Owner of Framingham pharmacy that killed 64 convicted of racketeering, acquitted of murder

A federal jury today convicted Barry Cadden, owner of the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, of racketeering and related charges for the fungus-laced drugs that killed 64 people across the country, the US Attorney's office reports.

However, the jury acquitted him of second-degree murder charges.

Sentencing was set for June 21.

Wildlife sanctuaries can't get religious exemptions from property taxes, court rules

The Supreme Judicial Court today better defined just what sort of property a religious organization can claim a tax deduction on - and wildlife sanctuaries and buildings entirely rented out to non-religious groups are not included - but cafeterias and gift shops can be.

The ruling comes in an appeal by the Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette, which objected to the Attleboro board of assessors demanding $92,292.98 in taxes be paid in 2012 on 110 acres of land on which the Mass. Audubon Society has an easement, a former convent now rented to a safe house for battered women, a shrine welcome center and a shrine storage building

The assessors ruled the shrine was only entitled to a partial abatement on the welcome center in part because it included a cafeteria and gift shop and because the shrine sometimes rented the hall out to local groups.

The state's highest court ruled that state law on what religious organizations can seek to exempt for taxation specifically bars land or facilities used for "purposes other than religious worship or instruction."

Wildlife sanctuaries and buildings entirely rented to third parties for non-religious programs do not qualify, the court ruled - adding the shrine might be able to make a case for exemptions under clauses related to non-profit uses more generally.

While renting out a building to a safe house for battered women may be a noble cause and stem from the shrine's religious beliefs, the state law on religious exemptions focuses on "religious worship and instruction," and letting a third party rent a church building for a safe house does not fall under that, the court ruled, adding:

Had the Shrine timely filed the documents required under [the clause related to non-religious non-profit efforts], it might have obtained an exemption for the safe house.

The court used similar logic to side with assessors on the wildlife sanctuary, which the shrine said was a place for "ecospirituality" and religiously contemplative walks:

We appreciate that a wildlife sanctuary may be for some a spiritual sanctuary, much as working in a safe house may be for some the realization of a spiritual mission. But the Legislature did not intend either a wildlife sanctuary or a safe house, when used and operated as they were here, to qualify as a house of religious worship.

In contrast, the court ruled against Attleboro assessors on their decision to at least partially tax a welcome center and a storage building.

The welcome center, at which visitors to the shrine are shown a video about the shrine before visiting the shrine itself to pray or confess - after which they return to the welcome center for lunch in a cafeteria that also doubles as a soup kitchen - does qualify as being in use for religious purposes, the court said.

A video presentation about Our Lady of La Salette plainly is religious instruction. Pilgrims and visitors who spend hours at the Shrine need to eat and drink, so the cafeteria and bistro are "connected with" religious worship, and "accompany and supplement" the religious work of the Shrine by sparing pilgrims and visitors the need to bring their own food and drink or leave the Shrine in order to find it. ...

Those who are inspired by the Shrine may obtain religious objects and books at the gift shop that might allow them to continue their religious worship and instruction when they leave. The fact that money earned from the cafeteria, bistro, and gift shop may help pay for the Shrine's expenses does not remove them from the realm of religious worship and instruction; even a church cannot live on prayer alone.

The court used similar logic in ordering an abatement on taxes on the storage building, because the shrine uses it to store the 400,000 or so lights for its Christmas light show, which clearly has a religious basis - as well as for storing items used in the shrine or sold in the gift shop.

Because the dominant purpose of the maintenance building is connected with the religious worship and instruction offered at the Shrine, we conclude that the board erred in declining to find it exempt from taxation [under the religious tax-exemption clause].

New owners of North Station sports bar would ditch sports, cater to area's new well heeled residents

The Boston Licensing Board tomorrow decides whether to allow the transformation of the North Star, 222 Friend St. into a calmer, quieter "professional" establishment aimed at the sort of people filling the new apartments sprouting like mushrooms around North Station, rather than rowdier Celtics and Bruins fans.

Timothy Bartolomeu and his business partners want to buy the current bar and turn it into the Rogue Lounge, which his lawyer said would provide "a more professional, calm lounge experience" that would mirror "the significant investments made in this part of the city of Boston. He added, however, that the new lounge would undergo only minor cosmetic changes before opening.

"The concept is a welcome change for the neighborhood," Maria Lanza, the mayor's liaison for the area, told the board.

Roxbury mosque to open cafe in part so non-Muslim neighbors can better get to know them

The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center plans to open a cafe in its mosque at 100 Malcolm X Blvd in Roxbury Crossing.

At a hearing before the Boston Licensing Board this morning, one mosque official said part of the reason for the Islamic Common Word cafe is so "the public can begin to come in and meet our congregation - times are such, they are difficult."

The cafe, which would be open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, would serve a variety of dishes from the countries from which mosque members come.

The board decides tomorrow whether to grant a food-serving license. The mayor's office and the offices of at-large City Councilors Ayanna Pressley and Annissa Essaibi-George supported the proposal. Nobody spoke against.

State to look at building dog park near Forest Hills T stop

On the heels of a tense meeting on a proposed giant dog park in Hyde Park, DCR officials return to Boston's southern tier in a couple weeks to discuss putting a dog park on the Southwest Corridor off Anson Street, a couple blocks north of the Arborway.

City Councilor Matt O'Malley, who first proposed a dog park somewhere in the corridor, posts the meeting notice: 6:30 p.m. on April 5 at English High School.

Who's uncooperative? We're uncooperative, at least with ICE

WGBH reports that ICE has labeled nine New England communities a "uncooperative" when it comes to just handing over undocumented aliens. Boston, Cambridge and Somerville all made the list.

Vestigial Suffolk County, though, doesn't make the list - perhaps because, as we learned from the story of the two Irish guys from Quincy, the Suffolk County sheriff's department continues to stow immigrants in exchange for ICE payments.

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