I have often told you that the days in which the only people who have to worry about getting investigated or charged with wrongdoing was one of “Them” are long over. Them would be the “typical” criminal-type who spends his or her life engaging in criminal activity. Clearly, these are people who know upon each waking day that the day’s activities may well end with them in government custody.
I don’t think that Paul Brasco, president of the Waltham City Council, and Paul Tracey, a Waltham police officer, (collectively, the “Accused”) expected that they would suddenly find themselves subjects of an internal affairs investigation. Further, they probably never expected that said investigation would result in a request to the United States Attorney’s Office to look into bringing federal charges against them.
Yet, that is what has happened.
A tenant of Mr. Basco’s, 33-year-old Edgar Gonzalez, 33, (hereinafter, the “Tenant”) says that the Accused improperly threatened him with deportation during a visit back in February. As a result, he says that his civil rights were violated. The resulting investigations have found against the Accused. The Tenant is now asking the US Attorney to take action.
Brasco tells a sharply different story, saying that Gonzalez has no lease and is squatting on his property and that at no time did he and the officer threaten Tenant with deportation. He did, he says, only warn that he would be served with a notice of eviction within 24 hours.
Officer Tracey, may face disciplinary action after the internal investigation found he appears to have violated department policy by accompanying Brasco.
Tenant said through an interpreter yesterday that he had stopped paying rent because of malfunctioning lighting and heating in the apartment. He said that he is Guatemalan and that he has lived in Waltham for 18 years, but he declined to comment on whether he is a legal resident.
Brasco said he called Tracey because the officer is his neighbor and friend. Brasco said it was late in the evening, and he wanted to find out who was on his property so he could follow through with eviction proceedings. When his property management company could not send someone with him to the apartment, Brasco said, he asked Tracey, who was on duty, to meet him there.
Attorney Sam’s Take On Criminal Allegations And Free Speech
First of all, before you indulge your Constitutional Right to free speech argument, understand that your speech is not quite so free.
“Free” speech is not an absolute right, particularly when it effects other people. The most common example of this is the image of yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. However, there are other limitations.
Threatening someone can also be a crime…depending on the subject matter and other surrounding circumstances. First of all, threatening to commit a crime is, in itself, a crime. Therefore, were the alleged threats in this case something along the lines of, “I am going to come back here and break your leg unless you pay your rent”, a crime would have been committed. Actually, a Massachusetts white collar crime would also have been committed…extortion.
No, a threat of eviction is not illegal. Threatening reporting someone to immigration? Well, that has lately been debated on a pretty high level, hasn’t it?
My main point in today’s blog, however, is that nobody can wake up in the morning sure that they will lay their head back down on the pillow at night without some allegation of wrong-doing, criminal or otherwise, weighing them down. Particularly given the several recent Massachusetts federal crime convictions, this is particularly true if you hold any kind of public office.
The sad fact is that, in order to be accused of a crime or something close, all you need do today is anger someone who has the gift of speech (said gift could be simply the ability to write. In fact, if it is someone who cannot actually speak, the allegation is likely to be worse because of the infirmity).
I have no first-hand knowledge of this matter. However, I have handled several situations like it. Sometimes, threats, or too-loose tongues, are made but hardly serious. Sometimes the threats are not made but are interpreted.
And, yes, sometimes, the person reporting the threats is lying.
What can you do to protect yourself?
In the words of an old television show, “Hill Street Blues”…”Let’s be careful out there”.
Verbally “shooting from the hip” is dangerous these days. Simply “helping a friend”, such as in the case, allegedly, of the officer, can be dangerous. On the other hand, simply living without an independent eye-witness can be dangerous these days in terms of facing allegations.
Watch yourself. Do not delude yourself into thinking you are always protected by perceived Constitutional rights. And…when the allegations come…get yourself an experienced criminal defense attorney to advise and guide you.
If experienced, he or she will know what to do to minimize damage and, hopefully, get you through to the other side as unscathed as possible.
In the meantime….Happy Summer!
To view the article upon which this blog is based, http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/06/17/waltham_officials_accused_of_threats/