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 Juvenile Crimes

Tim Piazza, a 19-year-old sophomore at Penn State University, died last year due to injuries sustained in a hazing incident. The Beta Theta Pi fraternity, which was supposed to be alcohol-free due to a previous suspension, led Piazza and several other pledges through a hazing ritual dubbed “the gauntlet.” Surveillance videos show a heavily-intoxicated Piazza falling several times throughout the night, including once down a flight of stairs. In total, 18 Beta Theta Pi members were criminally charged for their involvement in Piazza’s death.

In September, Judge Allen Sinclair threw out several charges against fraternity members, including some of the most serious. But last week, Pennsylvania District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller refiled some of those charges, including those for involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault. “Today we refiled the previously dismissed charges for Tim Piazza’s unnecessary death,” said Parks Miller. A Boston criminal defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime.

Piazza’s family believes that the reckless behavior of the defendants was directly responsible for the death of their son. According to their official statement, the fraternity brothers abandoned Piazza when they realized he was in “dire trouble.” In addition to seeking justice for their son, the family also wants to ensure that this type of behavior is stopped.

“Had it not been for the crimes committed that night, Tim would be with us today,” said Piazza’s family in the statement. “This is about bringing justice to a group of individuals who felt they were above the law and entitled to abuse and torture others because it was ‘tradition.’ This is also about justice for Tim and making a statement that this behavior is not acceptable and cannot be allowed to continue to harm others.”

Are Universities Responsible?

In one of recent history’s largest criminal cases against a fraternity, 18 members of Beta Theta Pi were charged in more than 1,000 counts. Piazza’s death has prompted a nationwide discussion about university oversight of fraternities. Penn State claims it was not responsible for enforcing the fraternity’s prohibition on alcohol, and has since banned the chapter from the campus.

“This is a huge challenge because we don’t own the houses, we don’t own the property, we aren’t the national organization governing fraternities,” said Penn State’s president, Eric Barron.

In addition to the aforementioned felony charges, other charges against fraternity members include reckless endangerment, tampering with evidence, furnishing alcohol, and hazing. A MA defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with any type of crime.

University Crack Down

The Piazza case is just one of several deadly hazing rituals at U.S. colleges and universities in recent years. Deaths at Baruch College, Fresno State University and Northern Illinois University, among others, may have been chalked up to “boys being boys” in years past. But each of these hazing-related deaths has resulted in criminal charges. Institutions of higher learning are also cracking down on binge drinking and sexual assault, banning hundreds of fraternity chapters from operating on campus, and prohibiting freshman from pledging at all. Continue reading

On September 14, an 18-year-old college student from Roswell, Georgia was killed during a hazing incident at Louisiana State University. Maxwell Gruver died of complications related to acute alcohol intoxication while trying to join Phi Delta Theta. Students hoping to be accepted into a particular fraternity or sorority are called pledges. When pledging a fraternity or sorority, the student will likely have to attend mandatory meetings, social activities, and other events. Hazing, however, should not be a requirement.

Hazing is frowned upon by most colleges and universities, and in many cases, it’s criminal. Hazing is an action or situation intended to make the pledge uncomfortable. It is generally reckless, and can endanger the student’s mental or physical health. In the case above, witnesses claim that Gruver was made to drink at least 10 “pulls” of hard liquor on the evening before his death. According to officials, the freshman’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.495 percent, more than six times Louisiana’s legal limit for driving.

Felony Negligent Homicide Charge

Ten people were arrested for misdemeanor hazing that lead to Gruver’s death. One of those arrested, Patrick Forde, is from Westwood, Massachusetts. Another defendant, Matthew Alexander Naquin, is facing a felony negligent homicide charge for his role in Gruver’s death. According to witnesses, Naquin disliked Gruver. He targeted the young pledge, forcing him to drink more than everyone else.

The morning after the hazing incident, fraternity members found Gruver lying on a couch, and were unsure if he was breathing. He was rushed to Baton Route hospital, where he later died. All of the 10 suspects, ages 18 to 21, were Phi Delta Theta members. The LSU chapter has been closed by the fraternity’s national office.

‘‘The ramifications of hazing can be devastating,’’ said LSU President F. King Alexander. ‘‘Maxwell Gruver’s family will mourn his loss for the rest of their lives, and several other students are now facing serious consequences – all due to a series of poor decisions.’’ A MA defense attorney can help you determine how to move forward if you’ve been charged with hazing, or any other criminal offense.

Criminal Penalties for Hazing

Many universities have policies specifically banning hazing. Further, the dangerous ritual can result in criminal penalties, including up to 30 days in jail. And negligent homicide can carry a penalty of five years in prison. Despite the consequences, some fraternity and sorority chapters still engage in hazing. In February, a Penn State student was killed in an alcohol-related hazing incident involving the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. To date, 14 of that fraternity’s members are facing criminal charges in that student’s death.

Investigators working on the LSU hazing case are studying text messages, and have learned of possible videos. They have also gathered additional evidence, including a bag containing a “pledge test.” A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you have been charged with hazing, or any other crime. Continue reading

If you are caring for a child – whether your own or someone else’s – you have a legal responsibility to keep that child away from unreasonably harmful or dangerous situations. If you put a child in an unhealthy, inappropriate, or dangerous situation, or you don’t intervene to help remove a child from such a situation, you may be charged with child endangerment. In MA, child endangerment is a serious crime with equally serious consequences.

Children are vulnerable. As adults, it is our responsibility to protect them to the best of our abilities. Child endangerment, abuse, and neglect are punished harshly, and being convicted of any of these crimes can bring a lifetime of consequences. In addition to imprisonment and hefty fines, crimes related to child welfare can ruin your reputation, and negatively impact your ability to get a job or find housing for the rest of your life. Prosecutors can be especially aggressive when it comes to child endangerment cases; nobody wants to go easy on someone who harmed an innocent child. For this reason, child endangerment charges often get blown out of proportion.

OUI with a Child in the Vehicle

One of the most common types of child endangerment charges involves a parent who is arrested for OUI with a child in the vehicle. We all know that drunk driving is illegal, and that doing so with a child is even worse. But people make mistakes…even parents. Let’s say, for example, that Stacy goes to a friend’s house for dinner. She takes her four-year-old twins, Nolan and Chloe. Stacy has two glasses of wine with dinner, knowing that she’ll be fine to drive after a big meal and the passing of several hours. But Stacy’s mom calls from the hospital; she’s having heart palpitations. Stacy scoops up the twins and rushes to the hospital. In a panic, she fails to come to a complete stop at a stop sign and gets pulled over. The officer smells alcohol on Stacy’s breath, and asks her to get out of the vehicle. Stacy submits to a breath test, which registers a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.09. Stacy is arrested for OUI and winds up facing additional charges for child endangerment.
Common Types of Child Endangerment

The point of the story above is not that Stacy didn’t do anything wrong. She did. Rather, it is to illustrate that even a good parent can make a mistake that endangers a child. In the above case, the prosecution may paint a very different picture of Stacy. Over-dramatizing child endangerment cases is very effective for the prosecution. For this reason, it is crucial to work with a highly-experienced Boston criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with child endangerment or a similar crime. Common types of child endangerment include:

  • OUI with a child in the vehicle
  • Failure to properly secure a child in a moving vehicle (car seat, seat belt, etc.)
  • Exposing a child to drug use, manufacturing, or distribution
  • Failure to properly secure firearms in the presence of a child
  • Leaving a young child without supervision
  • Engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child

The interesting thing about child endangerment laws is that they are intended to punish behavior that could harm a child, but a child doesn’t need to be harmed for a conviction to occur. For example, if loaded firearms are kept in reach of a child, the responsible adult could be convicted of child endangerment even the child never touched one of the firearms. Of course, cases involving actual harm will generally be punished more severely than those that do not result in injury. A MA defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with child endangerment.

Intent is also considered when determining punishment in a child endangerment case. If the adult did not intend for the child to be exposed to the harmful situation, the penalties will likely be less severe than if he had. That being said, intent is not necessary to convict someone of child endangerment. As long as a reasonable person would have realized that the situation was dangerous, that is generally enough to convict. For example, leaving a young child in a car unattended can be a form of child endangerment. However, leaving a child in an air-conditioned car for five minutes is very different from leaving a child in a hot car for 45 minutes. In the first scenario, a reasonable person wouldn’t necessarily consider the situation to be dangerous, whereas most reasonable people would find the second scenario to be dangerous. Continue reading

According to Boston police, MIT’s Phi Delta Theta fraternity house was being “operated as a nightclub” on Sunday night, complete with a DJ and strobe lights. The fraternity failed to obtain the City of Boston License Division’s approval, but the problems don’t stop there. Underage drinking, a waterfall pouring down a marble staircase, and other hazardous conditions have resulted in the issuance of a violation to the fraternity’s president.

The inspection of the premises came after Boston police saw a “line of approximately 40 college-aged persons awaiting entry” into the fraternity house. During the inspection, detectives talked to a fraternity member who was stationed at the front door to record the number of people inside the building. When asked by police, he responded that there were 116 people inside.

Staircase Waterfalls and Underage Drinking

On Monday, four men who were initially charged with murder pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter for the 2013 hazing death of would-be fraternity brother, Chun Hsien Deng. The 18-year-old student died at a weekend retreat for potential Baruch College members of the Pi Delta Psi, an Asian-American fraternity.

In December 2013, Deng traveled to a rental house in the Poconos for a hazing ritual that – according to a statement by Baruch College – would never have been allowed on campus. In the early morning hours, Deng was forced to strap a heavily-weighted backpack to his back, put on a blindfold, and follow other pledges through the so-called “glass ceiling,” a symbol of the Asian-American plight. According to a grand jury report, Deng became defiant, speaking out of turn and kicking one of the fraternity members. In response, the fraternity members became physically aggressive with their pledge, knocking him to the ground and, eventually, rendering him unconscious.

When the fraternity members realized Deng had lost consciousness, they carried him inside, laid him in front of a fireplace, and attempted to revive him. When his breathing became labored, instead of calling for medical help, they started googling phrases such as “concussion can’t wake up,” and even called a national fraternity official, who advised them to hide anything bearing the fraternity’s symbol.

An adult who persuades or helps a minor commit an act of juvenile delinquency may be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor (CDM). In MA, a minor is anyone under the age of 18. Juvenile delinquency is generally a criminal offense committed by a minor. Examples of CDM crimes include:

  • Serving alcohol to a minor
  • Purchasing alcohol for a minor
  • Using illegal drugs in the presence of a minor
  • Engaging in sexual acts with a minor
  • Showing pornographic material to a minor
  • Exposing minors to prostitution, sex trafficking, or any type of sexual exploitation
  • Exposing minors to any type of illegal conduct or activity

In some of the above scenarios, a person charged with CDM may face additional charges. For example, if you provide alcohol to a minor, you may be charged with CDM and providing alcohol to individuals under age 21, as well. An experienced MA defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’re facing CDM charges.

Penalties for a CDM Conviction

As with most crimes, the severity of the underlying offense and past criminal history factor heavily when determining punishment for CDM crimes. Chapter 119 / Section 63 of Massachusetts Law states that: “Any person who shall be found to have caused, induced, abetted, or encouraged or contributed toward the delinquency of a child, or to have acted in any way tending to cause or induce such delinquency, may be punished by a fine of not more than $500 or by imprisonment of not more than one year, or both.” That being said, there are widely varying levels of severity when it comes to CDM charges. A mother who provides alcohol for her 16-year-old son’s after-prom party is likely to receive very different treatment from a 50-year old gym teacher who is caught showing pornography to middle school students.
It is a crime to aid a minor’s act of delinquency in any state. However, in order for an individual’s conduct to be considered an act of CDM, certain elements must be present. An adult must have committed an act that caused a minor to become delinquent. In some cases, an adult can also be charged with CDM if his or her failure to perform a duty caused a minor to become delinquent. And the minor doesn’t even have to actually commit the act for charges to be filed. For instance, if an adult buys marijuana for a minor but the minor never uses it, the adult can still be charged with CDM.

Exceptions to CDM

Certain acts are not always considered a crime. For example, although it is illegal to give alcohol to someone under the age of 21, there are some exceptions. In MA, for instance, it is not a crime for a parent to share a glass of wine with a teenage child in a restaurant. A Boston criminal defense lawyer can help you build a solid defense if you’ve been charged with CDM. Continue reading

A recent study found that many school zones, nationwide, have higher-than-average crime rates. Boston is no exception. But which school zone in Boston is considered the most dangerous? That would be the Roxbury-area school zone surrounding the James P. Timilty Middle School. The zone, which forms a 300-foot radius around the school, was the scene of more than 280 crimes from 2015 to 2017, according to research conducted by Safe Home, a security company that compiles crime data from Boston and several other US cities.

It’s not all bad news; crime in Boston school zones is on the decline. But certain areas are experiencing a disproportionate level of crime around schools. The Boston area’s top five “dangerous school zones” racked up a total of 149 assaults, 147 drug or alcohol crimes, 138 robberies, and 88 gun crimes, all within feet of elementary, middle, and high schools. In addition to Boston, Safe Home analyzed school zone crime in Baton Rouge, Los Angeles, Louisiana, New York City, and Seattle. A MA defense lawyer can help you get your life back on track if you’ve been charged with any type of crime.

Is My Kid’s School Zone on the List?

The school zones in Boston with the highest rates of crime are:

  • James P. Timilty Middle School
  • Codman Academy Charter School (Upper)
  • Holy Name Parish School
  • Dearborn STEM Academy
  • Jeremiah E. Burke High School
  • Boston University
  • Kennedy Day School
  • Pauline A Shaw Elementary School
  • William Monroe Trotter
  • Holmes Elementary School

Enhanced Sentencing for Crimes Committed in School Zones

To compile this information, Safe Home gathered crime data from the U.S. City Open Data Census and cross-referenced it with the geolocations of associated school zones. This high incidence of crime within school zones is even more perplexing given the enhanced penalties for committing crimes within 300 feet of a school. In MA, for example, a person convicted of distributing illicit drugs in a school zone is subject to additional penalties than if the act occurred in a non-school zone. This is even true if the school is not in session. The enhanced sentence for school zone drug crimes in MA is not less than 2.5 years, and up to 15 years in prison, and it carries a fine of up to $10,000.

To be convicted of a “school zone” crime, the offense must have taken place:

  • Within 300 feet of a school.
  • Between the hours of 5:00 am and midnight.
  • Within 100 feet of a playground or public park.

Although Boston’s hardest-hit school zones are experiencing a concerning level of criminal activity, it pales in comparison to the other cities in the study. In fact, one school zone in Seattle racked up more than 3,000 crimes in 2016 alone. A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime in a school zone. Continue reading

In Massachusetts, if you damage, destroy, or vandalize another’s property, you may receive a criminal citation or charge for malicious damage. This type of property damage can include keying a car, graffiti, or even breaking things while involved in a domestic argument. The charge you may be facing following this type of offense is largely dependent on your intentions when you caused the damage. Although a criminal citation may not seem like a serious consequence, keep in mind that it will still result in a criminal record. And a criminal record can negatively impact you for years, potentially affecting your ability to find a job or housing.

If you hire a skilled MA defense attorney to defend you against a malicious damage charge, your attorney may be able to get the charge dropped in exchange for paying for damages. This will help you to avoid a criminal record and will keep you out of jail. If, however, the charge is not dropped, you may still be eligible for pretrial probation or a pretrial hearing. Both of these options will also keep your record clean.

Penalties for Malicious Damage

Penalties vary based on several factors, including the unique circumstances of the charge and any prior criminal history. However, the guidelines below will give you a good idea of what penalties you may be facing if you are charged with malicious damage.

If you “willfully and maliciously” committed the act for which you are being charged, you could face:

  • Up to 10 years in prison.
  • Fines of up to $3,000 or up to three times the cost of the damage (whichever is greater).

If you “wantonly” committed the act for which you are being charged, you may face:

  • Up to two-and-a-half years in jail.
  • Fines of up to $1,500 or up to three times the cost of the damage (whichever is greater).

“Willful and malicious” means that you intended to cause damage, whereas “wanton” means the damage was caused because you acted carelessly. In either case, if you caused less than $250 in damage, you may still face up to two-and-a-half months in jail and up to three times the cost of the damage.

Protected Property Types

The guidelines above are fairly straightforward unless the property in question is of a certain, protected class. For example, damaging a church generally carriers stiffer penalties than damaging an abandoned building. The types of property below carry a more serious charge, due to their sacred or special nature. You may face a felony charge if you are convicted of destroying or vandalizing any of the following property types:

  • School or educational facility
  • Community center
  • Church
  • Mosque
  • Synagogue
  • House of worship
  • Cemetery
  • Memorial

If you are charged with defacing or destroying any of the above property types, it is essential that you contact a Boston defense attorney immediately. If the damage is valued at more than $5,000, you may find yourself in prison for up to five years. If it’s less than $5,000, you could still face jail time of up to two-and-a-half years and pay fines of up to three times the cost of the damage you caused. Furthermore, a felony charge on your record could haunt you for decades. Don’t make the mistake of hiring the wrong attorney if you are facing charges for malicious damage. Continue reading

Court records are public domain. Essentially that means that anyone with a few bucks to spend can access your criminal record, arrests, and even your mug shot. An expungement is a process in Massachusetts whereby these records are sealed. Although criminal records are not erased, they become inaccessible to the public, which includes potential employers and landlords. Read on for more information about expungements, if you are eligible to have a prior conviction or arrest expunged, and how to accomplish this liberating task.

If you were arrested but found not guilty, an expungement is a relatively easy process. You can file for an expungement, which will prevent the record of your arrest from being viewed by the public. It will also prevent the record from showing up in an employment or housing background check. If you were convicted, however, things get a bit more complicated. If you have been charged with a crime, contact a MA defense attorney today.

Misdemeanor vs. Felony

If the conviction was for a misdemeanor offense, you can file for an expungement once five years have passed without another conviction. Basically, your record has to remain spotless. If you were convicted of a felony, however, the “spotless record” period increases to 10 years. And much is dependent on the underlying offense. If you were convicted of an OUI, the likelihood of an expungement is good. If it was a sexual offense, you must wait at least 15 years and the process becomes extremely complex. If you are considering getting a felony offense expunged from your record, contact a Boston criminal defense lawyer today.

The Process

Clearing your record of prior arrests and convictions can have an immensely positive impact on your life. No longer will you be filled with anxiety every time you apply for a job, housing, or even a loan. A positive outcome calls for experienced legal counsel. In theory, you can apply for an expungement on your own, but it is highly inadvisable. A minor error can be the difference between a clean record and a mistake that continues to haunt you for years.

Step one is to file a “Petition to Seal” with the District Court from which the case originated. This can include documents that support your petition, including disadvantages arising from public access to your record, evidence of rehabilitation, and other relevant evidence and circumstances. The next steps include:

  • Preliminary review of your petition: Once filed, the District Court judge will begin to review your petition. If you meet the preliminary requirements for expungement, you will be notified of a court hearing date. If you do not meet the preliminary requirements, you will be notified in writing.
  • Hearing: The purpose of the hearing is to give you an opportunity to tell the court why your record should be expunged. If you hire an attorney, in addition to filing all paperwork above, he or she can speak on your behalf at the hearing.
  • Decision: At the conclusion of your hearing, you will either be given an immediate decision or the judge will take the case under advisement. If the latter, you will be notified by mail of the final decision.
  • Appeals: If the initial decision is not favorable, you can appeal with the MA Appeals Court.

Continue reading

Most parents understand that it is illegal to provide minors with alcohol, even at a well-controlled, responsible party held at their home. Of course, some still choose to do it. But what if kids consume alcohol in your home without your knowledge? Can you still get in trouble? If you ask Stanford Professor Bill Burnett, who was arrested on 44 counts of contributing to the delinquency of minors in 2012, he would likely give you a resounding yes. Burnett and his wife claim to have provided chips and soda for the kids before going to bed only to be woken up hours later when cops responded to a complaint of underage drinking.

Although Burnett claims to have told his son that absolutely no alcohol was permitted, he was charged under social host laws for each of the 44 teens in attendance at his son’s party that night. Each charge was a misdemeanor offense with penalties of jail time and up to $2,000 in fines. About 18 states have social host liability laws, and Massachusetts is one of them. Social host laws prohibit serving or providing access to alcohol to minors, but simply being present in a home where minors are imbibing – even if you are unaware – may result in legal consequences. In fact, parents may even face criminal charges if they weren’t home during an alcohol-infused teen party. If you are facing charges for providing alcohol to a minor, contact a Boston criminal defense lawyer today.

As stated in Massachusetts General Law Chapter 138 section 34:

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