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.

RECENT NEWTON CHILD PORNOGRAPHY ARRESTS AND Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) (Part Two)

As the Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog indicated yesterday, officials in Newton are reviewing their hiring procedures in the wake of the two recent arrests relating to child pornography. It may be worth noting that these were arrests…not convictions…but, then again, to most…maybe not.

Anyway, Mayor Setti Warren has announced, “We’re going to look at everything,…We want to take a look at what options there are inside the city, outside the city, and within the balance of the law.” He went on to say that the sessions will look at not only additional screening of potential employees, but also at their training and supervision on things like how complaints will be handled. He added that the findings will be reported to the public.

While, for the most part, this sounds reasonable, there are still issues. For example, Newton city did a criminal history check on the two recent arrestees before they were hired. Said history check includes checking the state’s Criminal Offender Record Information ( “CORI”). Further, the CORI check is repeated every three years. No problems were found in either case. While some say that databases outside the Commonwealth should also be checked, doing so would apparently not have prevented the instant situation; neither man had any record of criminal history.

So…where do we go from here?

Attorney Sam’s Take On Criminal Offender Record Information Searches

Let’s do what any experienced criminal defense attorney has to do on a daily basis…separate, to some degree, what one is concerned with, depending on which hat one is wearing at the time. For example, as a citizen, I am against crime. As a defense lawyer, I defend alleged criminals (I, semi-jokingly, prefer the term “the misunderstood amongst us”). As you know, of course, I have strong concerns about the criminal justice system which are consistent with both hats…but that is a topic for another day.

The topic here, for today at least, is the CORI check
Let’s start with the prevention hat. How can we make sure that potential predators do not end up with jobs through which they can victimize the innocent? Well, sure, CORI can be a start. Further, I agree that, if you are going do CORI checks, it makes sure not to limit yourself to this state…particularly if the subject has ever worked or lived in a different state.

“Well, what information does CORI give you?”


CORI is supposed to reveal a person’s criminal and, often, quasi-criminal, record. For example, although the courts daily trample Constitutional Rights by calling it civil and not criminal, and so dispensing with the usual care allegedly given criminal defendants, the 209A Hearings for restraining orders appear on the CORI. Although the standard for issuing such Orders is quite low, and declared “not criminal”, the appearance on one’s CORI, in fact, has the opposite effect in many instances. Further, of course, all previous criminal charges, if actually issued, appear on the CORI results as well as their status.

“Well, that sounds like a pretty decent reflection of a person’s past.”

Is it? Let’s put on the other hat. Let’s look at it from the point of view of the person who’s CORI is being examined. The fact is, unless sealed, the record will reveal every case for which a person was arraigned. This includes all acquittals and dismissed cases.

“Well, what if my neighbor accused me of assault and, early on, the prosecutor dismissed the charges because it was so absurd?”

It’s on there.

“How about if the complaining witness recanted and admitted it was all a lie?”

It’s on there.

Understand that by “It’s on there”, I mean the charges and the result…not the explanation. Anyone asking will have to take your word for what happenned.

So…I put it to you. You are now someone in charge of hiring for the school department in Newton. Betty Brilliant has applied for a position as teacher. Her CORI reveals that, six years ago, she was charged with a crime. It was dismissed. She tells you it was all a lie, though.

Are you going to take the chance?

More and more, potential employers are not taking that chance. In this economy, they clearly do not have to. Nor are schools when considering potential students. Nor are schools when deciding if a parent can participate in a school activity. You know the reason…the initials are C.Y.A. (I will let you spell it out).

As indicated above, of course, not everyone who has predatory tendencies even has a CORI.

Clearly, then, blind dependency on a CORY makes as little sense as going by how a person looks, as indicated by one Newton parent cited in yesterday’s blog.

The only real solution, as usual, is in the nuance – not blind and robotic reaction to a single item. The truth is also that, no matter what one does, one is not going to succeed in 100% prevention.

And so, back to you and criminal justice. What does this mean to you…aside from the fact that it may be tougher to get that job or education you wanted?

Politicians, including the prosecutorial kind, want quick and easy answers…even if the closest they come to solving a problem is to give a false sense of security. This makes it most important to point the finger quick, announce that “things will be different with me in charge” and let the chips fall where they may.

Whether you want to believe it or not, those chips can easily fall on you.

Make a mistake. Look strange. Act weird. Be accused of something in the past by someone who does not like you so much. Or likes you too much. Or is angry with you.

It is easy to make an allegation and allegations are too easily taken seriously when all the decision makers just want to make sure they do not appear in the press the next day having not taken the charge seriously enough.

If you have reason to believe you are suspected of any wrong doing…or you think someone may be about to falsely accuse of a crime…even if it is “just that lunatic next door“…do not simply dismiss it.

Especially in these times, you do so at your own peril…now and in the future.

Consult an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.


But, now I am repeating myself, aren’t I?”

For the original article upon which this blog is based, please go to http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2012/01/29/newton_reviews_hiring_policies_after_two_child_pornography_arrests/

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