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.

Theft Of Hot Dog Leads To Armed Robbery Charges And Plea Hearing

Yesterday, as you may know, was the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. It is known as a day of atonement and many Jews, including this one, fast during the holiday. Perhaps it was because of the day’s lack of food that brought my attention to this particular news story.

Antonio J., 35, of Worcester (hereinafter, the “Defendant”), was apparently quite hungry on August 12, 2009. It was, after all, about 6:45pm, which is around dinner time.

The Defendant happened upon a man who was sitting under a tree eating hot dogs in the park. According to the police, the Defendant mumbled something incoherent to the man. He then made his desire known. “Eat that other dog?” the Defendant asked.

“Yes,” the man replied.

“I’m going to eat it,” the Defendant corrected him as he lifted up his shirt and revealed what appeared to be a handgun.

Police reports said that the Defendant then grabbed the hot dog from the man and began to eat it. In his haste, however, ” mustard had spilled onto the suspect’s shirt,”

When the police arrived to investigate, they found someone who fit the description of the food thief. They ordered him to stop.

After he finally stopped, he immediately tucked in his shirt, presumably to hide the reported gun. After a brief struggle, he was arrested.

“A pat frisk of [the Defendant] revealed a gun which turned out to be a pellet gun,” according to police reports. A pocket knife was also found on the Defendant.

The victim later identified the Defendant as the thief.

The Defendant was first charged with Armed Robbery. However, he has pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of Larceny from a person as well as disorderly conduct.

The sentence for the hot dog fiasco?

18 months in prison for the larceny charge with another 30 days for disorderly conduct. The sentences will be served concurrently.

The charges of carrying a dangerous weapon and resisting arrest were dismissed.

Attorney Sam’s Take:

Does 18 months for a hot dog sound a bit excessive to you?

There are factors other than the actual theft that were likely considered by the court, as well as the prosecutor who recommended the sentence.

First of all, the Defendant is not new to the criminal justice system. According to court records, he has been in court numerous times for assaults, drug possession and vandalism. In 2008, he was sentenced to six months in the House of Correction for vandalizing property. In September 2006, he received a two-year sentence with six months to serve for assault and battery. Back alittle further, in 1991, he was sentenced to serve 6 to 10 years in Walpole state prison on assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and other charges.

In the criminal justice system, one’s past is not forgotten. In fact, quite the opposite.
Generally, once the defendant has been sentenced to a stay in Commonwealth Housing, probation as a consideration becomes history. It becomes, with each new case, a question of how much time he will receive behind bars.

This is also true in terms of whether a defendant has defaulted in the past. In this case, the Defendant was in custody awaiting trial. This likely reflects that he did not always show up in his prior matters which was reflected by the judge imposing high bail conditions.

“Well, why are they dismissing and lessening charges on him if he is such a bad guy?”

Well, courts do tend to encourage guilty pleas. You have probably heard the arguments in favor of them for years now. The court is too overburdened. Trials cost too much money. If there are no incentives to for defendants to plead guilty, then they won’t. The current thought is that this would grind the system to a halt.

In this case, I wonder if the case could have been winnable for the Defendant. Yes, that would re-open that awful question, “what if he were innocent?”

After all, I have seen no indication that the mustard smear was on his shirt. He was also not found at the scene.

“Yeah, but he was identified by the complainant.”

True. However, do you know how many of these identifications are made? The police show up with the suspect (often in cuffs) and ask if this is the man. You would be surprised at how suggestive that can be. Also, in this case, the identification was made “later” according to the report.

“So why would an innocent man plead guilty?”

Very good question. That is one that we will discuss on this Friday’s Attorney Sam’s Take.

In the meantime, if you are facing charges such as these and would like to discuss your options and potential representation with me, please feel free to call me at (617) 206-1942.

For the full article upon which today’s blog is based, go to http://www.telegram.com/article/20090928/NEWS/909289977/1116

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