February 2010 Archives

February 28, 2010

Elderly Stoughton Man Stabbed to Death in Home Invasion, Wife Hospitalized

A man entered the home of an elderly Stoughton couple early yesterday morning and attacked them with a knife, killing 78 year-old Georgios Kontsas. His wife, Dorothea Kontsas, despite suffering from multiple stab wounds, managed to make it to her neighbor's house for help where she collapsed and was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The attack on the Stoughton couple occurred at about 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning. Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating and Stoughton Police Chief Thomas Murphy declined to comment whether the victims knew the suspect or if there was any motive to the attack and murder.

If apprehended, the Norfolk County District Attorney's Office could charge the criminal offender with Murder, Home Invasion, Attempted Murder, and Aggravated Assault & Battery on a Person Over 60.

Murder is defined under the Massachusetts law as the unlawful killing of another with malice or in the commission or attempted commission of certain felonies.

  • Murder committed with deliberate premeditation and malice is murder in the first degree.

  • Murder committed with extreme atrocity or cruelty and with malice is murder in the first degree.

  • Murder committed in the commission or attempted commission of a felony punishable by a maximum sentence of imprisonment for life is murder in the first degree.

  • Murder that does not appear to be murder in the first degree as outlined above is murder in the second degree.

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February 27, 2010

Dorchester Man Convicted by Suffolk County Jury in Boston's 2008 South End Murder

On February 26, 2010, a Suffolk County Jury yesterday convicted Steven Odegard for the 2008 Boston South End murder of Daniel Yakovleff. After meeting Yakovleff at a Boston South End bar, prosecutors accused Odegard of taking him to his home, engaging in sexual relations, and then stabbing him to death in a fit of rage.

The criminal defendant, Steven Odegard, testified in his own defense and admitted to meeting Yakovleff at a gay bar the previous evening and returning with him to his home. He claimed, however, that there was also a third man who returned to his home with them and it was this man who went into his bedroom with Yakovleff after Odegard and the victim had already had sex. In his testimony, Odegard told the jury he woke up around 6:00 a.m. and found Yakovleff in his bed with a 13-inch knife in his chest and the third man already gone-he then called 911 and spoke with the Boston Police Officers who responded to his call. Odegard's defense at his murder trial was that he had passed out on the couch after a night of alcohol, prescription drugs and the Levitrol sex drug that he took.

The defense had also called called a physiology/pharmacology expert in its case, who testified that the combination of alcohol and drugs that Odegard took that evening could have made him inebriated to the point where his cognitive and physical skills were so diminished that he wouldn't have been able to function.

Under Massachusetts law and now having been convicted by a jury for murder, Steven Odegard will be sentenced to a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.

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February 26, 2010

Massachusetts Supreme Court Reverses Gun Conviction for Constitutional Violation

1146529_gun_and_bullets.jpgA defendant who was convicted for the gun crimes of Carrying a Firearm Without a License and Carrying a Loaded Firearm recently had his convictions overturned because the admission of the Ballistics Certificate, without live expert testimony, violated his Right to Confrontation under the 6th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

At his criminal jury trial in the District Court, the prosecutor sought to prove that the gun at issue was an operable firearm with evidence consisting only of the Ballistics Certificate, which is simply a police ballistician's certification that the firearm has been examined, tested and found to be functional. The ballistician who examined the firearm was not called as a witness by the prosecutor at trial, and therefore was not available to the defendant's criminal defense lawyer for cross-examination. The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that, because the ballistician was not made available to the defense for cross-examination of his findings, the defendant's constitutional right to confront the witnesses against him was violated. Read the full Massachusetts Supreme Court's opinion in Commonwealth v. William Rivera.

The reversal of the defendants gun convictions follows the recent ruling in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, where the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the prosecution cannot prove its case with affidavits and without the benefit of live witness testimony. The case of Melendez-Diaz involved a drug trial where the prosecutor admitted a Certificate of Drug Analysis in lieu of the chemist's testimony that the contraband seized by the police was, in fact, cocaine.

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February 25, 2010

Police Can Resume Interrogation Following Criminal Suspect's Request for Lawyer After 14 Days

In a recent decision, the U.S. Supreme Court instituted a new rule when it comes to criminal law, police questioning and the safeguards surrounding the scope of Miranda. On February 24, 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that if a criminal suspect requests to speak with his lawyer, the police must stop their questioning and cannot restart interrogating him until 14 days has passed. This new rule, outlined in Maryland v. Shatzer narrows the Court's previous ruling on this issue.

In the 1981 case of Edwards v. Arizona, the Supreme Court established a clear rule to protect a criminal suspect who invokes his 5th Amendment right to an attorney against the pressures and coercion of police in the custodial interrogation setting. In short, the rule was that if a criminal suspect wants to speak with his lawyer, the police must stop their questioning and cannot restart their interrogation of him unless the suspect himself initiates the questioning on his own - otherwise the presumption would be that any subsequent waiver of Miranda would be the result of coercion. The Supreme Court's decision in Maryland v. Shatzer limits that rule, now permitting to the police to essentially ignore the criminal suspect's earlier request for a lawyer and reinitiate questioning after a period of 14 days if there had been a sufficient break in the custodial interrogation.

The Supreme Court's decision on this critical criminal law issue appears to provide the police a bright-line rule of what they are and are not permitted to do. One might agree that the police and law enforcement in general need to have a checklist of 'do's and dont's spelled out for them, otherwise we might invite them to engage in unconstitutional police practices...

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February 25, 2010

Boston Police Arrest Two Men for Murder of Roxbury Store Clerk

In an update to my previous post regarding the armed robbery and murder on February 21, 2010, of Roxbury store clerk Geraldo Serrano, Boston Police have arrested two teenagers in connection with that crime. The criminal defendants, Martin Freeles, 17, and Onyx White, 16, are scheduled to be arraigned today in Roxbury District Court on charges including Murder, Armed Robbery, and firearms charges.

The Boston Police and Suffolk County District Attorney's Office reports that both Freeles and White will be charged as adults in connection with the Roxbury murder. District Attorney Dan Conley recently indicated that 'community members' helped find the criminal suspects, though Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis further indicated that the Boston Police did receive at least one anonymous tip.

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February 25, 2010

Boston U.S. Attorney's Office Re-Opens 1993 Mail Bomb Investigation

100217201826bish.jpgThe Boston U.S. Attorney's Office has reopened its investigation of the attempted mail bombing of Boston Children's Hospital Dr. Paul Rosenberg. Amy Bishop, now charged with killing three other professors at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and shooting several others, along with her husband, James Anderson, are again named as suspects in that mail bombing.

In 1993, Dr. Paul Rosenberg received a package containing a bomb, but the package did not explode. The package was apparently sent shortly after Amy Bishop quit her job at Boston's Children's Hospital after a bad peer review by Dr. Rosenberg.

As previously reported in the Boston Criminal Lawyers Blog, in 1986, Amy Bishop was also questioned regarding the 1986 shooting and killing of her brother. She was not charged relative to that incident, authorities determining at the time that the shooting was accidental.

Recently, however, former Norfolk County District Attorney William Delahunt indicated that it was a mistake not charging Amy Bishop with murder for the 1986 shooting of her brother. The Norfolk County prosecutor working the case at the time, however, has said he had no knowledge of any key evidence that might have warranted criminal charges being brought against Amy Bishop.

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February 24, 2010

Criminal Defendants' Right to a Public Trial Extends to Jury Selection Process

The U.S. States Supreme Court recently ruled that a defendant's Constitutional Right (per the 6th Amendment) was violated when the court refused to allow his uncle from watching the jury voir dire process at his criminal trial. As a result the ruling, the man had his cocaine trafficking conviction overturned.

In general, because the public has a First Amendment Right to access the jury voir dire process, a criminal defendant also has a Sixth Amendment Right to a public trial. In other words, the Supreme Court essentially stated that it doesn't make sense for the public to have the right of access to public proceedings, but to then deny a defendant his right to to a public trial.

In this particular case, Presley v. Georgia, the criminal defendant's lawyer objected to the trial court from excluding the defendant's uncle from sitting in the same room with prospective jurors. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, in a criminal trial, the courts are obligated to accommodate the public access.

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February 24, 2010

Malden Man Arrested for Carjacking Arraigned in Boston Court

565690_car_stealing.jpgA Malden man was arraigned yesterday for Carjacking charges in Boston Municipal Court for allegedly accosting an Arlington woman in a parking garage in the early afternoon hours on Monday. Michael Fitzpatrick, 52, of Malden, allegedly pointed a handgun at her and demanded her car.

The woman complied with the demand and threw her keys at him before running away. Two other women witnessed the incident and safeguarded the victim in their vehicle before driving away. When they reached the cashier's gate of the garage, however, the carjacker drove up behind them and smashed through the entrance gate to exit the garage.

Not too long thereafter, Michael Fitzpatrick collided with a taxi cab at North Street and Cross Street in Boston. He drove away from that crash before again crashing, this time with a tree on Commercial Street in Boston, Massachusetts.

At his arraignment, Fitzpatrick was ordered to submit to a Competency Evaluation and was seen by a Court Psychiatrist, where it was discovered that he is an alcoholic, consuming nearly half a gallon of vodka daily.

The carjacker, it turns out, also had two other pending criminal matters, a drunk driving case out of Orange District Court, and an assault case in Quincy District Court. At his Bail Hearing, the Suffolk County District Attorney told the Judge that Fitzpatrick's criminal record includes a history of violence, convictions in Virginia, Florida and 16 criminal convictions in Massachusetts. He was held on $100,000 bail.

Read more on this story by Milton Valencia & John Ellement, Globe Staff.

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February 23, 2010

Massachusetts Woman Sought for Kidnapping Baby Arrested in Pennsylvania

Kimberly Johnson, 38, had been sought by Massachusetts State Police since last Thursday when she allegedly kidnapped a thirteen month-old baby from a gas station in Swansea, Massachusetts. After a multi-state search, she was arrested last evening in a Pennsylvania women's shelter where she had used a stolen ID and alias.

The Massachusetts State Police and the D.A.'s Office is working with Pennsylvania law enforcement authorities to arrange her rendition to Massachusetts, where she will likely be criminally charged with Kidnapping.

In Massachusetts, the charge of Kidnapping is an extremely serious criminal offense, a life felony which is punishable in state prison for any term of years up to life. Massachusetts General Laws defines Kidnapping in Chapter 265, Section 26, as the forcible or secret confinement of another person with intent to cause him to be secretly imprisoned against his will in this Commonwealth, or cause him to be sent out of this Commonwealth against his will.

In the event Kimberly Johnson contests interstate rendition to Massachusetts, it is likely that she will be given a hearing in a Pennsylvania court. The interstate rendition process could take several weeks to more than a month if contested. When not contested, the interstate rendition process and return of the suspect to Massachusetts is fairly quick.

Read more on this story as reported by the Associated Press in the Boston Herald.

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February 22, 2010

Roxbury Store Clerk Murdered in Armed Robbery

Boston Police are looking for two armed men who shot and killed 71 year old store clerk Gerald Serrano at Hermanos Unidos convenience store in Roxbury, Massachusetts, yesterday morning. It is reported that the clerk was shot because he resisted the demands of the robbers.

Boston Police have not disclosed how much money the two armed robbers were able to get away with, if any. Both armed suspects have been described as black males, one wearing all black and the other wearing all red, each with hooded sweatshirts.

The murder of Gerald Serrano comes only two months after the murder of Surendra Dangol, who was also shot and killed at his convenience store in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Arrested for that murder was Edward Corliss, who had been previously convicted of killing another store clerk in Salisbury in 1973. Edward Corliss had been released in 2006 by the Massachusetts Parole Board for that 1973 murder.

This incident marks the City of Boston's sixth murder of 2010.

Read more on this story as reported by Steven Rosenberg, Boston Globe Staff, and Jeannie Nuss, Boston Globe Correspondent.

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February 21, 2010

Wakefield Bank Robbed: Cross-Dressing Criminal Suspected

Wakefield Police have aggressively engaged in a criminal investigation for a man who dressed in women's clothing and robbed the Savings Bank this past Friday in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Police also believe that this suspect was involved in an earlier bank robbery this past Wednesday at Eastern Bank in Wakefield.

In both bank robberies, police report that the suspect was disguised in women's attire, including sunglasses, a woman's scarf, handbag, earrings and red lipstick. In each instance, reports suggest that the bank robber escaped on foot.

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February 20, 2010

Boston Crime Connections for Alleged Murderer Amy Bishop

The criminal investigation ongoing, more details have emerged since Professor Amy Bishop was arrested for allegedly gunning down six fellow faculty members at the University of Alabama in Huntsville on February 12, 2010.

In 1986 while a student in Boston at Northeastern University, Amy Bishop was investigated by the Boston Police Department for shooting and killing her brother with a shotgun after a family argument. Boston Police and the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office did not charge her with a crime, and it is reported that the shooting was never completely investigated by the police. Amy Bishop and her family claimed the shooting was an accident, and it is believed that the Boston Police accepted that version.

In 2002, Amy Bishop was also criminally charged with Assault after allegedly punching a woman at an IHOP because the woman had taken the last child's seat. Reports indicate that Amy Bishop received a sentence of Probation and the charges were later dismissed.

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February 19, 2010

Massachusetts State Police Trooper Indicted on Bribery Charges

A Suffolk County Grand Jury has indicted Massachusetts State Police Trooper Robert A. Forrest, Jr., for allegedly accepting a $50 bribe to falsify vehicle inspection records for a Revere body shop.  The State Police Trooper and two men, Bernaldo Hernandez and Kenneth Lafauci, all face criminal Conspiracy and Bribery charges.

The Massachusetts State Police Trooper was assigned to the State Police salvage title section, where he was responsible for inspecting damaged vehicles and confirm that repairs had been done to them without the use of stolen parts.  The Suffolk County Grand Jury indictment alleges that he was paid off to skip the inspections and just sign off on paperwork permitting the damaged vehicles to either be sold or allowed back on the road.

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 268A, Section 3, which governs the Offer or Acceptance of Anything of Substantial Value by Government Employees, states that whoever, being a present government employee, receives anything of substantial value because of any official act or acts within his official responsibility or to influence him in an official act taken, shall be punished by imprisonment in the House of Corrections for up to 2.5 years or in state prison for up to 5 years.

Interestingly with regards to this case, Chapter 268, Section 3(f) defines 'substantial value' as not less than $50.  

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February 18, 2010

Hingham Armed Robbery at Jewelry Store

Two masked gunman committed an armed robbery of a Hingham jewelry store at closing time last evening.  Both men, one with a handgun and the other with a shotgun, cornered the store owner and employees at the back door as they were leaving, forcing them back inside and emptied the safe.  If caught, both men face charges of Kidnapping and Masked Armed Robbery.

At one point, the store's alarm company called after the alarm had been triggered, but with a gun pointing at him, the store's owner told the alarm company that everything was OK.  After two 911 calls by store employees, police surrounded the building, but the suspects had already fled.  The only leads reported were that one of the men had on a M&M's candies jacket, and that they escaped in a gray 2005 Toyota Camry.  

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February 17, 2010

Boston's Mayor Fights "Cyber Bullying"

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino recently announced initiatives, including a hotline, to combat 'cyber-bullying' instances among students in Boston area schools. The hotline, staffed by the City's Law Department, Boston Public Schools and the Boston Police Department, allows callers to voice concerns, report bullying occurrences, request assistance, and screen for emergency situations that might require an immediate response.

The Anti-Cyber Bullying initiative comes in response to the recent arrest of three Newburyport High School students that were criminally charged with identity theft. The three students allegedly made a fake Facebook page of a student, along with his picture, and posted negative comments about other students from that fake account. The other student only learned of the identity theft when other classmates began making fun of him at school.

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February 16, 2010

Boston Firefighter Arrested for OUI, Assault & Battery Charges

A lieutenant in the Boston Fire Department was arrested this past weekend in what has been described an outright drunken road rage incident. Braintree Police have charged Paul Souza with several criminal offenses, including Operating Under the Influence and three counts of Assault & Battery.

After cutting off another car in Braintree, Massachusetts, the Boston firefighter is accused of forcing that car to stop, which was occupied by a couple and their son. Paul Souza is then alleged to have shouted obscenities at the other car, punching through the driver's side window, and then speeding off. The other driver chased the Boston firefighter while calling police on his cell phone.

Although Mr. Souza tried to escape capture from police with sharp turns down side streets, he was eventually stopped and arrested. Braintree Police wrote in their report that he was uncooperative and could smell alcohol on his breath.

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