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Convicted Warwick Sex Offender de Weldon Says He is Innocent

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

 

Byron de Weldon, a convicted Level III sex offender and son of the famous Sculptor Felix de Weldon, has reaffirmed his innocence, and a local investigator says his claims have merit.

De Weldon recently moved to a Warwick apartment less than a mile from the John Francis Brown elementary school, causing outcries from the community as GoLocal recently reported.

De Weldon, who contacted GoLocal, claims he is innocent of the charges and that there is more of his story to be told.

On the Record

“(I) wish people knew the real story,” de Weldon told GoLocal.  “I guess they will when I have the investigator release the taped interviews and I publish my book.”

GoLocal previously reported that de Weldon has multiple convictions on sex-related charges, including third degree sexual assault and child molestation, from incidents involving boys ranging in age from 11 to 15. His first conviction was in 1995. He served prison time and was committed to a psychiatric facility in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. He is now free and no longer on probation.

De Weldon said that he got tangled into a legal web of troubles when he pleaded Nolo Contendere on the advice of his state-appointed attorney, to charges of juvenile sexual assault.

“I was told that if I took the plea, I would be home in two days,” he said. “ My father had just died. I wanted to go home and grieve.”

Henry Roy, owner of Rhode Island Private Detectives LLC., was hired by de Weldon’s attorney and interviewed the witnesses. Several recanted their original testimonies, claiming de Weldon sexually assaulted or molested them, one on the witness stand, according to Roy.

Roy said he believes that de Weldon was railroaded though the courts.

“He made the mistake of his life with his Nolo plea. His attorneys did not have his best interest in mind,” Roy said.  Roy added that the witnessed were “coerced into testifying against de Weldon,“ perhaps to benefit from his father’s bankruptcy case going on at the time.

Reviewing the Case

De Weldon claims it was the work of the New England Innocence Project that indirectly led to his release when they agreed to review his case. However, the Innocence Project informed de Weldon that since he already had his own attorney working on his post-conviction claim of relief, the Innocence Project was suspending review of the case. As the Innocence Project wrote in a June 2, 2014 letter to de Weldon, “NEIP only takes cases in which applicant are not already represented by an attorney.”

Some 20 years later, de Weldon is still trying to prove his innocence.

Though de Weldon’s apartment is within the mandatory 300-foot buffer from the school, residents still say that it is too close, because it gives de Weldon a direct view of students’ arrivals and departures.

Two Warwick lawmakers have filed legislation that would extend the mandatory buffer from 300 feet to 1,000 feet.

Warwick school officials said that local authorities have taken the proper security measures and notified the residents within a half-mile of de Weldon’s apartment by phone or email of De Weldon’s residency.

“I am working hard, going forward and doing all the right things,” de Weldon said.

De Weldon’s last appeal was in April 2014 and was denied, according to a spokesperson from the Attorney General’s office.

De Weldon has filed for a pardon with the Rhode Island governor’s office and said he has every intention of going through the process to vindicate himself.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story stated that the work of the Innocence Project led to de Weldon's release. Further review of materials provided shows that the Innocence Project had no further involvement in the case as he had his own attorney. The claim that the Innocence Project review of the case led to his release was strictly the opinion of de Weldon. 

 

Related Slideshow: The Tragic Story of the de Weldon Family

In his day, he was feted by royalty and presidents and created one of the most iconic monuments in the United States. But, later in life, Felix de Weldon suffered financial hardship and tragedy, culminating in the posthumous criminal convictions of one of his sons. Below is the story of the de Weldon family. Sources consulted included the following: The U.S. Marine Corps History Division, the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, Faces of the War College published by the U.S. War Naval College, and the book Exceptional Americans by Don Surber, as well as media reports and court records. 

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A World Famed Sculptor

Byron de Weldon is the son of Dr. Felix de Weldon, a world-famed sculptor best known for the sculpture of the raising of the flag in Iwo Jima during World War II. At left, the elder de Weldon is pictured with a scale model of his sculpture, officially known as the Marine Corps War Memorial.

Photo credit: U.S. Marine Corps History Division 

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Early Fame

The elder de Weldon was born in Vienna on April 12, 1907. He studied art in Rome, Florence, and the Prado Museum in Madrid. He held two PhDs from the University of Vienna—one in art, the other in architecture. (The university’s main building is pictured at left.) After completing his studies, he opened a studio in London, where his work attracted the attention of the royal family. He did a bust of King George V and then one of King Edward VIII for his coronation. When Edward abdicated, de Weldon did another for King George VI.  

Photo credit: Bwag

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An Immigrant’s Story

De Weldon came to the United States via Canada, where he had been commissioned to do a likeness of Prime Minister Mackenzie King. While the prime minister was on overseas trip, de Weldon was encouraged to travel in the United States. He visited 44 of the 48 states and later told an interviewer that “I was so impressed by the friendliness of the people, the vastness and the beauty of the country, the tremendous vitality of its industry and its schools and its science, that I felt ‘This is the country to live in.’” After completing his work in Canada, de Weldon moved to New York in 1937. During World War II, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he continued his work as an artist, making a crucifix for the U.S. Naval Academy chapel. He became a naturalized citizen in 1945.

At left is a younger de Weldon with Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, at the unveiling of a bust de Weldon sculpted of the admiral.

Photo credit: Naval War College Museum. 

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Iwo Jima Monument

When he first saw the famous photograph of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima, de Weldon, who was still on active duty with the U.S. Navy, immediately began work on a scale model of a sculpture based on the image, completing it in a single weekend. Eventually, after nine years of work—sometimes at a pace of 19 hours a day—the 100-ton, 32-foot high sculpture was completed and dedicated on November 10, 1954. Officially known as the Marine Corps War Memorial, the monument stands near the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery in Rosslyn, Virginia outside of Washington, DC. The monument is pictured at left at night.  

Photo credit: Catie Drew/Federal Highway Administration 

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Presidents Man

In 1950, while still working on the Iwo Jima monument, de Weldon was tapped by President Harry Truman to serve as Commissioner of Fine Arts. He would go on to hold this position under five presidents. De Weldon also made busts of three U.S. Presidents. Here he is pictured with one he did for Truman.

Photo credit: Abbie Rowe/U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

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Newport Mansion

In 1951, de Weldon bought the Beacon Rock estate in Newport, where he set up a studio. The estate sits on eight acres of oceanfront land overlooking Brenton Cove. The 22,000-square foot mansion has 48 monolithic columns, solid marble porches, 11 fireplaces, nine bedrooms, and quarters for staff. Originally built in 1881 for a member of the J.P. Morgan family, the estate sold for $6.8 million in 2010 to an anonymous buyer.

Photo credit: Wally Gobetz/Flickr 

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World Fame

Over the course of his career, de Weldon produced more than 2,000 pieces of art, including 70 statues and 800 smaller busts and other sculptures. In his lifetime, the man and his work were honored by presidents and royalty alike. He is the only sculptor to have his work featured on all seven continents—yes, that includes Antarctica, where a bust of explorer and Admiral Richard Byrd stands at McMurdo Station (pictured at left).

Photo credit: Srbauer/NOAA. 

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Bankruptcy Battle

In his later years, de Weldon fell on financially hard times, after defaulting on a $1.5 million loan to cover medical expenses for his wife, who had Alzheimer’s disease. When one of the banks to which he owed money was taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the agency immediately moved to push him into involuntary bankruptcy and auction off the home, according to a 1992 report in the Philadelphia Inquirer. But de Weldon fought back and was able to stay in the home.

“In most countries like France or Italy, a great artist is a national hero and they do everything for him … they just try to take everything away from me and ruin me,” de Weldon told the Inquirer. 

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Antique Theft

Adding to de Weldon’s troubles, his son Byron de Weldon was arrested in 1992 on a charge of stealing antiques from his father’s collection, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer report. The younger de Weldon at the time reportedly claimed he was trying to “protect” his father’s property from bill collectors. He was released from jail on condition that he undergo a drug rehabilitation program, according to the Inquirer report.  

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Mansion Sale and Death

In 1996, the Beacon Rock Estate was sold. De Weldon died in 2003 of congestive heart failure at his home in Virginia. He was 96. De Weldon is buried in Arlington National Cemetery (pictured at left).

Photo credit: Remember

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Actor Son

De Weldon was survived by two sons. His other son, Daniel de Weldon, is an actor, director, and producer. He has appeared in several plays in Los Angeles and in such films as “The Select Fit,” “Fortunes’ 500,” and the upcoming “Amsterdam.” De Weldon is currently also working on a bio-pic about his father titled “Monumentous,” according to his Web site.

Photo credit: BardotD

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Sex Offenses

His brother, Byron de Weldon, faced his first sex-related charge in1995, at the age of 25, when he pled guilty in a Massachusetts court on a single charge of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 years old, according to Massachusetts court records. That same year also entered guilty plea on three counts of second degree child molestation in Rhode Island, stemming from an incident in Newport in 1993, involving three boys from Massachusetts. He received suspended sentences of about ten years in both states, according to Massachusetts court of appeals account of his criminal history. 

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Probation Revoked

In the late 1990s, Byron de Weldon moved to California where he soon found himself in trouble with the law again. In 1998 he pled guilty for contributing to the delinquency of a minor after allegedly providing marijuana to an underage kid. He was extradited to Rhode Island where he was arrested on a child molestation charges. His probation in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts were revoked. He was incarcerated in Rhode Island until 2004. During his years in prison he “participated in multiple rehabilitative programs,” accumulating 570 days of good time credit, according to the Massachusetts Court of Appeals. 

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Assault and Cocaine

De Weldon, pled no contest to a third-degree sexual assault charge and possession of cocaine in 2004, according to a Rhode Island Supreme Court opinion issued in an appeal stemming from the case. He ended up receiving a suspended five-year sentence on the assault charge, with probation, and served 30 days to serve for the drug charge. The victim in the assault case was a 15-year-old boy, according to state Parole Board records. 

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Civilly Committed

After 2007, a Superior Court judge granted a petition deeming de Weldon a Sexually Dangerous Person and ordering him to be civilly committed to the Bridgewater Treatment Center in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Court of Appeals upheld the order in 2011. 

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Appeal Denied

In 2005, de Weldon filed a motion to vacate his guilty plea on the 2004 charges. That was denied and de Weldon appealed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. The state high court tossed out the appeal in April 2014 on procedural grounds. 

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Move to Warwick

De Weldon moved to Warwick several months ago, according to community members who were notified of his release. Sources tell GoLocalProv that he lives just outside the mandatory 300-foot buffer from the John Brown Francis Elementary School. De Weldon is deemed a Level III sex offender, meaning there is a high likelihood that he will re-offend. His probation has expired, meaning that he is under no community supervision. However, as a convicted sex offender, de Weldon did have to register with Warwick Police. 

 
 

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