Articles Posted in Federal Crimes

In December, 2016, Massachusetts joined the growing list of states who have passed the  legalization of recreational marijuana. As in the other states, recreational use is still illegal at the federal level, but the Department of Justice has been fairly hands-off, up until now. The Trump administration may increase federal enforcement of these laws, creating an uncertain future for recreational marijuana use in MA. If after reading this post you are still unsure about how these potential changes may impact you, consult with a Boston criminal defense attorney.

In a recent White House press conference, spokesperson Sean Spicer said the new administration is likely to play a bigger role in the enforcement of federal marijuana regulations. “I do believe you’ll see greater enforcement of it,” said Spicer. “Because again there’s a big difference between the medical use … that’s very different than the recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into.” He then went on to link marijuana use to opioid addiction:

“I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people, there’s still a federal law that we need to abide by in terms of … when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.”

Federal Law Trumps State Law

These statements from the White House, along with the appointment of the new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions (an outspoken opponent of legalization) may indicate less leniency for recreational pot smokers in the coming months. When federal and state laws are in conflict, federal law takes the cake. As a Schedule 1 drug under federal law, marijuana possession and sales are still illegal at the federal level. A MA drug defense lawyer can help you determine if you’re at risk of criminal penalties.

Of course, cracking down on recreational pot use in states that have legalized it would be highly unpopular. Quinnipiac University recently conducted a survey and found that more than 70 percent of Americans do not agree with federal enforcement in states that have legalized recreational and medical marijuana. This may bode well for the future of federal enforcement, but only time will tell. Spicer failed to provide details about what an enforcement would actually look like. More optimistic folks hope that it will focus on illegal exportation to other states. “The biggest crackdown we may see is on the increase of cannabis being illegally exported out of recreational states,” said Nate Bradley, of the California Cannabis Industry Association. Let’s hope he’s right. Continue reading

Last week, police announced the seizure of 83 guns, with 10,000 rounds of ammo and a Nazi helmet from the house of a Massachusetts man. Robert Ivarson, 49, of Lexington, is facing civil rights and harassment charges for allegedly littering the driveway of a black family with banana peels. Following the discovery of the weapons arsenal, Ivarson is facing 13 new charges. In addition to the guns and ammo, law enforcement also found 50 pounds of black powder in the man’s residence.

Ivarson faces multiple counts of possession of a firearm without a license, possession of ammunition without a license, and possession of a large-capacity feeding device. He also faces one count of being an armed career criminal. According to investigators, Ivarson was under video surveillance at the time of the banana incident. He allegedly threw the peels onto the victim’s property on three consecutive days. According to CBS, Ivarson is currently on house arrest, facing hate crime charges. He will be arraigned for the weapons charges this week. If you’ve been charged with any type of criminal offense, contact a Boston defense attorney today.

Hate Crimes

According to Massachusetts state Attorney General Maura Healey, there has been an increase in reports of harassment of minorities, immigrants, and Muslims since the election. In response, Healey created a hotline for MA residents to report hate crimes.  “This is just about making sure that people understand that we’re going to protect their rights, we’re going to work to protect their safety, and there is no place for  bias-motivated threats, harassment or violence anywhere here in Massachusetts,” said Healey.

Hate Crime Punishment

So, what is the punishment for a hate crime in Massachusetts? And what constitutes a hate crime? Generally speaking, a hate crime is a traditional crime that is motivated by a bias toward a person who is a member of a protected group. For example, throwing a rock threw a random window is a crime, but not a hate crime. If, however, the rock is thrown into the window because the occupant is black, gay, Muslim, or a member of another protected group, it is probably a hate crime.

In the state of MA, there are three elements to a hate crime:

  • Underlying crime: This can be property damage, assault, or battery.
  • Intent: The act must not have been an accident. Rather, the offender must have acted to intimidate or threaten the victim.
  • Victim’s protected status: Protected status includes race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or gender identity.

Generally speaking, hate crimes are prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office. In some cases, however, the defendant may be prosecuted civilly instead of criminally, or in addition to criminal charges. If you’ve been charged with any type of crime, contact a Boston criminal defense lawyer today. Continue reading

In my last blog, we discussed the case of two gentlemen who were taken into custody at Logan Airport and are facing heavy drug charges. They were arraigned in state court,

The cases are unlikely to stay there, though.

While they are currently in district court, they are likely to be indicted and prosecuted either in state superior court or federal district court.

Or, at least one of them is.

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 We have discussed a number of cases during which law enforcement is paying a great deal of attention on what is going on in the country’s airports. No, not simply for cases of potential terrorists.

The last one, this weekend, involved trafficking.

Narcotics trafficking.

On Saturday, the authorities say that two Pennsylvania men tried smuggling six kilograms of cocaine through Logan International Airport by stuffing bricks of the drug into the lining of their bags. This made the lining unusually heavy, according to police, which made the bag suspicious.

Ezra Mendez, 19, and Erick Domingues-Santos, 25, both of Allentown, Pa., and hereinafter collectively, the “Defendants”, were set to appear in East Boston District Court yesterday to face charges of trafficking in cocaine and conspiring to violate drug laws.

The Defendants, arriving on a flight from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Saturday morning, tried passing through customs 10 minutes apart, each carrying a black roller bag, according to state police according to the Boston Herald

When airport workers noticed an “abnormality” in the bags during the screening process, they emptied the totes, which had a thicker bottom liner than usual and felt “unusually heavy,” state police said.

This undoubtedly raised suspicions even higher given that “false bottom” bags are a common way by which contraband is often secreted.

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At the end of last week, the United States Attorney’s office issued a press release. The posting of it, as we have discussed in the past, as recently as last week, is apparently deemed necessary in LawenforcementLand to let us know that they are doing their job and arresting people.

Whether those people turn out to be guilty, of course, is another issue. In the meantime, of course, they will be presumed innocent…and assumed guilty.

To be fair, though, the federal prosecutor’s office generally gets the convictions that they are after.

As I recall, this was released around the same time I was getting posts on my IPhone that they were trying to find some gang member who apparently had escaped from federal custody. Yes, that would be the same office.

But I digress.

According to the release, two gentlemen from Cambridge were among 56 alleged “MS-13” gang members, leaders and associates who were taken into custody by law enforcement Friday morning.
Erick Argueta Larios, aka “Lobo,” 31, and Herzzon Sandoval, aka “Casper,” 34, both of Cambridge, had been indicted on federal racketeering conspiracy charges.
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A Stoughton gent, I think we will soon hear, had a wacky sense of humor Unfortunately, it was not shared by those around him. In fact, what he apparently found clever was something that most of us find rather disturbing.

As a result, Mr. Anthony Rae, 24 and hereinafter, the “Defendant”, is a current involuntary guest of the United States Government. He has been arrested for sending bizarre bomb threats to various locations. According to the United States Attorney’s office, these included various academic institutions.

The Defendant was not exactly the picture of stealth according to the prosecution. They say that he hacked into his mother’s email and sent some of them from there.

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As we leavebehind July 4th weekend, we pause to think of those without liberty.

This is a criminal lawyer’s blog, so that means incarcerated persons.

Take 53-year-old Middle School Teacher Scott Peeler (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) for example. No, he has not been convicted of anything. He has been accused though. So, particularly in the federal criminal justice system, that is enough to lock him up.

Without bail, for now.
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As you know, I have been ensconced in the criminal justice system since the early 1980’s. One of the perks of being around so long, and being fairly successful, is that various media outlets often contact me to discuss some development in criminal justice. They know that I am a former prosecutor, have been a Boston criminal lawyer since 1990 and have handled several high profile cases. Last Friday, I was approached by various radio stations from Boston, Toronto and San Francisco.

They wanted to discuss the federal jury’s sentencing decision on the multi-murder case of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (hereinafter, the “Defendant”).

In case you missed it, the jurors unanimously suggested that the Defendant be put to death. Reports on the verdict, as well as more analysis than you could possibly want, abound throughout the media. One such article printed just after the verdict can be found in the Boston Globe, Jurors Did Not Believe Sympathetic Narrative About Tsarnaev.

Opinions abound as to why the jury found as it did, especially since they did so much quicker than most people expected.
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Juries are often criticized in this country when folks don’t like the verdict they deliver. In my experience, though, jurors are not some ignorant bundle of jello-wobbling mindlessly from side to side during the trial, just waiting to pop out a verdict for the side with more money. In my experience, jurors try quite hard to deliver the verdict which rings true to them.

There is not much more we can expect from them.

The jurors in the federal multi-murder matter of convicted Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) are now struggling with grappling a verdict which may be the most difficult of all. It is literally a life or death decision.

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As any regular reader of this blog knows, the idea that law enforcement, including prosecutors, and the truth, go their separate ways at times is sad, but true.

One of the more often cited examples is contained in a dissent opinion of Chief Judge Alex Kolinsky of the United States Appeals Court for the 9th Circuit. It was in the federal matter of United States v. Olsen.

The issue was the turning over of Brady material to the defense. Brady material is material which the prosecution discoveres which is actually evidence which exculpates a criminal defendant. The law is clear that such material must be turned over to the defense post haste. This is because the prosecutor’s job is not simply to get a conviction…it is to do justice.

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