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.

Articles Posted in Illegal Weapons Possession

Following a shooting that occurred at the South Shore Plaza earlier this month, town officials are meeting to discuss how to improve security at the mall. The meeting between South Shore’s General Manager Rick Tonzi, the town’s mayor Joseph Sullivan, and Chief of Police Paul Shastany is not the first of its kind to discuss the incident. On Wednesday, Tonzi refused to attend a meeting of the town council’s public safety committee, emailing the following statement about the policies of the mall’s owner, Simon Property Group: “Simon does not publicly comment on what we do and don’t do on security at South Shore Plaza.”

Tonzi’s failure to attend the town council meeting was met with displeasure by Town Councillor, Charles Kokoros. “I think it’s a little disrespectful to the council and the committee,” he said. The shooting, which occurred in the shoe department of the Macy’s store, is believed to be linked to Boston gang rivalries. According to investigators, previously “neutral” territories have become fair game in these gang wars.”It’s a serious incident and we’re treating it very seriously,” said Sullivan.

A statement from mall management claims that management has a good relationship with the mayor’s office and Braintree police and that it practices joint training exercises with law enforcement “to ensure that all organizations are adequately prepared in emergency response procedures.”

Town Councillors and attorneys for the mall believe that the shooting was an isolated incident that happened in the mall, but not because of the mall. Even so, it’s a grave reminder that previously “safe spaces” can become dangerous if gang activity is not kept in check. “Wherever they encounter, that’s the venue for violence,” said Shastany.

What is the Solution?

Dealing with the underlying issue of gang violence is paramount to improving safety in Boston and the surrounding areas. But this is not a problem that can be eliminated overnight. In the meantime, South Shore Plaza and similar shopping centers can take safety precautions to protect customers and the general public. Kokoros would like to see increased law enforcement presence and security cameras at South Shore Plaza, for instance. Currently, there are three police officers on duty at the mall.

And the argument for more cameras may be a good one. According to Shastany, pictures from the existing security cameras were instrumental in identifying shooting suspect Michael J. Spence. The 24-year-old Quincy man is facing firearms charges for his role in the shooting.

The Rise in Gang Violence

Fortunately, no one was injured in the South Shore Plaza shooting, but gang violence is on the rise in Boston and the surrounding areas. Consider the violent street gang, MS-13, whose motto is “Mata, viola, controla” or kill, rape, control. MS-13 is based in El Salvador and has about 30,000 members worldwide, many in the Boston area. MS-13 targets young people, often as young as 14 or 15. To become a “homeboy” the young person is told to commit a serious crime, sometimes the murder of a rival gang member. If you are worried that a child or loved one has been swept up in this kind of violence and crime, it is in your best interest to contact a MA criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Due to their young ages, gang members may be able to avoid jail time and the more severe penalties reserved for adults. However, without the help of a skilled Boston criminal defense attorney, violent offenders may still be tried as adults. Continue reading

The answer to this question is, it depends on the circumstances. A secret purchase made by one person to obtain a firearm for someone who cannot own a weapon is illegal. This is known as a straw purchase. If the person for whom the gun is being purchased is not disclosed to the seller, the seller is not able to run a background check for the intended owner. As background checks are an important component of the purchasing process, the straw purchase is a big no-no. Guns are dangerous weapons, and trying to evade the rules of ownership can put you behind bars.

But What About Gifts?

Straw purchases are illegal, yes, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always illegal to buy a gun for another person. Let’s say I want to buy a gun for my husband, as a gift. I can do this…but I have to follow guidelines set forth by the law. In Massachusetts, residents are required to report any sale or transfer of a weapon within seven days of the sale or transfer. This applies to gifts as well. Yes, you can purchase a gun as a gift for another person. No, you cannot purchase a gun for someone that you know cannot legally own a gun. In fact, doing so is a federal felony. Even if you didn’t know, but should have known, you can be in hot water. If you’re not 100% confident that the intended recipient can legally own a gun, play it safe. You can always go to a gun retailer, purchase a gift certificate, and give that as the gift.

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 Massachusetts, getting charged with a firearms or weapons offense is serious business. MA is exceedingly tough when it comes to gun laws. This is for obvious reasons; misuse of guns can quickly and easily lead to serious injuries and death. If you have been charged with any type of firearms or weapons offense, it is in your best interest to contact a MA criminal defense attorney immediately. Don’t take these charges lightly; this is not the time to hire a cut-rate lawyer or attempt to represent yourself.

Gun Controversy

Gun laws have been surrounded by controversy for years, and the issue isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. The 2nd Amendment does, indeed, guarantee the right to bear arms, but individual states can regulate use. Massachusetts criminalizes many weapons-related actions, from carrying weapons deemed excessively dangerous to using a silencer. Read on for more information about weapons laws and how they can impact you.

What is a “Dangerous” Weapon?

You can be charged with carrying a dangerous weapon for multiple reasons. Depending on the unique circumstances of your case, you can end up behind bars for more than two-and-a-half years if you’re convicted of this offense. You may be facing these charges for:

  • Possession of a machine gun
  • Possession of a sawed-off shotgun
  • Possession of brass knuckles, throwing stars, or nunchucks
  • Having any type of firearm in your vehicle without the proper permit


Silencers muffle the sound of a gunshot. In MA, it is illegal to sell, use, or possess a silencer. If you are found in violation of this law, you may be facing felony charges.

Carrying a Loaded Gun While Intoxicated

It is a felony to carry a loaded firearm while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or narcotics. If you are facing charges for this type of offense, contact a Boston gun crimes lawyer today.

Carrying a Shotgun or Rifle on Public Grounds

If you are caught carrying one of these types of firearms on public grounds, such as a sidewalk or street, you can face up to two years in prison, if it’s loaded. If the weapon happens to be a loaded “large capacity weapon”, which refers to a semiautomatic weapon with a capacity for multiple rounds, you may be looking at a sentence of up to 10 years. If it’s unloaded, you may be let off with a fine.

Committing a Felony While in Possession of a Firearm

Committing a felony is bad. Committing a felony while you have a gun in your pocket is even worse. For a first offense, you will likely receive a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. Second and subsequent offenses carry a minimum of 20 years in prison. And this is in addition to penalties associated with the underlying felony. Bottom line – don’t commit a felony, and definitely don’t commit a felony while carrying a gun. Continue reading

Usually, a stroll to the local CVS Pharmacy is something that you can assume will be non-eventful.

Not in Stoughton. Not last week.

Last week, three kids allegedly entered a Stoughton CVS, had words with another teen and then shot him.

In Twelve Step programs, one of the steps to recovery is to “make amends” to people you have wronged. Well, while I am not involved in such a program at present, I do owe you, my readers, an amends. I left you hanging during the police cam festivities, hinting that I was going to be returning to shining the light of truth on that notorious department…the Department of Children and Families.

Well, the police cam controversy is over for now and I will wait a bit longer before I return to the truth of …Them. Instead, let’s look at a more recent criminal case about which you should be aware.

Especially given the fact that we are probably going to be inundated with data from the police cams.

It involves a criminal appeal which, lo and behold, actually recognizes a particular reality  which we have discussed many times in this blog.

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Well, last week was supposed to house “the day”. Police Body Cam Day. Certain Boston Police Officers were to be dragged, apparently screaming and kicking, into the controversial body-cam pilot program.

As you may recall, this was going to be a voluntary selection. To sweeten the experience, the Department even offered a sizable financial bonus to said volunteers.

Not enough though.

Despite expectations that the blue-clad folks who claim to always act according to the great trust we place on them…no such volunteers showed up, according to the Boston Herald.

You might find this somewhat surprising. After all, the police and prosecutors often take the position that they cannot understand why folks would be afraid to be videotaped in the outside world…unless they are doing something wrong. Similarly, they cannot comprehend why one would not run to the police if they are the victim of a crime (as in the “first reporter is the victim” scenario we have discussed).

They regularly intimate to civilians that, if they feel they cannot simply be candid, and need unnecessary and evil creatures like defense attorneys present, then they must have something to hide.

After all, of course, as one attorney who regularly represents officers tells us, “Officers usually do the right thing, so they should get it on film.”

Sounds reasonable enough.


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Take family dynamics, guns, drugs and a bail hearing and you never know what you will come out with.

Well, actually, folks at Dorchester municipal court last Monday found out.

Pedro Valdez, 33, and Lasonia Gathers, 27, (collectively the “Defendants”) were arrested over last weekend on felony drug and weapons charges after a search of a Dorchester home uncovered measuring scales, multiple plastic bags containing heroin and cocaine, and a loaded semi-automatic handgun inside a child’s bassinet, according to police.

For those who may not know, there are strict rules for safely keeping firearms. A child’s bassinet does not qualify as a safe place.

For an number of obvious reasons, many of which are probably self evident.
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The holidays can be a stressful time.

There are certain do’s and don’ts that we have many times discussed as to ways in which one can release the pressure.

For example, going to a therapist or a close friend to discuss the emotional turmoil you are facing is a good one.

Taking out a handgun in public and pointing it at someone’s head tends to be a bad one.
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Well, the trial of 26-year-old Michael Stallings from Boston (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) is over. While it ended in a conviction, the defense is likely counting it as a “win”.

The Defendant was acquitted of the top count, Murder in the First Degree, but convicted on the lesser charges of Involuntary Manslaughter and gun possession.

The facts arose out of a sadly frequent scene we have all heard about. Gang violence. Gang warfare.

The Defendant claims that someone from a rival gang began shooting at him on a street in January 2012. The Defendant fired back into a crowd of people. His spray of bullets did not hit anybody, but obviously caused some folks to flee.

One of said “folks” was Kelvin Rowell. He was 40 years old and at the proverbial “wrong place, wrong time”. No connection to the gang violence.

He did have asthma though.
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