Lest you think that Amy Bishop is the only person being haunted by Ghosts of Boston-Area Criminal Allegations Past, let me discuss with you the case of Bob O. (hereinafter, the “Target”). Suddenly, the Target needs a lawyer. A good one. An experienced one.
It was the summer of 1976. Sam A. (hereinafter, “Witness”) recalls he was strolling down the Boston streets when he ran into his friend, the Target. The Target was with a 14-year-old lad that we will call “Youth”.
“Gee”, thought Witness. “It sure is odd to find [Target] with a 14-year-old…” and then the thought of said oddity dissolved inside Witness’ head.
Thirty years went by. Witness and the Target became closer and closer, sharing a passion for sports. Over the years, the Target built up quite a reputation as a standout coach for the powerhouse basketball team at Christ the King Regional High School in Queens, New York.
Well, it looks like the friendship has seen better days. You see, Witness is now cooperating with Boston prosecutors presenting evidence to a Suffolk grand jury that the Target repeatedly molested Youth all those years ago, while staying at the Sheraton Boston Hotel.
Well, so the story goes. Despite media accounts, the D.A.’s Office will neither confirm nor deny such grand jury action, citing “office policy”.
However, it has hit the New York press that Youth, now 48 years of age, has reported that the Target sexually abused him over a period of several years during the 1970’s.
One little problem, though. During the alleged abuse, Youth and the Target lived in New York. The New York statute of limitations – the period after a crime during which prosecutors may file charges – expired long ago.
What’s a prosecutor to do?
Why, see if there are any other jurisdictions through which one can circumvent the legislature’s sense of justice in creating such limitations of course!
Enter: Witness and Suffolk County, Boston, Mass!
You see, the Massachusetts time limits toll (stop) when the accused is out of state. Since the Target lived in New York, the clock stopped ticking almost immediately after any such sexual abuse took place. Hey! Remember that night in 1976 and Witness’ “odd” meeting with the Target?
And so it is that Boston prosecutors can present any allegations stemming from the Target’s little visit to the Commonwealth over thirty years ago.
Of course, although all this is hitting the news in at least New York and Massachusetts…no official recognition of the grand jury presentment is being made. The Commonwealth remains quiet. Even Youth, now living in Florida, will not comment.
Somehow, though, the word seems to be out.
It seems to be out enough to fhave forced the Target to resign from the job he had held at Christ the King for 27 years, roiling the New York City high school sports community.
Well, maybe the additional free time will be handy as he tries to pull together a defense to try to disprove allegations about what he did over thirty years ago.
” ‘Try to disprove’? But isn’t he presumed innocent and so has no obligation to prove anything?”
Yeah, that’s what the law books say. On the other hand, the man has not even been charged yet and already the ramifications have started.
I cannot really fault anyone involved here with being tight-lipped. Grand Jury investigations are supposed to remain secret. On the other hand…somebody seems to be speaking to somebody about it…so I guess the reasons for such secrecy are not always respected.
Sort of like the reasons, often spoken of in terms of “fairness”, for statutes of limitations.
And so…what does this have to do with you?
You can never simply ignore a threat of prosecution…whether you are factually guilty or factually innocent. There are many technicalities through which cases can be brought that you have never even heard of. It can come from another state. It can come from the distant past.
The bottom line? As soon as you hear even the suggestion of such a prosecution, you must take it seriously. That usually means retaining experienced counsel to guide you through the process and, if necessary, represent you.
As always, if you are facing such a scenario and wish to discuss it with me, please feel free to contact me at 617-492-3000.
To find the original story upon which this story is based, please go to http://mobile.boston.com/art/30/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/03/07/boston_grand_jury_hears_claims_ny_coach_abused_teen_in_70s/