Being a police officer in the big city can be dangerous. We all know that. Logan Airport, of course, is within the limits of the city of Boston. So, it is not too shocking that it can be a dangerous place. Usually, though, that danger does not come inside the packaging of a Mercedes Benz SUV and presented by a Wellesley businesswoman.
It did in March, though.
Last week, she resolved the matter.
Of course, “my bad” was not the first reaction that Margaret G., a 57-year-old portfolio manager and former Wellesley school board member (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) offered to law enforcement in this matter.
You see, the Defendant was picking up her husband at the airport when a State Trooper ordered her to move because her Mercedes was obstructing a bus lane. According to the police report, she refused to do so.
Rather than moving to arrest her, State Trooper Sergeant Wildgrube did what it is that State Troopers do in such situations; he began writing her a ticket.
According to the Commonwealth, she hit the accelerator rather sharply and sped off, hitting the trooper with her car’s side mirror and forcing him to leap out of the way after being dragged for a bit. The trooper is said to have caught up to the Defendant, who got caught in traffic, and ordered her out of the car.
This time, he was going to arrest her.
Well, if she was not going to “sit still” for a ticket, she was certainly not going to quietly agree to being arrested, so she refused to get out of her car.
Wildgrube says he then stood in front of the Defendant’s car with his hands on the hood.
I mean, what was she gonna do…run him down?
She continued to drive forward while he ran backwards for about 15 feet. Finally, apparently not wanting to become part of the road, the trooper stepped aside and the Defendant left the airport.
Reality being what it is, she was stopped minutes later by troopers on the Massachusetts Turnpike.
…So, what do you think? Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon (to wit: the car)? Assault with the intent to Murder? These are two of the felony charges that most of my clients face when arrested for such facts.
But not the Defendant. She had to deal with two misdemeanor charges instead, namely, Assault and Battery on a police officer and Failure to Stop for a police officer.
“Hm”, you ponder. “How much jail time did she get in this…resolution?”
Why, none at all. In fact, she does not even get a criminal record because there is no finding of guilty against her. Instead, she apologized to the trooper and was given a Continuance Without A Finding (“CWOF”) for six months. The only felony charge originally brought, Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon, was dismissed by the Commonwealth.
A CWOF is a stop short of a guilty finding. In such a situation, a defendant admits that there are facts sufficient by which a jury could possibly find them guilty (which is not considered the same thing as pleading guilty). The matter is then left pending without determination for a period of time, usually ranging from six months to two years. after that time, if the defendant has not gotten into any trouble and has done all that the court ordered her to do, the matter is dismissed.
And the court did impose conditions on the Defendant. She must perform 200 hours of community service and write a letter of apology to the trooper.
Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said, “Her actions that day were dangerous and irresponsible and it is important she be held to account for them.” However, he added, that her decision to resolve the case quickly and apologize “suggests a degree of remorse and responsibility that we don’t often see so soon after arraignment.”
The arraignment would have been about two months ago, by the way.
“She wanted to get this behind her for all the right reasons,” the defense attorney said. “This has been very difficult.”
“There goes Goldberg complaining again”, you yell to whoever’s around. “This time, he is upset that this woman got a good deal”.
Actually, that would be incorrect. While I must note that most people given the same allegations would face much harsher treatment by the Commonwealth, I doubt that jail time is really appropriate for the Defendant. I am also grateful for the example to show you how uneven the criminal justice system is.
You see, the gentle treatment the Defendant received here is not typical at all. And that is the chief Lesson for today. I often hear confusion from my clients about how defendants are treated differently even given the same circumstances. Bails are different. Charges brought are different. Yes, most of all, plea offers are very different.
Each case is different, and that includes the prosecutor and the court, not just the defendant and the allegations. One cannot assume a particular result, in most cases, based upon what “everybody else is getting”.
It’s as if the prosecutor is in the place of your parent in days of old when you complained as a kid that someone else’s parent was letting them do something your parents would not allow. Just change the line to, “Yes, but I’m not [fill in the name]’s prosecutor, I’m yours.”
One more word about the CWOF that is worth mentioning. It is not simply a guaranteed dismissal. There are risks involved. For example, if the Defendant is arrested, or gets into any trouble, during the six months, the CWOF automatically can turn into a guilty finding and she can be sentenced accordingly. Yes, as in the case of probation violations, a simply accusation would be enough…she need not be found to be guilty in the new offense. Another such risk is that certain agencies, such as immigration, treat a CWOF as they would a guilty finding.
NOTE TO READERS: IN AN EFFORT TO REGULARIZE THE POSTING OF THIS DAILY BLOG, IT WILL NOW BE POSTED IN THE EVENING PRECEEDING THE DAY FOR WHICH IT IS INTENDED.
The full articles of this story can be found at http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view/2009_05_14_Driver_tells_dragged_cop:_My_bad:_Agrees_to_200_hours_of_community_service/srvc=home&position=1 and http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/wellesley/2009/05/wellesley_portfolio_manager_ap.html