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.

A Tale Of Weapons And Assaults From The Wild West Side Of The Commonwealth

Recently, a Pittsfield man decided to take the “self-help” approach at law enforcement, much as they did in the “old west”. Well, at least, that is what his neighbors say. What do the police say? It would appear that they communicated something along the lines of, ” You have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney…” and so on.

The result?

He says he is the victim of theft.

The police say he is the perpetrator of assaultive behavior.

While stealing things and making threats are both illegal in the Commonwealth, it was only he who stood before the court on Friday facing a felony charge of carrying a dangerous weapon and to a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace.

Shaun L., 29, of Pittsfield (hereinafter, the “Defendant”), apparently believed that his neighbors stole his computer. While calling the police was one possible choice, he went for Option Two. Said option is apparently confronting at least one of his neighbors with a knife and hammer and making threats, according to Pittsfield police.

And so it was that at approximately 2:30 a.m., this past Friday, the Defendant allegedly banged on the doors of two neighboring , accusing the occupants of stealing his computer. One neighbor, told police that the Defendant had a knife and hammer during the confrontation. Another witness said that the Defendant made threats about burning down the multi-unit apartment building where he and the neighbors reside.

When the police arrived, the Defendant was found in possession of the knife and hammer.

Being apprehended, weapons in hand, might have tipped most people off that Option Two was not going all that well. According to police, however, the Defendant was not quite convinced. Once he was arrested and transported to police headquarters downtown, he reportedly banged his head on a booking room wall. Officer Ryan M. Williams stated in a report that the Defendant “…turned around and banged his head off of the wall” as another officer led him through the booking room door.

The police indicate that the Defendant began being uncooperative as they were trying to put him into his cell. According to Officer Williams, “Due to his disorderly behavior, [the Defendant] had to be placed in a restraint chair.”

Officer Williams also noted that the Defendant threatened to “snuff” (yes, that would be murder) the first inmate or correctional officer he encounters at the county jail.

You may think that anyone who would have thought that Option Two was a good idea might simply have been confused at the time of his arrest. After all, perhaps the “head banging” was simply frustration because the plan had looked so good on paper. Perhaps, with all he had heard about what life in custody is like, he simply felt he had to put on a “tough man” show for his own safety.

Ever the criminal defense attorney, right?

Of course, that argument loses credibility when one realizes that the circumstances of arrest and incarceration are not entirely new to the Defendant. Apparently, he has a “record of convictions”, according to the police. Said record includes a January 2008 conviction for assaulting a 48-year-old woman in Pittsfield. For that little infraction, he received a probation sentence and a suspended jail term.

2008 did not end any better than it began for the Defendant, either. In November, he was charged with the assault of a police officer during a domestic disturbance involving him and his girlfriend, who stabbed the Defendant with a steak knife. A month later, said girlfriend was sentenced to 120 days at the county jail after admitting to the knife assault.

The couple apparently have children together.

On Friday, A judge released the Defendant on $500 bail so that he could return to his happy little home until returning for a pretrial hearing on May 10th.

I am sure the neighbors were thrilled.

Attorney Sam’s Take:

In all likelihood, the Defendant, assuming he was allowed to return to his home, was ordered by the court to keep away from any of the complainants in the pending case against him.

He is, however, quite lucky to be going home with a bail as low as $500. In fact, he was lucky to be going home at all.

It would appear that the Defendant may well have been on probation during this case, depending on his probationary status from his fairly recent earlier dalliances with the System. If he was, he could have easily been held without bail on the probation surrender matter pending a final hearing. As we have discussed many times, the mere arrest on the new case is considered a violation of probation. The fact that he had an actual suspended sentence (as opposed to straight probation), if the court were to sentence him to any jail time, it would be limited to sentencing him to that actual sentence.

You may be surprised to see a hammer listed as a dangerous weapon. The fact is that anything can be considered a weapon if it is used as such. A pencil could be a weapon, for example.

Another interesting point to this story is the lack of certain charges. Given the description of “disorderly behavior” to the point of having to be in a restraint chair, one would expect to see charges involving either resisting arrest or assault and battery on a police officer. It would be interesting to look at the “mug shots” of the Defendant in this matter…especially given the sudden smashing of his head against the wall and apparent lack of argument about needing some kind of psychological assessment.

Speaking of disturbing behavior, the bottom-line point of this story is that the “self-help” approach to solving problems such as a missing computer are not often the best approaches…especially when they involve assaultive behavior complete with weapons.

The full article of this story can be found at http://www.berkshireeagle.com/ci_12126500?source=most_viewed

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