‘The Only One We Never Got Back’
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After the battles, the presidency, the trials, and the gavel, Charles Taylor’s escape from Massachusetts is still a mystery marred in mismanaged documents and misinformation.
The dirty waters were further muddied during the trial when the Boston Globe baselessly boasted about obtaining “at least 48 separate documents proving CIA agents worked with Taylor” beginning in the early 1980s.
They promptly recanted.
“There has long been speculation that Taylor had such a role, speculation fueled in part by Taylor’s own suggestion in trial testimony that his 1985 escape from prison in Plymouth, Mass, may have been facilitated by CIA operatives,” the outlet ran in a correction.
“But Taylor, now standing trial before a UN special court on charges of rape, murder and other offenses, denies he was ever a source for U.S. intelligence. The Globe had no adequate basis for asserting otherwise and the story should not have run in this form.”
There also appears to be an unofficial gag order on all material surrounding Taylor’s time shelved on the South Shore.
The Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department maintains they have no remaining records from the Plymouth County House of Correction and Jail after it was torn down in 1994.
“Mr. Taylor is a very popular figure and we receive frequent inquiries about the circumstances of his escape,” a Plymouth County director of public information wrote in response to an inquiry.
“Many writers have speculated he might have received help from the CIA or other nefarious parties and I have always wondered about it myself.”
The info officer added, “Unfortunately, a search of our files came up with very little except a few newspaper clips and most everything else seems lost when the old jail was closed and later torn down. Likewise, I was unsuccessful in finding anyone on our staff who recalled the events or even knew of Taylor’s later exploits.”
International news outlets met similar dead ends.
“U.S. privacy laws prevent Immigration and Naturalization Service records from being made public and, say officials, Taylor’s file at Plymouth was either lost or stolen sometime in the last year,” according to a 1997 report from Africa Confidential.
Still, the guilty verdict reverberated stateside—from refugees and expats in New England who were impacted by his reign in Africa, to those who knew him personally from his past life.
Former Plymouth Sheriff Peter Flynn told the Brockton Enterprise he often wondered what would have happened to Liberia and Sierra Leone if his force recaptured Taylor in 1985.
“I have thought of that many times. Maybe it would have changed things,” Flynn said.
“He was the only one we never got back.”
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