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.

Assault On Police And Threats Of Violence Alleged At Massachusetts School

Remember the old cliché “The apple does not fall far from the [alleged] tree”? Well, this North Attleboro tree is apparently growing in the local district court on the criminal justice side of the street.

Last Thursday, a 48 year-old single mother, (hereinafter, ” Mommy Defendant”), was arrested and ordered to stay away from the North Attleboro Middle and High school after she allegedly threatened the middle school principal. This alleged event took place after her son (hereinafter, “Sonny Defendant”), was arrested for an unrelated incident at the school.

Mommy Defendant is said to have driven to the middle school and made threats to kill Principal Victoria Ekk with a gun while in the school office in front of onlookers. Mommy Defendant, however, denies the charges and has pleaded “not guilty” to threats of uttering threats to kill, disturbing a school assembly and disorderly charges.

Her lawyer described Mommy Defendant as a hardworking woman trying to raise a family while working two jobs to make a living. “She has no gun. She doesn’t even know how to use a gun. She’s a single mother struggling to pay bills and raise three children,” the lawyer said.

In fact, school officials had determined before police arrived that Mommy Defendant had no weapon, according to a police report.

Mommy Defendant’s lawyer also described the scene a bit differently, indicating that she had gone to the office calmly and denies making threats or causing a disturbance.

Mommy Defendant was released on her own recognizance and is due back in court in February.

Superintendent Rick Smith confirmed there was an incident between a parent and the middle school staff, but referred questions to police. He also said that he could not comment on the incident involving Sonny Defendant because he is a juvenile.

What had been the problem with Sonny Defendant, you may ask? Well, he was arrested on charges of assault and battery on a police officer and disorderly conduct following an earlier incident at the middle school. He is currently a guest of the Commonwealth in a state Department of Youth Services juvenile facility on $5,000 cash bail.

Samuel’s take:

A parent should be protective of her young ones, but there are limits. In truth, not only do we not know the true specifics of Mommy Defendant’s visit to the school, but we know even less about Sonny Defendant’s incident. For all we know, and as we are to presume in the criminal justice system, Mommy Defendant was simply misunderstood as she went to dutifully champion the cause of Sonny Defendant who had been, after all, unjustly accused.

Maybe.

But for those of you out there who are extra-cautious and have decided against joining the “Hey, I’ll Bet I Can Make This Situation Worse” club…let’s look at this cautionary tale from another vantage point.

There does not seem to be any information as to how Sonny Defendant and law enforcement first came into contact. We do have some idea, however, how said contact ended – not well. Assuming the local police did not simply invade the school that day with the aim of “roughing up” some random student, which is a pretty good bet, there are things a student can usually do to prevent the scene from getting out of hand. Having had a good deal of experience with the young, I have some free advice to kids who find themselves confronted with police officers – do not fight them. Do not “diss” them. Do not run from them.

You get the same advice I keep giving in this daily blog to adults. Namely, comply with the officers, do not indulge the understandable urge to explain away and justify the actions which they have found…questionable. Wait and, assuming a problem results, contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible.

Well, you will probably want to include your parents in that last part.

Yes, a juvenile can get arrested and actually held. In fact, a juvenile can also be prosecuted as an adult in certain circumstances. True, a juvenile record ends up being “sealed”. However, should a problem occur in the future, law enforcement and the courts will see that record and, frankly, it does not help.

And now we turn to Mommy Defendant.

I applaud involved parents, as we all do. But there are limits and you have to be careful. First of all, storming to the school with proverbial guns a-blazing, is unlikely to help your child.

As in any situation during which you confront those who are used to being in on a daily basis, actions and words can be easily misunderstood. Tempers flare and people feel threatened. There are attorneys who specialize in helping parents deal with school issues. In situations such as this, which involve a child’s being arrested, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help your child both with the courts as well as to ease the situation with the school.

You should also know that simply threatening to commit a crime…is a crime in itself. That “free speech” thing in the Constitution does not protect you on that. You probably already know that killing someone is generally considered a crime.

Actually, especially these days, any threat of violence on a school campus, where kids are usually found, is treated extremely seriously. People have gotten a mite touchy since a certain tragedy in Columbine, Colorado.

Samuel Goldberg is the senior criminal defense attorney at the firm of Altman & Altman, P.C. A former prosecutor in New York, he has worked as a Boston defense attorney over 18 years. He frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network

The full article of this story can be found at http://www.thesunchronicle.com/articles/2008/11/15/news/3933439.txt

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