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.

SOUTHBRIDGE POLICE DEPARTMENT FALLS VICTIM TO ALLEGED ARSONIST

Well, for one thing, I don’t think this is going to help him very much in the lawsuit.

I am referring to 45-year-old Arthur Burnham (hereinafter, the “Defendant”). It would appear that his sense of entertainment is not shared by Southbridge Police Department. Or the law, for that matter.

You see, the Southbridge police say that he was laughing and cheering after he doused a police cruiser with gasoline and set it on fire right outside the police station.

They apparently did not see the humor in it.

Fortunately, nobody was hurt in the incident which officers say took place around 9:30 Tuesday night. Authorities arrested the Defendant on the scene and charged him with arson of a motor vehicle and malicious destruction of property.

They also held him at the station on $5000 bail and released word of the event on Facebook prior to getting the Defendant to court.

In a video posted by WFXT-TV, the Defendant can be seen shouting “They’re civil rights violators” as he’s being handcuffed.

According to the Boston Herald, Officer Ryan Chase also told the Telegram & Gazette that the Defendant is homeless and is “very well known to the department.”

He certainly is.

This was not the first…disagreement…the Defendant had with the department.

    Attorney Sam’s Take On Destroying Property To Make A Point

Since March 3, 2015, as can be seen here, there has been a civil lawsuit pending at Worcester District Court by the name of

    Burnham v. Southbridge Police Department et al

The case involves civil rights violations the Defendant claims the department has visited upon him in the past.

It may be that the Defendant thought that his alleged actions were amusing. He may have felt it was a part of his freedom of speech.

May he thought it would help him in his lawsuit some how.

As you have probably surmized, they weren’t, it isn’t and it won’t.

Particularly so soon after what we saw in Baltimore recently, I do not think that many people are likely to find the burning of ANY vehicles amusing.

More locally, law enforcement sure does not see it as a small thing. I am handleing a case right now where a young man is accused of setting a couple of uninhabited vehicles aflame long before the events in Baltimore.

In fact, the Commonwealth is seeking state prison time for this young man with no prior convictions.

One would imagine that this matter will end up revealing that the Defendant, should he actually be guilty as charged, is not held together particularly tightly.

But then, I digress. Ian is currently discussing such things with you.

As I have mentioned from time to time, various cases carry their own need for expertise. Clearly, should this matter go to trial, issues involved in arson as well as mental capacity may come to play.

On the other hand, let’s find out how good the quality of evidence is against the Defendant. After all, the police department, it would seem, does have a motivation to see the Defendant’s credibility sullied.

“But, Sam, doesn’t that work both ways? After all, the Defendant seems to have an axe to grind with the police department too.”

Yes. And I am sure that the Commonwealth has wasted no time in incorporating that into their case.

“Is it relevant?”

Often, when there is a separate action is pending between parties, it is not considered relevent and cannot be mentioned in front of the jury. There are exceptions, though. In this case, either side may want to point to the pending civil case as some kind of motivation or state of mind evidence.

This is likely to be particularly dangerous for the defense.

“Why?”

I have a hunch that the civil lawsuit is the result of one or more prior arrests of the Defendant by this particular police department. Openning the door to letting the jury learn of that prior record could be suicide for the defense.

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