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.

Boston Area High School Student Arrested For Assault Threats At Graduation

The Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School graduation was last week. One of the hopeful graduates, 17-year-old Pauline F. (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) was all set to take that exciting step. But things did not go as planned. Now, she needs something else…a lawyer.

You see, the Defendant was arrested at the site of the graduation before she could actually receive her high school diploma.

Police Officer Sean Lowe was working a paid uniform detail for the graduation when a commotion erupted as more than 300 cap-and-gown clad graduating students lined up to walk across the stage. According to law enforcement, the Defendant, dressed in her black graduation gown, was shouting obscenities while pacing back and forth and crying.

And why was she crying?

Well, apparently, CRLS Principal Christopher Saheed and John Silva, the security director at the high school, had told the Defendant that she would not be allowed to walk across the stage with her class. Perhaps determined not to ruin the day, the Defendant is said to have threatened that she would walk across the stage anyway and that she would slap any officer who got in her way, according to police reports.

Yes, that would be “slap” as in “assault and battery“.

And why was the Defendant barred from walking across the stage in the first place?

“No comment,” said schools spokesperson Justin Martin when asked that particular question. However, one thing that we do know is that the Defendant had been on the list of students to graduate from CRLS this year, according to a list provided by the Cambridge Public Schools.

According to the police, the Defendant had appeared disappointed initially, but did not try to enter the graduation as the rest of her class filed into the ceremony.

However, soon thereafter, the temptation perhaps becoming too great, she walked directly behind the graduation stage and paced back and forth. She then allegedly threatend to disturb the ceremony by walking across the graduation stage or by slapping a school administrator.

Police officers say they tried to calm the Defendant but were unsuccessful in the attempt. She allegedly called them obscene names and officers said they decided to arrest her to prevent any disruption to the graduation ceremony, according to police reports.

The Defendant was charged with breech of the peace and threatening to commit a crime.

Attorney Sam’s Take:

As of the writing of this blog, we still do not know what twisted and vicious abominations the 17-year-old Defendant must have done to necessitate the enforced punishment that she not walk on the stage with the rest of her class. It does not appear like the police were aware of what it was…so it looks like it was not something terribly illegal. It cannot be that she had not earned her diploma, because according to the school, she was scheduled to graduate.

This mystery aside, however, the fact remains that those in authority had mandated that she not follow her class onto that stage.

“Hmmmm. Doesn’t seem fair, does it, Sam?”

No. From what we are told, it does not seem fair.

“So, darn it, maybe she was correct in trying to enforce her rights! I mean, where would our civil rights be today if nobody ever took the chance and insisted on their rights?”

Well, interesting point. But then, I am not sure that the right to graduate under these circumstances quite matches the rights to which you refer. While the punishment for whatever infraction the Defendant was initially guilty of may turn out to be overly harsh, those in the position of authority did levy that punishment and had the power to do so. Further, they had the police present to ensure that the punishment was carried out.

Committing additional infractions, not to mention actual crimes, is not generally the best way to fight this type of adversity.

Which brings us to what today’s posting has to do with you.

From time to time, we all find ourselves in situations which appear to be unfair.

Sometimes, they are actually unfair and something can be done afterwards to attempt to “make us whole” for the unjust action. While one’s high school graduation is an important and memorable event, and not one easily able to be repaired, sometimes we have to bite the proverbial bullet and accept the unfairness if only to attack it another day.

In this case, it appears clear that it did not matter what the Defendant did. She was not going to be allowed to follow her class upon that stage. It reminds me of a motorist who has just been pulled over and knows that he has had one small drink. The officer has already opined that the driver is under the influence of alcohol. He know that it is a matter of minutes before the officer advises him that he is being placed under arrest. The motorist may think the treatment unfair. Perhaps it is unfair. Or, consider the soon-to-be domestic violence defendant who has let the police into his/her home because a neighbor called the police as a result of a screaming argument. Maybe there had been a physical act, such as pushing the spouse with a shoeless foot. Nobody is injured. In fact, nobody is even angry anymore. But suddenly the officer announces that, because he had to come to the domestic disturbance, “somebody is going to jail”.

By the way, neither of these scenarios is unusual and reflect cases I have handled.

Now, either of those people who are about to be offered the Commonwealth Bracelets of Shame could simply try to out-talk, out-run or even out-fight the officer. It is, after all, an approach that we have discussed many times in this daily blog.

As you know, this approach generally fails and only ends up resulting in more serious criminal charges.

Fairness, in terms of criminal justice, is in the eyes of the beholder. In other words, your view of what is fair may not carry the day. At least, at the moment that decision is made. The important thing, though, is that you do not want to make the situation worse.

The answer? Simple. When it is clear that the arrest is being made, or that the authorities are not about to change their mind as to what they will allow you to do (such as stepping on that stage), it makes no sense to threaten, insult or otherwise challenge them. Politely accept it so that you can get through the situation as unscathed as possible and, perhaps, fight back another day.

No, I do not mean “fight back” as in “get your buddies and storm the police station”. I mean to get an experienced lawyer and be as protected as possible in righting the wrong you believe you have been served.

But then, you’ve heard that advice on this blog before, haven’t you?

NOTE TO READER: Tomorrow’s weekly Boston Criminal Lawyer’s Blog Discussion Will, as you might have predicted, involve the effects of the criminal justice system on Massachusetts Students.

The full article of this story can be found at http://www.wickedlocal.com/cambridge/news/x124621921/Student-arrested-before-she-can-get-her-diploma-at-graduation-ceremony

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