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.

Attorney Sam’s Take: Matthew J. Amorello Admits To Drunk Driving And Leaving The Scene Of An Accident. Was The Court And Prosecution Too Lenient?

Sometimes it is tough to know what to believe in. This supposedly daily Boston-based criminal law blog has been posted only three times a week the past few weeks. Politicians are being indicted and convicted for white collar crimes. And now, Matthew J. Amorello, the former chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, admits to drunken driving resulting in the August crash, allegedly passed out during booking and then disappearing for a day or so from the face of the Earth. And what about the criminal justice system itself? Does it give Mr. Amorello (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) special treatment?

Many will be complaining that he did get special treatment.

After all, upon his admission, he was merely ordered to give up his license for 45 days, attend alcohol awareness classes, and pay more than $500 in fines. In fact, the judge did not even impose a guilty finding!

The Defendant admitted, “Simply stated, I made a horrible mistake. Today I took responsibility for my actions.” Speaking of the ordeal, he further stated, “I want to close this chapter of my life and start moving forward and will do that with the love and support of my family, my friends. It’s been a difficult time and it’s time to get up and dust myself off and get back to being Matt Amorello.”

Judge Stephen Abany ordered cases of drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident with property damage continued without a finding, setting another court date for March 1, 2011. A third charge against the Defendant was dismissed.

The prosecution, however, argued that the Defendant’s license should be suspended for a longer period, but defense counsel emphasized that his client had “no criminal record whatsoever and he’s charged with two misdemeanors.”

The Defendant’s license had already been suspended for 180 days, an automatic penalty because he refused to take a Breathalyzer test after his arrest. Well, sort of refused. He was also passing out at the moment. But, as one has to be conscious to agree to do the breathalyzer…in a way he refused.

“License?”, you may ask. “What about jail? Probation for years! He admitted to committing a serious crime…or crimes! What gives?”

A View From The Trenches:

The truth is that, at least in terms of the drunk driving charge, the Defendant was not treated any differently than most first time OUI defendants. There is a statute in effect which allows for the result of a Continuance Without A Finding, instead of a guilty finding, in these cases, together with the mandatory loss of license, necessary programs to attend and imposition of fines and fees.

“Well, what about the leaving the scene of an accident charge? Couldn’t he receive more severe treatment for that?”

Yes. However, one must consider what is expected of the criminal justice system. We may not want high-level defendants to get unfair breaks, but would it be fair to give them more harsh treatment simply because of their position in society?

In fact, the story of the Defendant is not a very happy one. Once married, with a $223,000 salary, the Defendant is now divorced. lost his house in Wenham to foreclosure and was unable to find work. The Boston Globe says that he is regarded by his friends as broken man, both personally and professionally.

Further, you have his career ending tragedy as the focus of blame when part of the Big Dig tunnel collapsed in 2006 and killed a Jamaica Plain woman as well as his resignation from his public post.

No prior criminal record at an age where many criminal defendants have developed a rather impressive novel-length criminal record. He got drunk one night and…the rest is history.

Intentional conduct? Some might say yes. Certainly, had he killed somebody he would have been facing much more severe treatment. In actuality, he was lucky his driving ended when it did.

Compassion is something sometimes lacking in our society and often lacking in our courts. Apparently, it was not lacking in this case. Instead of putting the final nail into the Defendant’s proverbial coffin, the court decided to “give him a break” which was well within the norms in such cases.

So, would it serve to shove this man deeper into punishment? The fact is that this result could have been given to any other man in a similar situation.

Don’t get me wrong…if you got arrested for these crimes, would you necessarily get the same treatment?

That would depend on a lot of things. Things that should be discussed between you and your experienced criminal defense attorney.

Oh, did I fail to mention that he had one of those?

If you have a criminal matter you would like to discuss with me, please feel free to call me at 617-492-3000 to set up a free initial consultation.

For the original story upon which today’s posting is based, please go to:

http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/11/judge_suspends.html

Contact Information