August 2, 2012

Two Men Arrested in Double Homicide and Home Invasion in Haverhill, Massachusetts


Three men have been arrested in connection with last week's Home Invasion in Haverhill. All three men have been charged with Massachusetts Murder Charges, as well as Home Invasion, and Gun Crimes Charges.

According to the Essex County District Attorney's Office, several men attempted to gain access to and rob an apartment on River Street in Haverhill. The attempted robbery went bad, and eventually led to two people being killed, and others seriously injured from gunshot wounds.

The violent crime of Home Invasion in Massachusetts is defined as the entering into the home of another while armed and where the use or threatened use of force is employed. Home Invasion carries a potential penalty of not less than 20 years and up to life in state prison.

With regard to sentencing on this case, the imposition of the 20 year minimum sentence is not mandatory, in the sense that the if someone is found guilty of this crime, a judge does have discretion to not sentence him/her to state prison, but to place the person on probation for some length of time. Only in circumstances where the sentencing judge imposes a sentence of commitment for the crime of Home Invasion, the minimum sentence that must be imposed is 20 years.

By contrast of course, the crime of 1st Degree Murder carries a mandatory life sentence to state prison without the possibility of parole.

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August 1, 2012

Norwood Police Arrest 3 on Massachusetts Drug Charges


cocaine.jpgThe Norwood Police Department last week arrested 3 men on Massachusetts Drug Crimes Charges who they claim to be key suppliers for drugs in the Town of Norwood.

The 3 men, one from Boston, Quincy and Fall River, were all arrested following a drug investigation with several 'controlled drug purchases' in Norwood that also led to a drug house in Randolph. All three men were charged with Drug Trafficking in Cocaine and Heroin and Conspiracy to Violate the Massachusetts Drug Laws.

Drug Trafficking in Massachusetts is defined as the knowing or intentional manufacture, distribution or possession with intent to distribute certain net weights of controlled substances. The penalties for a conviction for drug trafficking varies depending on the weight and the alleged substance.

For instance, a conviction for Trafficking in Cocaine of 14 to 28 grams carries a sentence of not less than 3 and up to 15 years in state prison; while Trafficking in Heroin of 14 to 28 grams carries a sentence of not less than 5 and up to 20 years in state prison.

There are many potential issues that must be explored and researched an a defense involving a drug crime. Some issues, such as a challenging the probable cause in the issuance of a search warrant or challenging an unlawful search and seizure could be dispositive in the defendants case by getting the drugs suppressed or thrown out. Other times, particularly where controlled buys were employed by the police and the identity of the alleged 'dealer' may be in question, the defense may turn on challenging the defendant's access to or possession of the drugs, even if he resided in the home and/or if the drugs were located in a common area.

On their face, many drug cases may appear to be total losers, with the defendant having no chance of beating the charges. A skillful attorney, with knowledge of the law and possible legal arguments, could often be the difference between a defendant serving 3-15 years and either getting his case dismissed or winning at trial.

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June 24, 2012

Massachusetts Court Reverses Woman's Murder Conviction in Death of Baby During Labor


The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently considered a case where a Milford woman was charged with Murder when she gave birth without medical assistance that resulted in the death of the baby (the baby was later found in the trash).

In its decision, the Court refused to impose a duty upon women that they must seek medical intervention when undergoing unassisted childbirth. The court thereby affirms a person's protected liberty interest in refusing unwanted medical treatment.

In this case, the Massachusetts woman realized she was pregnant after missing her period and then taking a home pregnancy test. She didn't tell anyone about the pregnancy and chose not to see a doctor. Approximately 6 months later, the woman believed she was experiencing a miscarriage and her water broke. After 5 minutes, the baby emerged from her body but was blue.

The woman told police she made repeated attempts to scoop out the baby's mouth and made rescue breaths, but the baby's color never changed and she did not notice the baby cry or move. After not being able to resuscitate the baby, she disposed of the baby in the trash. The police discovered the baby's body a few days later.

The Worcester District Attorney's Office ultimately charged the woman with Murder and, after trial, a jury convicted her. The Supreme Judicial Court however, reversed the conviction and ruled that prosecutor's failed to prove that the woman's decision not to seek medical help was the cause of the child's death. The Court distinguished this case from one where a woman intentionally foregoes medical assistance with the intent to kill her fetus; or where a woman undergoes unassisted childbirth after she was told doing so could jeopardize the baby's life.

Essentially, the Massachusetts Supreme Court held that someone can be subject to criminal liability if a viable fetus is intentionally killed, but this was not the case. In this case, the Court ruled that there was no evidence that the woman had any intention of killing her own fetus simply because she elected to not have medical treatment.

See court's full opinion at Commonwealth v. Allissa Pugh.

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June 21, 2012

Man's DNA Leads to Massachusetts Sex Crimes Charges After 8 Years


The Suffolk County District Attorney's Office recently indicted a man on Massachusetts Sex Crimes Charges for an alleged sexual assault that occurred on the MBTA's Green Line in 2004.

According to prosecutors, the man was riding on the MBTA's B Line and allegedly positioned himself behind a female rider and began to inappropriately touch himself. When the woman left the train, she noticed 'stains' on her purse and pants. MBTA Police seized the purse at the time and, working with the Boston Police Department, were allegedly able to extract DNA from the purse and create a genetic profile. That genetic profile was entered into the CODIS database that triggered a purported match of this defendant in 2011.

The man was charged with the Massachusetts Sex Crime of Indecent Assault & Battery on a Person Over 14, which carries a potential penalty of 2.5 years in the House of Corrections; or a state prison sentence of no more than 5 years.

Like many sex crimes, a conviction for this offense would render the person subject to Massachusetts Sex Offender Registration; will require him to submit a DNA sample to the state's DNA database. Additionally, depending on the persons criminal history, he may also be subject to a term of community parole supervision for life.

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May 23, 2012

Man Charged with Attemted Murder for Home Invasion in Massachusetts State Trooper's Home


A Massachusetts State Trooper's home was the subject of an attempted robbery and shooting this past weekend by a man reportedly from Oklahoma who was in town for a family funeral. The man, charged with Massachusetts Crimes of Violence Charges, was arraigned in Plymouth District Court on charges including Home Invasion, Attempted Murder, and Gun Crimes Charges.

According to the Plymouth County District Attorney's Office, the man allegedly appeared at the Massachusetts trooper's home with a gun and attempted to gain access. When other police officers responded to the area, the man then allegedly fired his gun at them.

The crime of Home Invasion in Massachusetts is defined as the unlawful entry into the home of another with the threat to use force and while armed with a dangerous weapon. The penalty upon conviction for the crime of Home Invasion is severe, which carries a minimum-mandatory sentence of 20 years and up to life in state prison.

The crime of Attempted Murder in Massachusetts is where a person, with the specific intent to commit the crime of Murder, takes an overt act towards committing murder and came reasonably close to doing so. Attempted Murder is punishable with a sentence to state prison for up to 10 years.

Strictly considering the potential penalties involved in these types of crimes, there aren't that many crimes that are considered more 'serious' than Home Invasion. As such, these types of crimes are prosecuted extremely aggressively. In this case, given that the purported victim was a Massachusetts State Trooper, the defendant here can expect that the district attorney's office will make this case a priority.

That being said, the defendant here should be sure to have competent and aggressive counsel on his side.

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May 22, 2012

Boston City Workers Charged With Massachusetts Drug Crimes


Two Boston city employees were arraigned this morning on Massachusetts Drug Crimes Charges following their arrest last friday. Each were charged with Drug Distribution; Unlawful Drug Possession; School Zone Violation; and Conspiracy to Violate the Drug Laws.

According to the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office, one of the city workers was employed as a Boston parking enforcement officer and the other, while the other was employed as a Boston crossing guard.

Boston Police were reportedly conducting surveillance when they allegedly observed the parking enforcement officer, while in uniform, enter a vehicle and then get out with his fist clenched. Police allegedly recovered two percocet pills when he was later stopped and searched.

In cases such as these, it is critical that the defense scrutinizes the facts that the police purportedly relied upon in justifying their stopping and then searching anyone alleged to be involved in a drug transaction. A person charged with a Massachusetts Drug Crime will certainly want to consider challenging whether the police had reasonable suspicion or even probable cause to initiate a search. A successful constitutional challenge on these grounds could lead to the drugs and other evidence being 'suppressed' or thrown out, without which there might not be any evidence for the prosecution to go forward.


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May 16, 2012

Massachusetts' Armed Career Criminal Sentencing Enhancement


Enacted in 1998, the Massachusetts Armed Career Criminal Statute, M.G.L. c. 269, section 10G, otherwise known as "ACC", imposes enhanced penalties for persons previously convicted of a "violent crime" or a "serious drug offense."

Depending on the number of prior convictions that might form the basis of an ACC enhanced indictment, a person may be indicted as an armed career criminal as a level 1, 2 or 3. ACC Level 1 provides for an additional punishment of a minimum-mandatory sentence of 3 to 15 years; Level 2 provides for 10-15 years; and Level 3 provides for a 15-20 year sentence to state prison.

But what "violent crime" is sufficient to form a basis of an enhance Armed Career Criminal indictment?

Massachusetts criminal law defines a violent crime as:

Any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year...that:
  1. has as an element the use, attempted use or threatened use of physical force or a deadly weapon against the person of another;
  2. is burglary, extortion, arson or kidnapping;
  3. involves the use of explosives; or
  4. otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious risk of physical injury to another.

However, some crimes that might appear to be "violent crimes" may not qualify as a predicate "violent crime", such as the crime of Assault & Battery, which may be prosecuted under various theories. For instance, a "harmful battery" and "reckless battery" are violent crimes because they each have as an element the use of "physical force".

Another theory of Assault & Battery, however, is an "offensive battery", which does not have as an element the use of "physical force".

Especially in cases where someone is charged with an enhanced sentencing indictment such as under the Armed Career Criminal Statute, it is so critical that they are represented by an experienced Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer that knows the law well and how to apply that knowledge in the defense of his client.

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May 11, 2012

Massachusetts Man Charged with Manslaughter In Brother-In-Law's Death


A Cohasset man was arrested for Massachusetts Murder Charges following the family brawl that ended in the death of his brother-in-law. The man was arraigned in Quincy District Court earlier this week and charged with Manslaughter.

According to the Norfolk County District Attorney's Office, Cohasset police responded to the defendant's home and found him to be unresponsive. The victim's father told police that family were celebrating the man's birthday when he became loud and began swearing. One witness told police that the victim had gone into a rage and had hit someone over the head with a chair.

The defendant allegedly tried to calm him and the two began fighting, eventually putting the victim in a headlock. When the defendant released him, the victim was motionless and unresponsive.

Voluntary Manslaughter in Massachusetts is defined as murder but with mitigating circumstances the lessen a defendant's culpability for the act. Where both crimes of Murder and Manslaughter each require proof of an unlawful killing, the crime may be voluntary manslaughter if it occurred under mitigating circumstances; in other words, without malice.

Some examples of mitigating circumstances involving the crime of manslaughter could be heat of passion upon reasonable provocation; heat of passion by sudden combat; or excessive force in self-defense.

By contrast, Involuntary Manslaughter in Massachusetts is defined as the unlawful killing unintentionally caused by wanton or reckless conduct, which creates a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm will result to another. It may also be commission of a batter in circumstances that the person knows or reasonably should know endanger human life.

In either theory of manslaughter, it is an absolute defense if the person acted in self-defense or in the defense of another, which appears to be the case here.

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May 3, 2012

Massachusetts Court Rules Antique Guns Exempt from Criminal Statute


In the recent case of Commonwealth v. Leslie Burton-Brown, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court considered the issue of whether a gun, manufactured before 1900, were unlawful to own/possess under the Massachusetts' Gun Crimes Laws.

After a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, Unlawful Possession of Ammunition, and Unlawful Possession of a Loaded Firearm. In his appeal, the defendant asserted that his convictions should be overturned because the gun at issue was manufactured before 1900, and under the law as written, he could lawfully possess the firearm with having been issued a license to carry.

Under the statute which criminalized the possession of a firearm without a license, the language further reads that the "...provisions of the [statute] shall not apply to...any firearms, rifle, or shotgun manufactured in or prior to the year 1899."

In reversing the defendant's conviction, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court resounded that, given the language of the statute, the defendant could not have been convicted of unlawfully possession this antique gun. The SJC went even further and overruled a prior Massachusetts Appeals Court case which had previously ruled that no "antique gun exemption" existed.

Moving forward, where a defendant is charged with Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, attorneys should give the appropriate pre-trial notice to rely on the affirmative defense of exemption so that the defendant could demonstrate to the jury, through expert testimony, that the gun is, in fact, an antique.

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April 3, 2012

Boston Man Arrested for Drug Trafficking Charges in Braintree


A Boston man and woman from Dedham were arrested by Braintree Police Officers this yesterday on Massachusetts Drug Crimes Charges in what police are calling a "month-long investigation."

Aris W. Veras, 35, of Boston, and Luz M. Cepeda, 29, of Dedham, have both been charged with Drug Trafficking, Distribution of Heroin and Cocaine, and Possession with Intent to Distribute Drugs.

According to the Braintree Police, search warrants were executed for two cars and a home in Dedham when an undercover police officer allegedly purchased drugs from Veras and Cepeda. Following the alleged transaction to the undercover police officer, both were arrested on drug charges.

The search warrant on the home in Dedham, alleged to be Cepedas, reportedly yielded additional drugs, including cocaine and heroin; drug packaging materials, and cash.

Although at first glance these circumstances may seem unbeatable, there are truly many intricacies and legal issues that surround a case like this. Any seasoned criminal defense attorney defending a case of this nature would certainly look to the specific details of the alleged drug sale, including who, specifically was involved and how the drug sale was allegedly transacted.

Additionally, that a search warrant was executed on Cepeda's home may not necessarily be fatal to Vera's defense, particularly if police cannot establish a strong link between him and the home - such as no evidence that he was ever seen near the home, let alone believed to have engaged in the selling of drugs at or near the residence. The search warrant should also be carefully scrutinized to ensure that it was properly issued based on the requisite probable cause. If not, the search warrant could be thrown out and any evidence recovered from the search could be excluded.

The penalties for Drug Trafficking in Massachusetts vary depending on the alleged drug in question and how much 'weight' was allegedly distributed. For instance, for cocaine, trafficking cocaine between 14 and 28 grams could result in a prison sentence of 3 to 15 years; while over 200 grams could result in a sentence of 15-20 years.

The penalties for Drug Trafficking Heroin in Massachusetts, however, are more severe. 14-28 grams could result in a sentence of 5-20 years; while trafficking over 200 grams of heroin could also result in a state prison sentence of 15-20 years.

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March 20, 2012

US Supreme Court Considers Constitutionality of Life Sentences for Youthful Offenders


The United States Supreme Court today heard arguments in the cases of Jackson v. Hobbs and Miller v. Alabama on the issue of whether it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the 8th Amendment, to sentence a youthful offender to life without the possibility of parole. The decision result in a change to Massachusetts law, which currently allows for juvenile life sentences without parole.

By way of background, the court has previously ruled against similar punishments for youth and adult offenders in the past. In 2005, the Court prohibited the imposition of the death penalty for any minor convicted of murder in the case of Roper v. Simmons. Then, in 2010, in the case of Graham v. Florida, the Supreme Court prohibited the imposition of a life without the possibility of parole sentence for a minor who committed any crime other than murder.

In both of those cases, the Supreme Court ruled that, due to the immaturity of youthful judgment and moral sense, those punishments were unconstitutional and therefore a form of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment. With those cases as a backdrop, attorneys are urging the court to rule that a sentence of life without parole for the crime of murder is also too severe and unconstitutional.

The decision could have long reaching implications to several cases, including those in Massachusetts, such as the case of John Odgren, who as a teenager, was convicted of First Degree Murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. He was 16 at the time of the murder.

Prior to 1996, juveniles charged with murder in Massachusetts would have their cases tried in Juvenile Court. In 1996, however, the Massachusetts legislature amended the law which now mandates that juveniles between the ages of 14 and 17 who are charged with murder to have their cases transferred to adult court. In Massachusetts alone, there are 59 inmates who were charged with murder before they were 18. Notably, 38 other states have passed similar laws permitting juveniles to be sentenced to life without parole sentences for murder.

The indication from reporters, following oral arguments, is that the United States Supreme Court will lean towards ruling that sentencing youthful offenders to life without the possibility of parole is not cruel and unusual punishment. ...but the official decision is not expected until sometime this summer.

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March 7, 2012

Boston Man Arraigned for 2011 Jamaica Plain Murder


A 22 year old from Roslindale was arraigned yesterday on Massachusetts Murder Charges in connection with the stabbing death of Kenneth Soto, 19, in October 2011.

The defendant, Hector Soto, was arraigned in the West Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court on First Degree Murder Charges.

According to the Suffolk County D.A.'s Office, prosecutors allege that Hector Soto and Kenneth Soto were in separate vehicles with respective friends in the 7-11 parking lot on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain. As Kenneth Soto exited the store, Hector Soto allegedly approached him the two engaged in a fight that resulted in the stabbing death of Kenneth Soto.

First Degree Murder in Massachusetts is the unlawful killing of another with deliberate premeditation and malice, and is punishable by imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole.

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March 6, 2012

Cambridge Security Guard Indicted on Rape Charges


A Cambrdige security guard was indicted by a Middlesex Grand Jury on several Massachusetts Sex Crimes Charges last week.

The security guard, who is reportedly from Hyde Park, has been indicted on sex charges including Assault with Intent to Rape and Indecent Assault and Battery. He is scheduled to be arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court tomorrow.

According to the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office, Cambridgeside Galleria police responded to a woman crying for help at 2:00 a.m. on November 11. A review of surveillance video reportedly shows the security guard from Hyde Park escorting a woman around the rear mall entrance to the Cambridgeside Galleria from Thorndike Street. At that point, the man allegedly grabbed the woman, forced himself on her and allegedly sexually assaulted her. The woman was reportedly able to walk away to a nearby hotel where she called for help.

Assault with Intent to Commit Rape in Massachusetts is a felony that is defined as an assault of another with intent to engage in sexual acts without their consent, and is punishable by commitment to state prison for any term of years up to life. If, however, the accused has previously been convicted of Assault with Intent to Commit Rape, the minimum-mandatory penalty to be imposed is 20 years in state prison.

Indecent Assault & Battery in Massachusetts is punishable by imprisonment in the House of Correction for up to 2.5 years, or to state prison for up to 5 years.

A conviction for the crimes of Assault with Intent to Rape and Indecent Assault and Battery would each render the person subject to Sex Offender Registration and require him to submit a sample to the Massachusetts State DNA Database.

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March 1, 2012

Newton Teacher Indicted on Additional Sex Crimes Charges


The Newton Public School teacher who has already been indicted by a Middlesex County Grand Jury on Massachusetts Sex Crime Charges, has now also been indicted by a Suffolk County Grand Jury on additional sexual assault charges, including Aggravated Assault & Battery on a Child Under 14.

The new charges against the former Newton second-grade elementary school teacher at the Underwood School, David Ettlinger, seem to have arisen from the discovery of files of his computer and from search warrants conducted following his initial arrest.

The Suffolk County District Attorney's Office also revealed the discovery of additional photographs that aren't 'pornographic', but have rather termed them as 'troubling.' The photos allegedly depict children playing the playground and on school grounds. Notably, however, Ettlinger did also make an annual video tutorial and photo collage for parents during his tenure at the school, which could also explain these other photographs.

Given the high profile and sensitivity of these charges, however, prosecutors will sort through everything they can find with a fine-tooth comb and certainly seek to charge him with anything they can. It's also been reported that the Ettlinger may also face federal sex crimes charges as well for an alleged connection in a 'global internet pornography ring'.

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February 28, 2012

Boston Man Charged with Murder in Roxbury Shooting Death


Boston Police have arrested a Dorchester man and charged him with Massachusetts Murder Charges in connection with the shooting death of Anthony Depina in Roxbury last week.

Jason Barbosa was arraigned in Roxbury District Court yesterday on charges of First Degree Murder and Gun Crimes Charges.

According to the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office, Jason Barbosa allegedly encountered Anthony Depina in area where Depina wasn't supposed to be, in an alleged referenced to gang turf. A few hours later, Barbosa allegedly encountered Depina again, at which point he is alleged to have shot him in the chest and head.

Prosecutors allege that Jason Barbosa was linked to the crime scene by video surveillance, as well as a GPS device that he was reportedly wearing as a condition of his probation on an unrelated criminal matter.

Simply because prosecutors have alleged that Jason Barbosa was in the vicinity at or around of the alleged murder, that does not necessarily mean that he was the one who pulled the trigger or was otherwise in any way connected with this crime. It is still unclear if there is any other evidence, whether forensic, ballistics, or otherwise, that could more accurately connect Barbosa to this murder.

First Degree Murder in Massachusetts is defined as the unlawful killing committed with deliberate premeditation with malice, and is punishable by commitment to state prison for life.

Following his arraignment in Roxbury District Court, Jason Barbosa was held without bail pending his next court appearance.

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