Boston Arrest For Sexual Assault On “T” Train

When I returned to Boston as a defense attorney from New York, where I had been on the other side of the aisle, I discovered a few differences between daily in Beantown and the Apple. One of these was the subway experience. While in New York, the experience could be compared to an excursion through the land of “Wearehostileville”, The “T” was much more calm…much more safe.

Well, that may be changing a bit. For example, this past Friday, a Beverly man was arrested after he allegedly groped a plainclothes Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Transit Police detective on a train. As, a site dedicated to The MBTA, puts it, “a plainclothes transit detective put the pinch on a Beverly man after he allegedly put the moves on her on the Blue Line this morning, the MBTA says.”

Jeffrey N., 51, (hereinafter, the “Defendant”), was charged with indecent assault and battery for the rush-hour incident in East Boston around 8:45 a.m. by the transit police’s Anti-Groping Unit at State Street Station. He is scheduled to be arraigned today in Boston Municipal Court, according to MBTA officials

According to T spokesman Joe Pesaturo, the Transit Police Anti-Groping Unit had been monitoring the Blue Line after a passenger complained about groping. Following the highly-publicized April 2008 launch of an anti-sexual harassment campaign, reported incidents of people being indecently assaulted rose from 44 in 2007 to 69 last year, according to the MBTA.

MBTA Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan said that the increase can be attributed to the public awareness program, co-sponsored by the MBTA and the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, empowering T passengers to call police if they are inappropriately touched.

“The purpose of the campaign was two-fold, one to alert our passengers that they could take some action if accosted, and two to give us a more accurate picture of what was actually happening on the system” he said.

MBTA General Manager Daniel Grabauskas said public transit continues to be a safe and reliable alternative to automobile travel.

“Our ridership is at record levels, in part, because the MBTA is a very safe system,” said Grabauskas. “Backed by the largest Transit Police force in the department’s history, the MBTA will continue to provide its customers with a safe and comfortable transportation environment.”

Attorney Sam’s Take:

How many of you out there knew that the T had an “Anti-Groping Unit”?

Welcome to 2009. The fact is that there are many different specialized units that law enforcement has developed over the past several years. Some of these created due to the extra-sensitivity or high publicity regarding various types of crime. For example, after the Madoff scandal, be ready for some kind of “Anti-Ponzi” Unit.

The fact is, as I have often stated in this daily blog, the criminal justice system is motivated by many things…often publicity. Therefore, when some area of the criminal law comes to the public’s attention, a new unit or bureau is often created.

You probably do not need me to tell you that groping someone, without their consent, is illegal. It is a full-fledged sexual assault. Indecent Assault and Battery is a more serious crime than simple assault. And it is treated as such. For example, a conviction carries penalties beyond the actual sentence. For example, the defendant ends up eligible for most states’ sex offender registry. Yes, Massachusetts included.

Unfortunately, cases which attract publicity present areas ripe for abuse…complainant abuse. In other words, it is even more fertile ground for false claims. Let’s say that, tomorrow, someone in a busy underground train yells that someone grabbed them in an inappropriate manner. Let’s say that law enforcement is not on the scene immediately. How to determine who did it? Or, let’s say that you are standing where the groping took place and the finger of accusation points at you? Or, perhaps there was a sudden stop and you did touch the complainant in private place accidentally? Whose version do you think law enforcement will go with?

After all, almost by definition, such a crime would occur surreptitiously, so there are not likely to be other witnesses.

What will look better in the media later that day…that a groper was caught and so the T is safe, or that the police did not feel they had enough to make an arrest?

The point is to be aware of your surroundings. I mean that literally, when in a crowded subway car, but, also, figuratively in terms of criminal justice.

Once again, anyone can be falsely accused of a crime. The odds only go up if you either anger the wrong person or are simply standing in an unfortunate spot at the wrong time. The odds hit new highs if the allegation includes a crime that is currently enjoying a lot of media attention.

Should that happen to you, or if you suspect there is an investigation going on that could result in such an occurrence, seek legal counsel as soon as possible to protect yourself.

NOTE: We regret that there was no Daily Blog yesterday due to internet issues. In the meantime, Happy Inauguration Day!

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