suggestion in a pretrial hearing in hopes it would keep his client from spending the rest of his life in prison. He likened the proposal to people facing alcohol or drug-related charges agreeing to seek treatment in exchange for a more lenient sentence.

"His inability to conform his desires, or his behavior, is all oriented towards sex, and so what we said is: 'What about treatment?'" Barabino explained in a phone interview. "We would put forth a bilateral orchiectomy, which is essentially taking out the testicles."

Barabino said his client would agree to having the surgical procedure only if he was assured of receiving a lighter sentence in exchange.

The Middlesex County District Attorney's office, which is prosecuting Burbine, declined to comment on the proposal.

"As with all criminal matters, we are precluded by the rules of professional conduct from commenting on the existence or details of any plea negotiations," said MaryBeth Long, a spokeswoman for the district attorney.

A judge denied the request.

It is rare for a defendant in a sex-crimes trial to make such an offer, which is seen as something of a desperation move, said James Cohen, an associate professor of law at Fordham University School of Law in New York.

"It comes up when a defense attorney is in a very hard place, and the defendant doesn't want to go to jail," Cohen said. "Jails are not particularly receptive to sex offenders and even less so to sex offenders of very young children."

Judges tend to shy away from agreeing to such proposals both because they may not deter future offenses and because they raise questions of unjust punishment, he added.

"There is that tension between treating it as treatment and as punishment for the offense committed, and somehow not wanting to get into 'I punched somebody and broke their nose in a bad way and then one of my fingers gets cut off,'" Cohen said. "You don't want to go there."

(Reporting by Scott Malone; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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