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 Police Officer Allegedly Lies To Police Investigators And Faces No Criminal Charges

South Bosotn’s Whitey Buldger’s new attorney, J.W. Carney, Jr., has been heard explaining to the media that the government has had 20 years to prepare his client’s case for trial and that he has had the matter for (at the time) 5 days. From Boston’s Federal District Court to school disciplinary hearings, we have discussed the existence of an unequal playing field facing you when the finger of accusation comes to call.

Let’s end the week with one more example, shall we?

The Boston Globe reports that it has obtained a police an Internal Affairs Division report about a police officer involved in what has been called one of the most notorious police brutality cases in the city’s history. The matter stems from a 2009 arrest in the North End. The officer, David C. Williams (hereinafter, the “Officer”) has been placed on paid administrative leave for lying during the department’s investigation into the incident.

In 1999, the Officer was fired from the force after being implicated in the racially charged 1995 beating of an undercover police officer. He was then reinstated with nearly $550,000 in back pay after a civil service arbitration in 2005.

In the instant matter, the Officer faces the possibility of losing his job under Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis’s nearly 19-month-old policy of dismissing officers who lie in the line of duty, to internal affairs investigators, or in court (aka what would be called “perjury” if a non-officer did it.

The Officer’s attorney insists his client told the truth about the 2009 North End arrest. “He’s absolutely testified honestly and truthfully about the incident that occurred,” his lawyer explains . “Any conflicts about the incident were the result of a fast and rapidly evolving incident.”

Do you find it odd that such claims are supposed to be believed when made on behalf of a police officer by his officer, yet not for the rest of you?

Anything wrong with that?

At any rate, the Officer is appealing the finding. A hearing is scheduled for later this month.

Attorney Sam’s Take On The On-Again/Off-Again Relationship Between Law Enforcement And The Truth

The relationship between police officers, or federal agents, and objective factual truth tends to be a bit tumultuous. Whether it is a good day or a bad day in said relationship, be assured that it is a different relationship than the law provides for you.

This case demonstrates this fact brilliantly.

For example, you would be prosecuted for perjury.

As we have discussed, you have no legal obligation to speak to police officers…particularly when you may be the one who is the target of their criminal investigation.

Investigating officers are supposed to tell you that, incidentally. The warning is part of the well known “Miranda Rights” which, usually, officers are supposed to recite or read prior to questioning. That is, if you are “in custody”. Like most things in the justice system, what “in custody” means is fodder for great debate and usually the subject at suppression hearings.

What you may not know, however, is that when a police officer is being investigated, he/she often does not really have the right to remain silent. While it may vary between jurisdictions, when an officer is being interviewed by the department, the officer often has to choose between not answering questions and losing (if only for awhile) his or her job.

The subject matter of this issue is also still debated in the law and so, like most things, is not truly “black and white”.

But, let’s leave the inter-department disciplinary issues aside for a minute. Let’s deal with Massachusetts criminal investigations. Let’s apply Massachusetts criminal law.

Under the current law, it is a Massachusetts felony to lie to an investigating officer. Further, it is also a crime for someone to assault and batter someone.

Often, if one is charged with a crime, particularly a felony, one loses his or her job. Sometimes, the career goes out the window right there and then. And, yes, we are talking about at the time of the charges being placed…long before there is any verdict.

It goes without saying that, if and when found guilty, most people lose their jobs. And their careers. This is particularly true when the convictions is for lying to police, otherwise somehow known as “Intimidation of a Witness”.

The Officer is believed by the Commonwealth to have not only lied to investigating officers, but also to be guilty of an assault matter. In fact, it seems to be described as a Massachusetts hate crime. Further, the Officer, by nature of being a law enforcement professional, knows (unlike many) about the laws about lying to the police.

That is one advantage he had that many of you do not. Despite this knowledge, though, he is accused, and found responsible at a hearing, for committing the felony.

And yet…what he “may” face is losing his job. Further, there is no indication that any criminal charges are in his future for the event.

“But, Sam, maybe the Commonwealth is waiting for the final disposition of the appeal to make its move.”

Could be, but doubtful. First of all, the Commonwealth knows that it has only so much time to bring the charges. Otherwise, it is too late because of the applicable Statute of Limitations. However, let’s forget that. Let’s assume for the moment that they are waiting.

Do you think, if you were alleged to have committed a crime, say Massachusetts embezzlement, that the Commonwealth would wait for to see what your employer was going to do in relation to the Massachusetts white collar crime before bringing criminal charges?

Pretty unlikely, huh?

Don’t get me wrong, here. I think the Officer should get all the protections that the Constitution and resulting cases provide.

I just think it might be kind of nice if the rest of us could get such benefits of the doubt too.

Have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!

To view the article upon which this blog is based, please go to http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/07/08/internal_affairs_report_cites_boston_officer_for_use_of_unreasonable_force/?page=full

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