Toll Free (877) 721-4732
Phone (617) 206-1942

Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network.
To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 206-1942.

April 15, 2014


The tragedy we remember today was as horrible and ugly as they come. And come they have. Repeatedly.

Too often, the tragedy results in the death or serious injury of our children. Often, it is our children who perpetrate the deed.

It happened again just last week. This time it was in Murraysville, Pennsylvania. This time it was at the Franklin Regional High School. This time it was knives.

Just as school was about to start, a student armed with two knives walked through the building and began stabbing people. By the time it was over, two students were in critical condition at a nearby hospital and the third was on life-support.

School violence seems to have become an almost expected reality. In days gone by, there was always some such violence. However, school-related stabbings, shootings and killings frequentLy found in the news.

We try to fight the trend via the usual approach, namely, jacking up criminal penalties and enacting do-nothing-but-feel-good such as semi-recent anti-bullying law. The result? The citizenry feels good for a little while and the problem continues.

Some approaches, however, show some promise.

The seriousness with which instances of school violence are treated changed after the Columbine massacre. Then, a couple of years ago, a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six adults at the Sandyhook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Now, there is even more scrutiny of security procedures in schools.

For better…and for worse.

“I don’t think anybody walks around saying it’s not going to happen here,” said John Panica, who works as a school resource officer at Massachusetts’ Newton North High School. “I think people say it could, and as long as you’re prepared you’re able to deal with those things.”

“It was a wake-up call that it can happen in any town and in any place in America,” said Canton Detective Chip Yeaton, who works as a school resource officer at Canton High School. Yeaton, who also serves as the president of the Massachusetts Juvenile Police Officer’s Association – an organization that represents school resource officers – estimated that about 70 percent of school districts in the state have at least one police officer working in a school.

Immediately after Sandy Hook, Reading police Officer Corey Santasky worked with the school district to review its building security, and spent time at schools to reassure children and parents that students were protected.

“After Sandy Hook, I went to all of the elementary schools every day and greeted the kids every morning to show them we’re there to help them and keep them safe,” he said.

Police presence is seen as serving two functions. First of all, and perhaps most important to many, it offers a feeling, if not reality, of security. Second, police point to the relationships they’ve built with students and teachers as proactive measures that have helped prevent possible mass shootings. In Marshfield, for example, police got word of an attack planned for 2005 to coincide with the sixth anniversary of the April 20, 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado that left 15 people dead. Three students who plotted a similar attack in 2001 were thwarted in New Bedford.

But more often than not, school cops can be found in the halls chatting and listening to students. Some are plainclothes, and some, like Santasky, wear a uniform. Walking the halls of Reading High School, Santasky said he believes listening to kids can prevent major problems.

“My goal is to make sure they can trust me, that I’m a resource for them,” Santasky said.

More and more police officers are being stationed in Massachusetts schools — serving as role models and lecturing to classes on drugs and alcohol, bullying and, more recently, cyber activity such as sexting. Most appear to be masters of small talk: They schmooze with students to gain trust, pull lunch monitor duty like teachers, and walk a beat through the halls in between classes, trying to learn as many names of students as possible. Many even spend some of their weekends at schools, attending games, dances, and plays.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Law Enforcement, Schools And Your Children (Part One)

Nobody can disagree that having a police presence at a school means extra security. It might even help in easing kids' views about the police.

This blog generally focuses on warning the reader about dangers the Massachusetts crimnal justice system (and the nightmare called DCF) presents to the unwary.

Most people, particularly the innocent, are indeed unwary.

You will notice that I mentioned above that this extra attention to school violence has both positive and negative effects. The positive ones are pretty obvious. Take the police presence for example. More police presence provides extra security should a problem arise. Further, if handled correctly, the police may even strike up relationships with kids which serve as a more positive foundation to those kids’ reaction to law enforcement.

Everyone is happy with the positives…but few truly understand the negatives.

That is, until said negatives effect their child.

What do I mean?

Check back tomorrow.

For the original stories upon which this blog is based, please go to

April 4, 2014


Probably, in one form or another. There are things, though that can be done about it.

Being arrested and hauled into court for arraignment is, among other things, embarrassing. You don’t want the world to know about it and your family does not want the negative attention. Most of all, you have enough to worry about without having to be questioned or getting the “fish eye” from those with which you come in contact.

Imagine how you are going to feel when you see cameras and reporters when you enter the courtroom…and they are all there for you.

“Oh my God”, you think. “I’m toast.”

Attorney Sam’s Take On High Profile Cases

It does not matter if the criminal charges are rape, drugs or murder; you now have an additional issue you are going to have to deal with. publicity.

That issue, by the way, really needs to be dealt with immediately. In fact, it would have been better if you had started to deal with it before you came to court.

“Well, how was I going to do that? Tell the reporters to stay home that day?”

No. You should take the steps necessary to have private counsel who is experienced with high profile matters representing you immediately. That attorney could have prepared you for the realities of your arraignment and taken certain steps to make it as painless as possible. For example, the attorney could take steps to block you from cameras, particularly in cases wherein there is an identity issue.

“Well, Can’t A Court-Appointed Attorney Do That?”

They Should. The problem is that there are some good court-appointed attorneys and some bad, or inexperienced ones. Further, you could have prepared with your private attorney prior to the arraignment and had time to prepare for things such as bail arguments. You will meet the court-appointed attorney for the first time just before your arraignment.

"Can The Attorney Stop The Press From Reporting On My Story?"

Unfortunately, no. There may be motions your attorney could bring to cut down on things like the Commonwealth dribbling tidbits to the press. For example, the amount of evidence released could poison the potential jury pool in the surrounding area. You may wish to ask to move the case to another location. There may be pieces of information your attorney could get the judge to order the prosecution not release.

The court is not likely to Order the press not to report. It could, however, Order the Commonwealth not to disseminate the information in the first place

“The Commonwealth is going to reveal its evidence to the press?”

Very likely, the Commonwealth has already revealed some of its case to the press even before your arraignment. There could even have been a press conference where the local District Attorney is congratulating the police and his office for making the case against you.

“Isn’t That Prejudicial?”

It sure is. However, in large part, the Commonwealth gets away with it. The experienced criminal lawyer in such a case knows how far he can and should go to offset that prejudice.

“What Do You Mean ‘Can And Should Go’?”

There are particular court rules, which govern attorneys. An attorney ignores them at his or her peril. Further, it would not make sense for your lawyer to do something that looks good in the press today…but is likely to bury you tomorrow.

“Is There Anything You Can Tell Us In This Blog Which Might Give Us An Idea Of What To Expect?”

Of course every case is different. Further, the personalities of the judge, defense lawyer and prosecutor differ, so anticipating what will happen in any given case is impossible in terms of specifics.

In my opinion, the fact that a case has garnered publicity from the start is generally not good news for the defense. Every participant in that courtroom is going to be ultra-aware of the presence of the cameras and they are going to be very careful. While you might think that is a good thing, I remind you of an unfortunate truth which we have discussed in the past.

Nobody is likely to get criticized by being “too harsh” on a criminal defendant. Being seen as “too soft,” however is a much different story. Remember that the District Attorney is a political office, usually a stepping-stone to higher office. In other words, public sentiment is likely to effect how the prosecution handles the case, particularly in the beginning…like when bail hearings are held.

Further, nobody likes being criticized in the press, not even the judge. The judge will also be aware that, should the defendant get out on low or no bail, and commits another crime, critism will be coming forthwith.

Remember also that it is very rare for the press to give true attention to the presumption of innocence. Many times, while reporting on a case and the pending criminal charges the word “alleged” does not even appear.

“So What Can An Experienced Attorney Do For Me?”

There are certain ways in which he or she can try to get your message across, or as much as is appropriate. At the very least, your attorney can make it clear to the press that you are not convicted, yet. Further, such a lawyer should have gained a sense as to when media interest is likely to be high and when it is likely to be low. Depending on the level of media interest, more efficient work on the case may be able to be done.

The tools of the trade change a bit when the pressure of publicity is on. The experienced lawyer will know how and when to use those tools. Further, that attorney will not be taken aback by the presence of the press.

So, once again, it comes down to having an experienced attorney. Not simply someone who passed the bar 85 years ago, but someone who has experience in dealing with high profile criminal cases of the sort facing you.

In the meantime, have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!

April 1, 2014


Last week, we began this topic. At the time, I signed off with the famous last words “Good question. Let’s start with it tomorrow". Once again, a few “tomorrows” came and went and I was too busy fighting for “the cause” to post. So….please consider today “tomorrow”.

We discussed the realities about police involvement when approached by what appears to them to be a crime victim. However, what about when it is not a case of who gets to the police first? What about cases where you have no reason to know that there is even suspicion about your activity, much less an investigation? Often, we see such a scenario in Massachusetts white collar cases.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Healthy Paranoia When It Comes To Questionable Paperwork

Let’s face it…sometimes paperwork is not accurate.

Yes, it could be because of criminal activity. On the other hand, it could also be because of either carelessness, a simple mistake or something else other than criminal.

Unfortunately, the concept of mistakes has begun to enter extinction. These days, folks jump to the conclusion of evil intent. And if it appears that somehow the person causing the error arguably profited somehow, that is what the law enforcement “truth” becomes.

“Well, Sam, the police do not receive notice of these ‘mistakes’ through telepathy. Someone calls them. Why would those people assume criminal intent?”

Well, there could always be ulterior motives. They could range from revenge to wanting to cover up a mistake that the accuser actually made.

This, as with the question of actual factual guilt, varies from case to case.

The important thing for you to keep in mind is similar to the message in my previous blog. If an investigation is going on, very likely you are unaware of it until it is too late.

“What do you mean ‘too late’?”

I mean that often, by the time you are brought in for questioning, the investigators, both civilian and police, have already determined what the “truth” is. In any event, someone has clearly found what they are calling “evidence” compelling. Therefore, it is pure folly to assume that “they have no evidence.”

You must remember that evidence does not have to be absolute proof. Further, in a criminal case at least, the time for having to prove a case against you does not come until trial. That trial can be many months to a couple of years in the making. While some comfort, or relief, clearly comes from an acquittal, it is far better to avoid the criminal charges in the first place.

As discussed in previous blogs, nobody is going to give you back the time, sweat or money you have lost over the criminal justice nightmare. That is true whether you are, in fact, guilty or innocent.

“Aren’t there times where investigators are really reserving judgment until everyone involved is questioned and have not made up their minds when they question potential suspects?”

Undoubtedly. I have seldom experienced many of those, to tell you the truth, either through my own observation or from what clients have told me. The fact is, however, such instances are in the minority in my experience. The risk in assuming that a given situation is truly that…an honest search for the truth…is huge.

At least, depending on what you do in response.

You can risk it and go into the questioning alone, figuring you can either charm the questioners or simply tell them the truth as you know it. You may be lucky and be successful in that endeavor.

Not very likely though.

Therefore, my advice is still the same. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the moment you suspect there is an investigation, or may be an investigation.

Indeed, there are times that it makes sense to make a statement and submit to questioning. However, letting an experienced attorney who has seen these situations before guide you is your best bet in making the correct calculation.

Remember, a bell cannot be unrung. Once you make a statement, that statement is made.

You blindly rely on the integrity and open mindedness of those posing the questions at your peril.

Sometimes, a little bit of paranoia is not a bad thing.

Remember, just because you are paranoid does not mean that they are not all out to get you!

March 25, 2014


I am not going to tell you that every crime that is ever committed is discovered and/or punished. Likewise, I will argue forever that not everyone convicted of a crime is truly factually guilty.

However, the way cases are “discovered”, “solved” and brought to trial has to do with evidence. Most people figure that they know what constitutes evidence.

Many of those people are wrong.

Attorney Sam’s Take On What Evidence Is, Can Be And Just A Few Ways It Can Be Tainted

First of all, let’s do away with the most frequent reflection of evidentiary misunderstanding to which I am so often treated.

“There is no physical evidence. They’ve got nothing. It is just her word against mine.”

Even assuming that there is no physical evidence and all that the prosecution has as evidence is its complainant’s word to use against your word (assuming you are able to testify), to say that they have “nothing” shows great naiveté.

What they have is the complainant’s word. That is all the prosecution needs to bring a case against you. One person’s word. Just to add flavor to that reality, remember something else we have discussed in past blogs. That is that whoever wins the jog to the police is generally going to be considered the “victim” and the person that victim accuses will be the “defendant”.

It can, and usually does, happen that quickly. Given that law enforcement makes that determination so early in the “criminal investigation”, the goal of the police becomes the building the (already established) case. Thus, there is a taint to the investigation in such cases from the very start.

“But they will still keep an open mind, right? I meant, the police do want to see Justice done, right?”

The police generally want to see “Justice” done, yes. However, the problem is that they generally decide what that means in a particular case very early on. The truth, then, is not what you mean by “open mind”. In their minds, they have the truth. Now it is time to build the case against you.

“But the officer told me that he is keeping an open mind, can tell I am a good guy and he just wants to get my side of the story so that he can close the file.”

Yes, that is what they usually will tell you. It is a great approach to get you to talk to them when you do not have to. It may even get you to lower your guard so that you will answer questions in a sloppy manner so that your statements can seem like a confession.

We have discussed many times that, under the law, police officers are allowed to lie during the course of their investigations. The only problem comes if you lie to them. That is called the felony of witness intimidation, believe it or not.

Now, in this scenario, the officers have spoken to, and taken the word of, the complainant who got to them first. They have decided that, based upon the word of the complainant, there is a case to be made and prosecuted against you. That is the situation as you open the door to law enforcement in the beginning stages of the “investigation”.

As the police believe the complainant, and the prosecutor takes the word of the police, by the time the charges come down the system’s legal gun barrel, regardless of whatever else has been found, there is a bona fide case against you.

“And they can win a case on that?”

Often they can. Sometimes they can’t. That will not be found out until the jury returns…somewhere between six months and a year later. But it's too late to take back mistakes you made earlier on because you believed the "search for the truth" myth.

"Okay, but what about cases where nobody is claiming to be a witness to a crime? For example, what about a white collar crime where I am suspected of doing something wrong even though nobody knows for sure?”

Good question. Let’s start with it tomorrow.

March 24, 2014


Ok, it would seem we have the figurative elephant in the room here.

Last week, I referred to the media coverage of a new case of mine that has videos all over the internet. Some of that publicity has brought me various questions from media and responses in the form of hate mail based upon the coverage. Generally, I do not discuss matters in which I am involved in this blog. However, given that my client is interested in making the record a bit clearer than it thus far has been made, I will do so…a little… here.

In case it has not become clear yet, I represent Mr. Daniel Snay who has been arraigned on various charges of alleged sexual assault in Uxbridge.

Mr. Snay’s past is probably the primary reason for most of the media interest in this case.
Over twenty years ago, Mr. Snay had his last sexual assault conviction. He has had a few. Regardless of how the convictions came to be…it is indisputable that the convictions exist. Since then, he has been a Level 3 Sex Offender. That, too, is not disputed.

In 2008, well after having paid his debt to society, Mr. Snay won the prize of $10 million in the lottery. Again, not disputable. In fact, you might remember the outcry when that took place. I know that the complainant and his family in this case do.

So, this is where we start.

Now, the 62-year-old Mr. Snay stands accused again and he has pleaded “not guilty”. As you may recall, the law views him as innocent unless and until he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s in that United States Constitution thing upon which our system is based. This has not happened yet, except to the satisfaction of criminal injustice vultures like Nancy Grace who make a career out of bastardizing the system and ruining lives.

Ms. Grace, the clown who personifies the adage “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing”, aside, there is a tendency on the part of other media outlets to report allegations as if they are immediately and intrinsically true. They simply do not do it with the blood-curdling venom dripping from their jaws that Ms. Grace does.

I know that many like to joke about the word “alleged”, but the fact is that it is the cornerstone of our system. You will understand that the day that you or a loved one is accused of a crime.

But I digress.

Mr. Snay has now been accused of sexually assaulting a youth who is 16 years of age. The alleged assaults, according to him, ended two years ago. His stated reason for the delay in reporting the abuse is that he “guesses” his silence was bought by Mr. Snay. In fact, the Commonwealth alleges that Mr. Snay used part of his winnings from the lottery to “buy” said silence which, I guess, they will claim, the complainant willingly accepted.
Given that the Commonwealth has seen fit to, on the day of arraignment, hand out the police report of allegations (The same time the defense was given a copy, by the way) like a party gift, perhaps a few words from the other side is in order.

Despite my arguments in court and my answering of questions posed to me by the press after the arraignment, some outlets remain unsatisfied. They complain that “Snay’s lawyer did not immediately return a telephone message.”

It’s true. I had legal work to do for clients.

But I am here now.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Feeding Frenzies In High Profile Cases

Of course, I cannot divulge every detail of this case in this blog. Like the Commonwealth, my case should be presented in the court of law, not public opinion. However, let me ask you a question. We have discussed many times that people are sometimes accused of crimes that they did not commit. In fact, there have been several times that complainants in sex cases actually recant their initial allegations. So, we know that, sometimes, criminal allegations are untrue.

We have also discussed the fact that, sometimes, untrue allegations are made for a variety of reasons. These motivations can include revenge, anger or even greed. In fact, I recently successfully finished a sexual assault trial during which the complainants suddenly brought forth a civil law suit for one million dollars. There is not a doubt in my mind that the complainants in that case were motivated by something other than the truth.

Here, it is undeniable that Mr. Snay is a wonderfully easy target for these types of allegations. He has a bad prior record and is a Level 3 Sex Offender. Further, folks in general do not like the fact that such a guy won the lottery. Finally, if he could be convicted of victimizing the complainant in this case, he is someone with “deep pockets” for a subsequent civil lawsuit. In fact, I would not be surprised if the complainant and his mom brought the lawsuit sooner rather than later.

“Well, Sam, is there any reason to assume that the complainant would be looking to Mr. Snay for financial reward?”

Without going too much into it, the answer is “yes”. As the Commonwealth itself has pointed out, there is a history of Mr. Snay helping the complainant’s family. However, here is something the Commonwealth has not told you. Prior to the allegations being made, Mr. Snay brought eviction proceedings against the complainant’s mother.

That’s right…before the allegations.

Hmmm, so you have, by the complainant’s own admission, two years during which time he felt his silence was “bought”. Then, suddenly, eviction proceedings and, suddenly, criminal allegations which are bound to be taken seriously because, if nothing else, Mr. Snay has a prior record for the same crimes.

“What makes you think that knowledge of the lottery winnings has even entered into the prosecution of this case?”

At arraignment, the prosecutor and judge themselves told you that. Because of the perceived 10 million dollar winnings, bail was set at 5 million dollars…despite the fact that Mr. Snay has not received close to that amount since the money is paid out over time.

Even the lottery winnings aside, there is an entire backstory here which will fill itself in when the matter comes to trial. The police report which the Commonwealth has released is obviously one side of this matter. As time goes by, you will hear more about the other side.

Contrary to what media reports are saying at this point, I have not yet indicated what I believe is behind all this. The truth in this case is for the jury to decide. Not me. Not you. Not law-and-order publicity vampires like Nancy Grace.

On the other hand, perhaps, like her, you feel that it really doesn’t matter. Mr. Snay has prior convictions for similar crimes and should never have won the lottery as far as you are concerned. Maybe you feel he should be thrown in prison for the rest of his life regardless of innocence or guilt in this case.

In that case, all I can say to you and to her is…shame on you.

The basis of our entire way of life tells you to keep an open mind until the matter is submitted to a jury.

That is all we ask.

Despite the publicity sought and gained by the Commonwealth.

To read the original stories upon which this blog is partially based, please go to and

March 20, 2014


I regret that I have been lousy at getting blogs up here this week. If you have noticed on the news coverage has been a busy week on a particular new matter in Uxbridge.

In the meantime, given "March Madness" and such it seems that folks have sports on their mind. Sometimes, the two areas of interest (sports and criminal justice) intersect. No, not only in cases like those of Aaron Hernandez, but all kinds of cases

Anybody can find themselves facing criminal charges.

Take, for example, the saga of Boston Red Sox prospect Jon Denney . He was s arrested for driving with a suspended license early last Thursday morning and responded by allegedly telling police he "made more money than we could ever see," according to a Lee County Sheriff's Office arrest report obtained by Yahoo Sports.

While arresting officers are usually interested in getting statements, they usually seek a different type of statement Something alittle less offensive for example.

Another alleged gem from Mr. Denny came when he was asked by police why he was in the Fort Myers Beach area. The response is said to be ,"Partying and looking to get some [expletive]."

19-year-old Denney was arrested at 2:22 a.m.. It was at least his second run-in with law enforcement in the last three months. Police had pulled him over at 11:57 p.m. Wednesday night after he "accelerated quickly," causing his Ford F-150 Raptor to fishtail, according to the report. Denney furnished a license that was restricted for business and emergency purposes after allegedly drunk driving in Arkansas, the report said.

The above alleged wittisms notwithstanding, the police simply I ssued a citation, according to the report, and Denney called a friend to drive him home.

But Denny apparently had more wit to share. Approximately two hours later, police report that they saw Denney enter his truck and drive out of a parking lot. When pulled over and asked why he was driving, Denney apparently said he was giving a woman a ride, according to the report. "Denney then became belligerent and started to cuss" at the police officers, the report said.

The rant allegedly I ncluded things like "he was a Boston Red Sox player and he didn't care [sic] he had money and made more money than we would ever see." When handcuffed, the report said, Denney said "he would be out in no time because of who he played for and that he made three million a year."

In fact, Boston drafted Denney, a catcher, in the third round of last season’s draft out of Yukon (Okla.) High. He signed for $875,000. Players in Class A, where Denney is expected to start the season, make a little more than $1,000 a month.
Denney was booked by the Lee County Sheriff's Office at 4:06 a.m. last Thursday. He was released at 8:30 a.m. after posting a $500 bond.

The Boston Red Sox, through a spokesman, issued a statement that "The Red Sox are aware of the incident involving Jon Denney. At present, we are still gathering more information. At this time the club will make no further comment."

While they are looking into this one, the Sox may want to check into an earlier matter from December 7, 2013. In that adventure, Denny was said to have been arrested for disorderly conduct, minor in possession of alcohol and littering after witnessing him throw a bottle of Malibu Black Rum into oncoming traffic, according to a police report. The bottle, the report said, narrowly missed a vehicle.

The Red Sox have been in this embarrassing predicament before. For example, last March, another Red Sox prospect had similar issues. The prospect was pitcher Drake Britton. He was arrested for DUI after driving 111 mph in a 45-mph zone, hopping a curb and ending up caught in a barbed-wire fence. When asked for his license, Britton apparently gave the police a debit card.

Of course, things worked out well for him. He joined the Red Sox in July, threw 21 innings and won a World Series ring.

Denney's scheduled court appearance is March 31, according to the sheriff's office.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Driving Offenses And Offensive Mouths

A brief “word to the wise” here.

During a traffic stop, be it a “good” stop or a “bad” stop, police officers tend to insist being the ones in control. In truth, they really have to because anything can happen during car stops.

Trying to intimidate officers back is most unwise. Rubbing their noses into the fact that you feel your lifestyle is better than theirs is also an invitation for more trouble. Lastly, when the officer tells you to keep off the road, he or she does not usually mean only for a couple of hours.

If there be doubt, call a lawyer or wait until you are before the judge.

It is hard to imagine that anyone lucky enough to be in Denny’s position would want to potentially ruin it by getting arrested and doing all he can, through rather loose lips, to embarrass himself as well as the Red Sox.

“Well, Sam, He seems to have been drunk.”

That’s what they say. But that does not make the offenses any better. Voluntary intoxication is not a defense.

We have discussed this lesson many times, but it clearly deserves repeating.

When approached by the police, do not volunteer all kinds of statements. Do what officers tell you to do and be as polite as possible. If you feel it is all a mistake, your time will come…in court with your lawyer.

For the full story upon which this blog was based, please go to

March 11, 2014


Have you ever heard the saying “Haste makes Waste”? The wisdom seems to be acknowledged in most circles.

Politics, at least the law enforcement kind, is not one of those circles.

Yesterday, we discussed the recent “up-skirting” controversy. It was one of those situations where there were cries of outrage from the general public when the SJC found that there was no currently created criminal offense which fit the act of up-skirting.

In flew the legislature at lightening speed to fix the situation. Last time we saw such cooperative legislators acting in lightening speed was when they gave a joint upheaving gag and delivered us an “anti-bullying” bill which still sits withering on the law enforcement vine, rotting under the sun as the true waste of time that it was.

Now, they have come to our rescue, seeking admiration and votes, to deliver another solution to gain our support.

I mean, fix the problem. Kinda - sorta.

The new law, which took effect immediately upon the governor’s signing, prohibits “the secret photographing, videotaping, or electronically surveiling of another person’s sexual or other intimate parts, whether under or around a person’s clothing or when a reasonable person would believe that the person’s intimate parts would not be visible to the public.” Someone found guilty of the crime would face up to 2 1/2 years in prison, and/or have to pay a fine of up to $5,000.

At least one audience member, Jessi Bertrand of Dedham, is happy about it. She told the local press that “I love the fact that they’re on our side and they are willing to protect us and they’ll do anything to make us feel safe.”

Happy happy joy joy joy.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Rushed Criminal Legislation, Sex Crimes And You. Part Two

So…it would appear that if you are video-taping or taking photographs around Massachusetts, you should be ok when taking footage of other people, so long as their “intimate” areas are not shown.

Yes, that would be their clothed “intimate” areas. Particularly if those shots are of kids…that would make the dastardly deed a felony.

Well, it shouldn’t be that difficult. Face shots are so much more interesting anyway, don’t you think?

Somebody had better tell the tourists, though, before the deluge starts when and if the weather gets warmer.

“Oh, come on, Sam. Are you kidding me? Clearly, that is not what is meant by the legislation. You are reading it too broadly. Taking the wording too literally. something.”

I wish I shared your optimism. But I have seen too many prosecutions which do not make any sense. To rely upon those who will enforce the law and their reading of things is not something I feel comfortable with.

“Why not?”

Because we seem to clap our little hands when someone does something that smells like a “tough on crime” stance. You make illegal. You prosecute. We love you.

Perhaps you can explain to me certain things when it comes to Massachusetts sex crimes the way the legislation involved reads.

Did you know that child pornography, that is, taking naked or sexually oriented pictures or videos of children under the age of 18 is illegal?”

“Yes, of course.”

On the other hand, you can have sexual relations with that person if they have attained the ripe old age of 16?


Yeah. Just don’t take pictures or videos. By the way, prostitution is still a crime in the Commonwealth.

“Yes, of course.”

That would involve sex for money transactions.

“Naturally. That’s a sin.”

Disregarding your blow against Constitutional safeguards about church and state, did you know that if you are photographing or videotaping that sin it magically becomes legal?

“What do you mean?”

Well, pornography is legal, isn’t it? Isn’t that a sex/money transaction?

You see, we seem to be confused as to what we want to do when it comes to sex in the Commonwealth. We mix in religious beliefs, traditions that date back to Plymouth Rock and all that other neat stuff while we try to decide.

When things get to a fever pitch, our political leaders take to the platform and try to throw together the right hodge-podge that will sound “tough on crime” enough to make everyone calm and grateful we have such wonderful public servants.

Even if it really does not make any sense. I mean, who’s going to notice?

And when these laws come down, law enforcement enforces. Prosecutors prosecute.

After all, the law is the law.

"But a judge or jury will sort it all out, right?"

Maybe. Many months and thousands of dollars later. If you are lucky and have a good lawyer.

The problem is, people assume the law makes sense. They figure if they act reasonably, however they understand that word, then they will never fall into the jaws of the criminal justice system.

They are not right.

Such naivety has not exactly been outlawed yet…but, maybe, it might as well be.

To read the original stories, other than those listed yesterday, upon which this blog is based, please go to

March 10, 2014


Sometimes, you just can't win at trial. Sometimes, the true battle is going to be fought during a Massachusetts appeal. Sometimes the law under which you are being prosecuted is what has to be addressed...not the facts of the case.

This was one of those cases.

Last week saw a battle over what most would assume was fairly obvious.

Apparently, it wasn’t.

The case involved 32-year-old Michael Robertson. He was arrested in 2010, accused of taking photos and recording videos up the skirts and dresses of women on the “T”.

Two separate complaints were filed against Robertson with the transit police. Authorities then staged "a decoy operation" to catch Robertson, who was eventually arrested and charged with two counts of attempting to secretly photograph a person in a state of partial nudity. Police observed him point a cell phone video camera up the dress of a female officer, court documents state.

At trial, Robertson was found guilty. But on appeal, finally to the Supreme Judicial Court, the court reversed the decision by the lower court of not allowing Robertson’s motion to dismiss.

Apparently, “upskirting” fit inside a hole in the law.

The SJC wrote as follows that “…we interpret the phrase, 'a person who is ... partially nude' in the same way that the defendant does, namely, to mean a person who is partially clothed but who has one or more of the private parts of body exposed in plain view at the time that the putative defendant secretly photographs her.” The court found that state law "does not apply to photographing (or videotaping or electronically surveilling) persons who are fully clothed and, in particular, does not reach the type of upskirting that the defendant is charged with attempting to accomplish on the MBTA."

In short, the high court ruled that upskirting did not violate the law because the women who were photographed while riding Boston public transportation were not nude or partially nude.

"A female passenger on a MBTA trolley who is wearing a skirt, dress, or the like covering these parts of her body is not a person who is 'partially nude,' no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing," wrote Justice Margot Botsford of the state Supreme Judicial Court.

Prosecutors had argued that the current statute, which prohibits secretly photographing or videotaping a person who is "nude or partially nude," includes upskirting, according to documents.

Robertson's lawyers argued that the female passenger on the trolley was not "nude or partially nude" and was not in a place where she had a reasonable expectation of privacy, according to court documents.

The defense won that day. The prosecutor was not done yet, however.

"Every person, male or female, has a right to privacy beneath his or her own clothing," Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley said in a statement Wednesday. "If the statute as written doesn't protect that privacy, then I'm urging the Legislature to act rapidly and adjust it so it does."

Two days after the SJC made its ruling, the legislature went into action much faster than usual to heed the call. As the Boston Globe reported on March 7th, "Two days after the state's highest court sparked outrage when it ruled that state law allows people to take such photos, Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill today to ban the practice, known as 'upskirting,' " .

The legislation says anyone who "photographs, videotapes or electronically surveils" another person's sexual or intimate parts without that person's consent would face a misdemeanor charge and a maximum penalty of 2 1/2 years in jail and a $5,000 fine, according to The Associated Press.

Ok…so in a mighty sweep, our government has not only made upskirting illegal, but, it would appear, also photographing someone who is completely clothed or in a bathing suit on the beach…assuming that photo captured the “sexual or intimate parts” of course.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Rushed Criminal Legislation, Sex Crimes And You. Part One

Before you jump to conclusions, I am not about to do the rant that is often reserved to prostitution stings. Clearly, upskirting is, at the very least, an invasion of privacy and should not be legal.

There are a couple of problems, though, about which you should be aware given the way this new law was passed.

I suggest to you that it places you in danger…and not because of upskirting.

And I will get to that….tomorrow.

In the meantime, you have yet another example of why it is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows the law represent you in such cases.

To read the original stories upon this blog is based, please go and

March 7, 2014


...And continuing in yesterday's blog's footsteps, we discuss another case which features a child victim.

At least, so says the Commonwealth.

While everybody else was still reacting to this week's "up skirt" controversy, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today the indictment of two Fall River residents for their alleged participation in a human trafficking scheme.

The Bristol County grand jury indicted Olivia “Missy” Lara, 38, on three counts of trafficking in persons under the age of 18 for sexual servitude and three counts of deriving support from a minor prostitute. Feliciano Ramirez, 30, was indicted on one count of rape of a child for allegedly engaging in sex with one of the children Lara was allegedly providing to her customers, said Coakley in a statement.

“We allege that [Lara] exploited and sold children for sex, sometimes up to five times in a night, and personally profited from this activity,” Coakley said.

Investigation into this scheme began last December, after the New Bedford Police Department told Homeland Security that they believed a local woman—now identified as Lara—was trafficking underage girls for sexual purposes, said Coakley. She further alleged that Lara would bring the girls to a car or residence where the men would have sex with them. Lara would allegedly receive at least half of the profits from these encounters.

Authorities believe Ramirez was one of Lara’s customers and that he engaged in sexual acts with one of the minors, said Coakley.

“I sincerely hope that this sends a very clear message,” said Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations Boston in the statement today. “Human trafficking simply will not be tolerated.”

Lara and Ramirez were arrested by State Police assigned to the attorney general’s office on January 15th. During their arraignment in Fall River District Court, Lara was held on $100,000 cash bail and Ramirez was held on $25,000 cash bail, said Coakley.

They are both to be arraigned in Bristol Superior Court at a later date.

Attorney Sam's Take On Great Headlines And Sex Prosecutions</strong>

"Come on, Sam!. We know from previous blogs that you believe that prostitution should be legalized and regulated..."
I do indeed.
"But even you cannot be in favor of forced human trafficking...!"
Of course I'm not.

But, let's be clear what we are talking about, shall we? After all. How are you to be careful to not break laws unless you understand what they are and can count on a certain amount of consistency in their enforcement?

In fact, let's give AG Coakley, a politician, some benefit of the doubt. Let's assume that the choice to bring these indictments forward (to grand jurors and the press) just after the legislature had grabbed the criminal justice spotlight by rushing through a law preventing taking photographing and videotaping under women's skirts. In fact, let's ignore that they did that to answer the uproar in response to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that, despite what prosecutors thought, "up skirting" was not previously illegal..

At worst, let's call the timing "unfortunate".

We have discussed in the past how law enforcement tends to scoop together many different things because, well, it sounds better. The story, as it is, paints a pretty ugly picture to the uninitiated. To those of us, though, who deal with the criminal justice system on a daily basis, often have inconvenient questions to ask.

For example, how old was the complainant? After all, the age of consent, although many assume is 18, is actually lower. Younger still depending on the circumstances. So…was this a true minor, or someone who was, for example, 17 years old? In such a case, statutory rape may not be involved.

Was this complainant someone who was really being forced into prostitution? Was she someone who was a willing vender in the sex trade and, upon being confronted by law enforcement, declared herself a victim rather than a suspect?

Was Lara actually a madam or was she really a terrorizing human trafficker?

Finally, did Ramirez know that the girl was underage? Did he know she was being forced (assuming she was) to be a prostitute? In fact, assuming the girl is younger than the age of consent, is his crime much different from anyone else who might be accused of statutory rape? True, those cases are sometimes indicted…but press conferences are seldom held in such cases.

If the complainant has actually attained the age in which she can give consent for sex…and was simply a willing sex worker…was his crime any more than that of engaging a prostitute?

It sure does make for a compelling headline and story, though, doesn’t it? Can't really hurt any politician demonstrating they are tough on crime and not to blame for the up skirting fiasco, can it?

Not to cast aspersions….I’m just saying…!

In the meantime, be aware that these questions are questions you might be called upon to answer if it is you found in a compromising position with a sex worker of any kind.

On Monday, let’s deal with that “up skirting” story to which I referred.

Until then, have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!

For the original story upon which this blog was based please go to

March 6, 2014


A Brockton couple are facing criminal charges in relation to a very sad domestic violence incident which led to the death of a 4-year-old child.

The death is being prosecuted as a Massachusetts murder.

Antonio Durham, 32, is charged with causing the death of his girlfriend’s young son. Tania Merisca, the 27-year-old mother of the boy has been charged as an accessory after the fact. Her case serves as a logical follow-up to the 3-part topic we just finished discussing in this blog.

According to the Commonwealth, Mr. Durham’s murder charges are the result of six months of abuse in a purported effort to “toughen him up”.

“He died a slow, steady death,” said Plymouth First Assistant District Attorney Frank Middleton, who said the little boy had injuries consistent with a “hard punch to the stomach.” By the time Mr. Durham and Ms. Merisca brought the boy to the Good Samaritan Medical Center on June 2nd, he had apparently already been dead for hours.

Ada Middleton claimed that Mr. Durham took off from the hospital immediately, while Ms. Merisca allegedly stayed at the hospital for just 20 minutes before returning to a hotel where she was staying. Once there, she is said to have asked family members to lie for her and say that her son had been in their care.

When her family brought up the issue of suspected abuse to the child’s mother, Middleton said, the mother brushed it off as “roughhousing.” In truth, according to the Commonwealth, the child’s final days were preceded by brutality that lasted for months.

Allegedly, six months before the boy’s death, when Ms. Merisca and Mr. Durham began dating, Merisca’s family began noticing bruises on the boy. The child, weighing only 35 pounds, the prosecutor said, told relatives that Mr. Durham hit him so he could teach him to fight and toughen him up.

Toward the end, according to the Commonwealth, Ms. Merisca began lying to her family and that of the boy’s biological father, telling them that the boy was staying with other relatives when in fact he was in the care of her and Mr. Durham.

On the weekend that the boy died, Ms. Merisca and Mr. Durham checked into the Holiday Inn Express in Brockton. The boy was last seen alive on surveillance video at the motel on Saturday, seemingly healthy. June 1st video footage showed Ms. Merisca and Mr. Durham entering and leaving the hotel room frequently, sometimes leaving Mr. Durham alone with the boy and sometimes leaving the boy by himself.

Footage from the next day apparently shows Ms. Merisca leaving the motel in the morning and by the afternoon, Mr. Durham is seen on the video surveillance carrying the apparently lifeless body of the boy up and down the halls, the child’s head rolling limply toward his back.

Additionally, a hotel maid reportedly told police that she was taking garbage out to the dumpsters and saw a man matching Mr. Durham’s description standing over a little boy’s body. The boy’s head was resting on a rock, she told police, and his eyes were open, staring straight at the sun on a 97-degree day.

The maid asked the man if the boy was OK, and the man said he was just sick. A second hotel maid is reported to have said that Mr. Durham brought the boy inside the hotel room and laid his motionless body in the bed — and then tried to get her phone number.

Ms. Merisca, when police questioned her, decided it best to forgo her right to counsel and spoke to them. According to law enforcement, she lied to police, changing her story several times before finally saying that the night before her son died, he complained of a stomach ache because Mr. Durham had punched him, and he vomited a green fluid.

Mr. Durham pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail. Ms. Merisca has also pleaded not guilty and her bail was set at $250,000.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Accessories, Lies And Making Statements

There is little to be said regarding Mr. Durham’s case; it is what it is. It does bring up certain issues and potential defenses which should be fairly clear to the experienced criminal defense attorney.

It will be interesting to see if Mr. Durham gets one of those.

Ms. Merisca, of course, has lived out the topic about which we have been speaking. While we do not know what methods were used by law enforcement in order to get her to talk, we do know, according to the Commonwealth, that talk she did.

Often, in such cases, such statements are videotaped for posterity…in other words, trial.

It would seem that Ms. Merisca’s attempt at communication with the police has opened her up for two types of charges. The first, of course, is the accusation of lying to the police. That would be the ironically-named “Intimidation of a Witness”. Then, of course, she provided great help to the prosecution’s case against her as being an accessory to the alleged murder. After all, the argument goes, why would she have lied if not to protect her and her boyfriend?

That, together with the horrible facts of the case together with the expected testimony of other family members that she lied to them and asked them to lie for her, thereby inculpating themselves, the case looks somewhat bleak for Ms. Merisca.

On the other hand, Ms. Merisca is in an interesting position in this case. One would imagine that the Commonwealth might value her more as a witness than a defendant by the time the matter gets to trial.

Anyone notice that she does not seem to be charged with murder and was given bail?

To read the original story upon which this blog is based please go to

March 5, 2014


We have spent the last two blogs discussing what one should do if approached by law enforcement in the middle of a criminal investigation. Should you accept the police offer to “give your story” without counsel?

A regular reader of this blog was kind enough to join in the discussion and ask an important question. He asks:

You always point out that officers can lie to a suspect to gain evidence. And that's a reason to seriously consider contacting a defense attorney. Maybe you could address the following question I've always wondered about: can the police lie to your attorney? Or the minute you call your attorney in, do they have to start telling the truth? Do prosecutors have to tell the truth (out of court)? I know they can't withhold evidence, but for example during settlement negotiations could they say they claim to have some evidence they actually do not have?

Attorney Sam’s Take On: Enter The Attorneys

This part of the equation is not as cut and dry as it is where there are no attorneys involved. The rules change a bit when attorneys enter the picture for a few reasons. By the way, by “attorneys” I also mean assistant district attorneys. They are attorneys as well as the rest of us…their client is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

First of all, understand another thing about prosecutors. On the law enforcement food chain, they are the top link. They generally make the decisions as to who will be given what sort of treatment. If a temporary decision has been made by the police…that decision will have to be agreed to by the prosecutor(s) in the case. Generally, however, long term investigations, such as for federal crimes or very serious state cases, the investigation is run by a prosecutor pretty much from the start of it.

This is an area which makes it impossible for police officers to bluff too much when a defense attorney enters the picture. Any defense attorney with even a modicum of experience knows that it is the prosecutor who makes the decision as to what type of treatment a suspect is going to get. Therefore, the verbiage where the officer tells you that he or she will “give you a break” or “just wants to hear your side of things” and then let you go your merry way is untrue. The officer cannot make that decision. If the officer makes that offer to an attorney, then they both know it is untrue and so the officer loses all potential credibility with the defense attorney…not only in the case at hand, but in subsequent cases as well.

Particularly when lawyers get involved, credibility becomes very important.

“Sam, what if there is a prosecutor with the detective when he comes to question me? Can he lie to me if I do not have a lawyer present?”

It is very unlikely that the prosecutor will be present at your first meetings with law enforcement. This is because, by doing so, that prosecutor will have made himself a witness and so will not be able to conduct the trial of it. Further, the prosecutor likes to keep him or herself on a level apart from the police. The police, really, are the foot soldiers and the prosecutors generally let the officers do what they have to do within reason.

However, this, too, brings up an interesting point. A prosecutor is less likely to lie to you during the course of an investigation than police are. There is another for this, other than the ones mentioned above. There are certain rules which all attorneys must follow lest they be deemed to be unethically and so might lose their license to practice law or some such punishment. Prosecutors actually have a few additional rules given their particular role in the criminal justice system.

The system is very mindful that lawyers carry a certain amount of influence and can be intimidating to non-lawyers. Therefore, lawyers are supposed to abide by certain rules of conduct when dealing with a non-lawyer who is not represented. For a prosecutor to take advantage of such a situation and to baldly lie to a witness is to invite a whole lot of trouble for the prosecution.

First of all, there could be repercussions with the Board of Bar Overseers, who are in charge of attorney discipline. Further, a large part of any case which finds its way before a judge is that old word “credibility”. Throughout the case, both sides will be trying to look like the “reasonable” and “good” buys before the court…let alone a jury. Therefore, particularly in criminal cases, prosecutors (and defense attorneys who know what they are doing) do their best to seem “above board”.

This does not mean that there will not be spin added to arguments made…but it is very unwise for a prosecutor or defense attorney to be viewed as a liar to the court.

Lastly, credibility is still critical between prosecutors and defense attorneys. You would be surprised how small the legal community is in a place like Massachusetts when it comes to the criminal justice system. Once an attorney, on either side, gets a reputation for being a liar or sleazy, that reputation can haunt that attorney for a very long time, thus jeopardizing future cases.

Now, I mentioned a difference between “spin” and “lies”. There is actually a difference. In fact, “spin” is something courtroom attorneys do almost unconsciously. It is part of our training as advocates. We need to be able to do it…and we need to be able to detect it when it comes to the opposition.

This is why, while a non-lawyer may not be able to separate spin from truth, the experienced attorney should be able to.

Yet another reason to get an attorney involved in your case as soon as possible.

I hope this answers the question and I, once again, invite you to send in such questions when you have them.

March 3, 2014


On Friday, we began discussing whether suspects, or potential suspects, should talk with the police who are conducting a criminal investigation when the officers come to interview them. We focused on the occasion in which the interviewee does not believe that he or she has anything to hide.

As naïve as that may seem.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Volunteering Admissions Without An Attorney Present

What about when you believe that you either do, or may, have something to hide?

Perhaps you did something that was close to the line. It could be that you lost your temper and did something that you knew was illegal…because the recipient “deserved it”. Maybe you simply realize that you're not a saint and could have made a mistake.

You are now a nervous wreck because officers have shown up on your doorstep and wish to talk to you about… something. In fact, often, the opening line is to ask you if you know what the offices of there to talk about.

How’s that for putting you on the defensive right away?

As the officers will be more than happy to point out, they are there to ask questions, not answer them. In fact, it would not matter if they were there to answer questions because, by law, they are allowed to lie.

A reminder…if you lie to them you risk felony charges.

Clearly, it is not the wisest choice to answer the question of why the offices are there by saying something like, "Well, it could be that $35,000 I embezzled from the company…" or "You found out that I was driving while drunk last night?"

Many people make a mistake in believing that they are good on the a feet and so can smooth talk their way around inculpating themselves during the conversation. In most cases, they are wrong. Remember, the officers know why they are there. You do not. Or, if you do, you know that you do not want to be making statements about it.

“But, Sam, what about when they tell you that the best way to help yourself is to come clean?”

Well, I suppose it does help you if you are hoping to become an involuntary guest of the Commonwealth or federal government. In most cases, the ways in which “coming clean” is going to help you will still be available after you get an experienced lawyer to advise you.

The warning that you have seen on television and in the movies that "anything you say can and will be used against you in court" is not simply boilerplate rhetoric. It is true. It is true in many different ways.

If you make any statements, or even if you don't, the officers allowed to opine as to your mental state upon being confronted by them. Do not try to act calm because you will only act more guilty. Everybody understands that being confronted by investigating officers for reasons unknown tends to make folks nervous. Trying to play ultra-relaxed during their sudden intrusion into your life is only going to seem dishonest. That, too, will be reported to prosecutors, judges and juries. Further, if you say anything, other than asking for a lawyer or saying you do not want to talk to them, you will be giving the prosecution ammunition. Ammunition against yourself.

I remind you once again that you do not know why the officers are there, or, if you do, how much they know. Therefore, you do not know what can incriminate you. Simply admitting that you went to a store could incriminate you even though it is not a crime to go to the store. If you did go to the store, you may be placing yourself at the scene of a crime. If you did not go to the store you are lying and that can be used against you. "After all", the Commonwealth will argue, "why would an innocent person lie about something like that?"

The obvious answer that everybody lies sometimes for a variety of reasons does not play very well to a jury.

I quote the late Nancy Reagan when telling you what the safest response to the officers is "Just say "no". “No”, in this case means saying you want to talk to a lawyer first.

“What is the difference between “No” and “I want to talk to a lawyer?”

The latter indicates that you might talk to the officers…after you talk to a lawyer. Obviously, the fact that the officers are there to speak to you suggests that somebody thinks you did something criminal. In my book, that is reason enough to want a lawyer’s help, if only to get closer to an equal playing field with the officers who are well aware of the status of their investigation. You and your lawyer may well decide to let you speak to the officers so, for the moment, you are holding that hope out to them.

By choosing not to talk with the officers, you might feel that you are broadcasting your guilt. This is not necessarily so. In this day and age, it is not unusual for people to realize that, if they are being suspected in connection with a crime, they should get a lawyer. Further, very likely, the question of whether or not you are guilty of something is a ship that has already sailed. That is why the officers are showing up at your doorstep or telephone. Very likely, they believe that they have all the facts that are necessary to charge you. The only reason to talk to you now is to get statements that can be used against you.

Finally, it does not really matter if the police believe you are guilty. The time that truly matters is going to be when dealing with prosecutors and judges and juries. Granted, if you have been charged, the prosecutor already believes that you are guilty. Proving it, however, is a different story. By making various statements, you make their job easier. However, if you do not make statements, or ask for a lawyer, this cannot be used against you at trial. Further, it cannot even be mentioned by the prosecution.

All you have done is exercised your Constitutional right. While I realize that the Constitution, and its amendments, where written a long time ago, there is still a reason for them today. In fact, I would say that there may be even more reason for the Fifth Amendment regarding self-incrimination than there ever has been before. This is because police officers routinely mislead and out-right lie during the course of their investigation. That is called “good police work.”

We will not even deal the question of lying on the stand, although that is not considered “good police work”. At least by the judge and prosecuting attorney.
And speaking of the prosecuting attorney…where does he or she stand in terms of truth telling?

We will hit that tomorrow