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.

Massachusetts Police Officer Faces Charges Of Sexual Assault

Sometimes people pick up bad habits at work.

Many chefs turn out to be overweight. Career military folks often need to have their home life overly organized and operational. Many attorneys, like myself, tend not to be able to have a debate with someone without it turning into “oral argument”.

And then there is a certain part-time Hinsdale police officer who served as an animal control officer allegedly turning into an “animal”.

W.Rodney M., 46 (hereinafter the “Defendant”) has been charged with sexually assaulting a woman who had called the police for assistance at her home in 2005. He was arraigned on Monday in Central Berkshire District Court on one charge of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14. He pleaded not guilty and was released on personal recognizance and ordered not to have contact with the 50-year-old victim.

The charge, brought against the Defendant in early June 2008, stemmed from an event that took place in 2005, according to a report filed by Massachusetts state police investigators.

The complainant told investigators that she had made a call to the Hinsdale Police Department about a fisher cat that she had seen around her residence. The Defendant, who was acting as the town’s animal control officer, responded to the call in uniform, and after looking for the fisher cat, allegedly asked her if she was single and “lonely.” He then asked her “if she would like to be taken care of like she had never been taken care of before,” and he allegedly grabbed her hand and rubbed it on the outside of his pants, according to the statement.

The complainant said she was too ashamed to press charges three years ago, when the assault allegedly took place, adding that she felt no one would believe her, according to the report.

Somehow, after the years have passed, she was able to convince herself to come forward.

The report also details other unwelcome sexual comments the Defendant allegedly made over the past few years to other women, although no other charges have been filed.

The Defendant was suspended from the department without pay on June 6, 2008, according to Hinsdale Police Chief Christopher Powell. Hinsdale’s Board of Selectmen, the governing body that appoints the town’s animal control officer, suspended the Defendant without pay from his duties on July 17.

Powell expressed his dismay at the charges, adding that he felt sorry for the victim if the allegations were true.

“I’d hate to see anyone go through this,” Powell said in a telephone conversation last night.

Powell added that the Defendant, who had been a Hinsdale officer since 2003, had been “a good cop.”

“If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have been working for me,” Powell said. “He’ll have his day in court.”

In a written statement made to the State Police Detective Unit on July 23, the Defendant denied all of the accusations, described his life as “an open book,” and added that he would be willing to take a lie detector test to prove his innocence.
If convicted, the Defendant could face up to five years in state prison.

Samuel’s take:

Once again, we have a story about someone who never would have expected to be looking down the barrel of criminal justice from the wrong end. It is a good bet that today’s Defendant, when putting on his uniform over the past couple of years thought that this little situation would never end up as a criminal case against him. But it has. One can only hope, for his sake, that he did know there was some kind of investigation going on and sought sound legal advice.

It does not sound like it though.

A couple of other things you may find interesting. The police report may list other alleged inappropriate comments the Defendant made to other complainants, but, these are most likely not admissible at his trial in this case. First of all, the reports certainly would not be admissible because they are hearsay (legalese for “out of court statements being offered to prove the matter asserted in the statement”.) Further, even if the women were willing to come in to testify themselves, it would be evidence of uncharged “bad acts” which would not be admissible and unduly prejudicial in any trial of the Defendant in this matter. There are exceptions to this rule, but I do not see any real possibility of their applicable here…unless, in his defense, the Defendant “opens the door” to the subject matter that would allow the presentation of such evidence.

Hence the need for an experienced defense attorney who can weigh all the considerations and tactics.

Likewise, the Defendant’s offer to take a lie detector test sounds very nice…but will likely not be accepted. As the Defendant probably knows, being a police officer for so long, such results are seldom admissible.

There is clearly a real issue as to the delay of the reporting on the part of the complainant. It is an opening through which any decent defense lawyer can drive a truck in terms of pointing out reasonable doubt (as in “proof beyond a…”). I would imagine that the prosecutor will have an answer for this delay, but it is going to be a problem at time of trial.

And that brings us to the main point here. It is easy to sit back and say that there are problems with the Commonwealth’s case…that he is still a “good cop”…he will probably “beat it”….etc. Many particularly those in the criminal justice system who develop a certain “hard edge” when it comes to these things, will look at this case and say that, even if convicted, the Defendant will probably not really be sentenced to a jail term. In such cases, daily participants in the trenches often figure the case, from the Defendant’s perspective, as not so big a deal. This is especially true when the defendant is not someone, like a police officer, whose career may be shattered.

The fact is that to anyone charged with any crime, especially if it is not a constant event in his/her life, will be terrified. To them, regardless of the sentence, their life is forever altered. It will likely be expensive in money, time and stress throughout the time of the pending action. More of us should understand how very real that is.

If you have even an inkling that there is an investigation against you going on, consult an experienced defense attorney to advise you. When making that decision, however, consider whether the attorney understands what you are now and likely will be experiencing throughout the process should charges result.

Make sure of that at the first possible moment. If he or she is truly experienced, yet not necessarily hardened, then it should be easy.

The full article of this story can be found at
http://www.berkshireeagle.com/ci_10953969

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