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) 492 3000.

Threats Made At A Massachusetts College Result In Investigation And Arrest

Last February, it would appear that the political scene at Bridgewater State College got a bit heated. Bomb and death threats began being posted around campus. On September 2nd, 2008, as the country’s major parties were celebrating their conventions, a former Parliamentarian was being arrested for her alternative methods of announcing her platform.

Former Student Michelle Fortune, 47, of East Bridgewater, had held the post of Parliamentarian, which is a high ranking position within a campus leadership organization called the “Student Government Association”. She was arrested at her home on six counts of threats to kill, six counts of vandalism, six counts of making a bomb threat, disturbing the peace, and creating a disturbance at a school. Unfortunately, political fever being what it is, the arrest did not go terribly smoothly and she was subsequently charged with resisting arrest.

The threats made on February 26th and 27th came in the form of six messages handwritten on several bathroom walls around the BSC campus. February 28, 2008 was specified as the date attacks would occur. Investigators employed the services of a handwriting expert in hopes of cracking the case. According to Chief Tillinghast of the BSC Police Department, “more handwriting samples were needed so a search warrant was obtained. BSC Police executed the search and seized numerous documents from the suspect’s home. The suspect was found to be responsible.”

In response to the threats, the campus police department had temporarily amped up security. “The whole department was on campus that day (Feb.28). Police walked through the buildings and had lunch with concerned students,” Tillinghast explained. President Dana Mohler-Faria, whose life was directly threatened in the messages, made the decision to go about his normal routine on campus for the duration of the crisis. “I made it a point to be visible on campus . . . to demonstrate that we can’t live in fear,” Mohler-Faria told reporters, just days after the threatening messages were found. He was assigned an undercover police officer who remained at his side.

“The threats were general, at first. They contained words that said ‘murder, murder, murder,’ ‘kill’ and there were references to Virginia Tech. On the second day the threats were made towards the president,” said Chief Tillinghast.

Sam’s take:https://www.altmanllp.com/lawyer-attorney-1322578.html

“Murder, murder, murder” is not a party platform that is taken likely these days. One may think that, especially on a college campus, a student’s right to free speech is indulged to the “nth degree”. Unfortunately, recent years have seen too many tragedies for that to remain the case.

While most schools will allow, even encourage, political unrest, activism and many types of protest, this is not one of those protected forms of expression. Threats are threats and, both in school and out. Making them is a crime. Defacing public, or school, property is also an offense. However, slogans like, “The dean is a ding-dong” will be generally treated much differently than, “I am going to string up Dean Ding-Dong on February 28th , between the hours of 2 and 4 in the afternoon and gut him like a pig”.

As well they should be.

In the meantime, our Disgruntled Party candidate is allegedly nothing if not consistent. According to the police, she resisted arrest. We do not know the specifics of that scene, but, as this daily blog regularly suggests, taking a bad situation and making it worse by challenging law enforcement is not the wisest course of action.

So, as we end another week, consider a platform more likely to win posts other than Defendant;

1. Your rights to free expression are limited. Do not make threats to commit a crime. They will likely be taken seriously and you will be awarded the Commonwealth Bracelet Of Shame and a trip downtown;
2. As they return to school this fall, make sure your kids understand the limits on their right to save the world. Threats or other crimes from younger students tend to be treated just as seriously as those from the older ones.
3. If you find you are the subject of an investigation, or if the police are at your door, do not resist, do not fight and do not threaten. Go quietly and get a lawyer.

Have a good and law abiding weekend!

The full article of this story can be found at
http://media.www.bsccomment.com/media/storage/paper662/news/2008/09/17/CampusNews/Campus.Threats-3439014.shtml

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