The daily Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog has followed the continuing problem of groping on the MBTA over the past several months.
The ongoing problem is in the news again.
The MBTA has announced an event last Tuesday which ended in the arrest of Jose V. (hereinafter, the “Defendant”). The arrest took place at the Wollaston T Station on the Red Line. The alleged crime(s)?
Multiple counts of indecent assault and battery and criminal harassment.
More specifically, the Defendant has been arrested for allegedly, and repeatedly, groping a woman several times on the Red Line.
At approximately 8:22 am, police officers were dispatched to the Wollaston T Station to meet with a woman who complained that she was being followed. After locating the woman by the fare gates, she told them that she had just seen a man walk towards her that had sexually assaulted her twice in the past.
One of the officers immediately recognized the female from reports that she had been allegedly accosted several times last year while taking the T. He asked her if the man that had just approached her was the same man that has accosted her twice before and she answered in the affirmative. According to the T, she appeared terrified and was near tears.
Officers searched the area for the suspect, who the woman described as a Hispanic male, 5-5’4″ thin build, clean shaven wearing a baseball hat and a black sweatshirt. She believed he left the area on foot, possibly heading northbound on Newport Avenue. The search expanded to the north of the station, including a Wendy’s fast food restaurant to see if any of their employees might have seen the suspect. While talking to the employees, Officers noted the Defendant, a Hispanic male who was dressed in Wendy’s working attire, sweeping the lot.
The Defendant was wearing a baseball hat, was clean shaven about 5’4″ and was thinly built.
According to the police, the Defendant saw the officer and quickly looked away. The officer went over to talk to him but he kept sweeping until the officer said “hello.” He reportedly appeared extremely nervous during the ensuing questioning. The officer describes that he “gulped when I asked him what he wore to work this morning. He continued working, but said he would get his jacket for me to see. ”
The Defendant came back out with a black hooded sweatshirt, and said that this is what he had worn to work this morning. At this time, an officer arrived with the woman. The officer asked her if that man (pointing to the Defendant) was the man that was following her. She replied yes. The officer then asked her if this was the man that had accosted her last week, and she replied yes. Being familiar with last year’s accusations, the officer again asked her what the Defendant had allegedly done last year and she stated the following “he grabbed my bum on more than one occasion as I was walking by him at Wollaston. And twice on two Wednesdays in a row, before and after Memorial Day, he rubbed his crotch area hard against my bum.”
The officer verified these reported incidents- one on 5/28/08 and 6/4/08. Both of these incidents were reported to have happened on a northbound train at the north Quincy T station. The officer placed the Defendant under arrest and read him his Miranda rights.
Attorney Sam’s Take:
On January 20th, I questioned whether the creation of a publicity-seeking newly named bureau, the “Anti-Groping Unit” was really the best solution, alone, of solving this ongoing problem. I opined that, perhaps, rather than grabbing the headlines, the T could do more grabbing the gropers, perhaps even preventing the crimes, by putting more officers on the trains.
Some people did not appreciate this thought. On January 26th, the Boston University Daily Free Press published an article based on discussions with me and MBTA Police Lieutenant Detective Mark Gillespie, who described how the T was actually doing what I suggested,
The problem continued.
On March 10th, I revisited the issue, writing about another such incident which had recently occurred.
The problem continues.
These instances have come to light primarily because the MBTA itself likes to release news of resulting arrests after the fact. In none of these occurrences are there the alleged undercover officers in either a position to prevent or observe the incidents. Perhaps they were out investigating more serious crimes, like prostitution.
“Hey, Sam, aren’t you kind of being unfair here?”, you ask your computer. “What is the difference how soon the suspects are arrested? The bad guys were caught, right?”
Well, let’s examine this latest incident…or, actually…several incidents.
Had officers been present, or even near, the scene of any of the several times the complainant was allegedly groped, he would have been caught on the scene, perhaps with the accompanying eyewitness testimony from a police officer as well as civilian witnesses.
Pretty strong case, no? Now, let’s look at the issues in the case as it is.
Here are just some of the arguments that are readily apparent this experienced defense attorney right away. First of all, there is very strong question as to the identification. As to the earlier incidents, a large amount of time had gone by. In terms of the following, we are unclear as to how long it took for the complainant to call the police, for the police to be dispatch, for the police to talk to the complainant, for the police to search the area…until the suspect was located, who had time to change clothes and get to work.
“So what?”, you argue. “She identified him, right?”
Oh, you must be referring to the occurrence of the officers dragging over a Hispanic male of similar size in some similar clothes and asking the trembling complainant “is this the guy?”.
Alittle suggestive, don’t you think? If not, many courts and juries have found it so.
Is that the only issue that is already apparent due to the lack of officers at the various scenes?
How about the argument of the remarkably coincidental repeated meetings between the complainant and the Defendant? Each time, it was this defendant who accosted this complainant? At no time during these occurrences did she cry out so that he could be caught at the scene?
This is not to criticize the complainant, nor to blame the officers who are following their procedures. It is to simply question whether the policies and procedures, or at least, their focus, should be adjusted.
In other words, the solution for law enforcement in this situation may not be to release a new press release announcing the creation of a new “Anti-Groping And Solving Past Groping Incidents That We Missed Unit”.
The solution to the accused? Get an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Because, another victim of this police approach could easily be you, if you are in the wrong place, wrong time or wearing the wrong clothes.
The full article of this story can be found at http://www.myfoxboston.com/dpp/news/local/040809_Alleged_MBTA_groper_busted