PORTLAND, Maine — A man who was convicted of three brutal rapes in Massachusetts during the late 1970s and then spent more than three decades hiding out in Gorham was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison on Friday for charges tied to his time in Maine.
Gary Irving, 53, got married, had two children and was widely considered a good citizen during nearly 34 years living in Gorham under the name and Social Security number of his brother, Gregg.
U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal on Friday sentenced him to 81 months in prison, a term to be served at the end of the 36-40-year sentence he already faces in Massachusetts as a result of the sexual assaults.
The stark juxtaposition between the man who prosecutors maintain committed three knifepoint rapes in Massachusetts and the man who raised two children and taught Sunday school in Maine was once again on display in federal court on Friday during Irving’s sentencing hearing.
Irving, who claims to be innocent of the Massachusetts crimes, was described by co-workers and family members in court on Friday as “loving,” “gentle” and “a great big teddy bear.”
He was led into the courtroom shackled at the hands and feet, wearing tan Strafford, New Hampshire, Department of Corrections-issued clothes. His graying hair and beard, which had in some previous court appearances been long, were cut short.
“The words that come to mind when I think of Greg are are ‘honest, trustworthy, caring, a family man, a teacher,’” said Julie Albert, who worked with Irving at a telephone systems company in Maine.
“This is emotional, because he’s just a very good man,” said that company’s former owner, Mark Brown.
Irving’s daughter and wife both addressed Singal as well, describing Irving as an attentive family member and involved community member who volunteered with his son’s football team and his daughter’s dance troupe, and never missed a doctor’s appointment in more than three decades.
“He’s just a wonderful person who has really always put everyone else first,” his wife, Bonnie Irving, told the court. “This has all been such a shock and devastating for the whole family and the community where we live.”
Singal asked Bonnie Irving if she’d ever met Gary’s parents or brother, the latter of whom would have been going by the same name as her husband.
“You thought they were both named Gregg?” the judge asked.
She said she had met them, but suggested she thought they were his aunt, uncle and cousin, respectively. The idea that Gary Irving’s family members, who would have known about his rape convictions, would deceive his new Maine family about his true identity seemed to disquiet Singal.
“That’s called ‘aiding and abetting,’” the judge later said.
But while Irving’s attorney, J. Hilary Billings, urged Singal to impose a total sentence of 60 months — to be served concurrently with his Massachusetts jail term — based in part on his glowing character references, the prosecution pushed for a heavier sentence.
In Maine, Irving faced sentencing on one count of being a fugitive in possession of firearms, as guns were found in his Gorham home at the time of his 2013 apprehension, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Two of the firearms discovered by police were sawed-off shotguns, illegal to possess even by people who aren’t fugitives from justice.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Darcie McElwee told the court Irving was on his best behavior through nearly 34 years hiding in Maine because “that’s the only choice he had to avoid apprehension.”
McElwee told Singal that while Irving was volunteering at dance recitals, camping with friends or indulging in his passion for cooking, three women he was convicted for raping were living with flashbacks and nightmares of the crimes.
“Those victims in Massachusetts have looked over their shoulders every day for 34 years wondering if the man who pulled them into the back of a car at knifepoint would come back and attack them again after sentencing,” she said, noting that none of the three, who were teenagers at the time of the 1978 crimes, have gone on to get married or have children.
That message resonated with Singal, who described in detail the three sexual assaults and the evidence against Irving in those cases — all three victims, plus two other eyewitnesses, identified him as the attacker.
“I thought about that when [Irving’s daughter] Jessica said she ‘wouldn’t have been the same without him,’” said Singal. “I can’t help but think at least one of the victims would agree with that sentiment.”
The judge also added what amounts to three years of supervised release to Irving’s sentence and the order that he register as a sex offender.
Irving, who did not display any noticeable emotion when the judge described the rapes, told Singal he was “sorry” for his Maine crimes of firearm possession and identity theft, to which he pleaded guilty in March.
“I’m sorry to my family. I’ve put a great burden on them,” he said. “I guess I didn’t realize how bad the crime was.”
Irving was supposed to be sentenced June 27, 1979, after he was convicted of raping three 16-year-old girls in Weymouth, Cohasset and Holbrook, Massachusetts. But when he was temporarily released to get his personal affairs in order, he fled.
He remained undetected by law enforcement until March 27, 2013, when police, following up on tips, arrested him at his home in Gorham.
During his time on the lam, he was named one of Massachusetts’ most wanted fugitives, and his disappearance was reportedly featured on television shows like “America’s Most Wanted,” “Unsolved Mysteries” and “Real Stories of the Highway Patrol.”