Massachusetts Juvenile And Adult Turn To Weapons And Assaults To Handle Emotional Issues

Where do people learn such animosity?

Today’s daily blog involves two stories that have to do with dysfunctional family situations. We start with a story from Brockton, Massachusetts, where a 15-year old juvenile (hereinafter, “Juvenile Defendant”) now faces charges for an apparent “teddybearicide”.

Now a guest of the Commonwealth, at least until Thursday, Juvenile Defendant has thus far been charged with possessing an explosive device and disturbing the peace. Additional charges may be forthcoming.

It all began Monday evening when local police and the state police bomb squad responded to a 911 call reporting a potential explosive device that had been attached to a teddy bear and left on Florence Street that afternoon, a fire official said.

“It was a plastic bottle that had a solution inside the bottle that was mixed in a way that, after a period of time, it would explode,” Deputy Fire Chief George Phillips said. “A teddy bear was wrapped around the plastic bottle and it was left in the street.”

A representative from the state fire marshal’s office also responded, Phillips said.
It took authorities about 30 minutes to detonate the device with a robotic machine designed to disarm explosives, Phillips said.

No one was injured, but neighbors were outraged. “A kid could walk up the street — a little girl, little boy — pick it up, and that’s the end of it,” said Brady Golson, a concerned neighbor. “It’s ridiculous.”

“I’m not sure why he did this,” said Juvenile Defendant’s mother. “I didn’t raise him like this. So I don’t understand why he would have gone to this extent to get attention, if that’s what you want to call it, if that’s why he did it.”

If it was an attempt to get attention, he may have been screaming for it awhile now. Four other such homemade bombs had been found on Sunday. Without the accompanying teddy bear, that is.

Police are investigating the potential connection between the Sunday and Monday explosives.

In the meantime, Juvenile Defendant is reported as saying that he had done it because he did not like the teddy bear.

So, as I said in the beginning…where does a kid learn such animosity? Especially to a teddy bear?

Well, let’s look for a role model (albeit involved with a different family).

Also on Monday, a New Bedford not-so-cozy family scene erupted. There, authorities are holding a man they say deliberately crashed his car into a telephone pole to hurt his girlfriend’s children as he took them to school.

Noberto F. (hereinafter, “Adult Defendant”), is said to have had an argument with the mother of a 15-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy who were in the car with a 14-year-old friend. Apparently, wanting to “show her”, he allegedly intentionally smashed the car into the pole with the kids in the car.

Investigators said Adult Defendant never makes the kids wear seat-belts. In fact, he does not wear them either.

Usually, that is.

Apparently, he suddenly put on his seat belt just before hitting the gas, driving across a lane of oncoming traffic, and slamming into a telephone pole. The car caught fire.

Police said the children were treated at a hospital for non-life threatening injuries after the crash on Monday.

Adult Defendant’s attorney said his client maintains the crash was an accident that happened as he swerved to avoid hitting two children in the road.

Currently a guest of the Commonwealth, Adult Defendant is currently charged with three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and one count of negligent operation of a motor vehicle. He is being held without bail and faces a dangerousness hearing on Thursday. When/if he gets out of custody, he is ordered to keep away from children.

Samuel’s take:

The holiday season is known to be an emotional time, especially for families. I remember when I was a prosecutor in Brooklyn years ago, handling murder cases. It was known that during Christmas, there would be an upswing in homicide calls rather than what one might expect to be a “quiet night”.

It is not Christmas yet, of course, but the holiday season has begun. The above stories do seem to reveal a certain amount of…stress.

Let’s assume that Juvenile Defendant’s alleged explosive play was not simply aimed at getting back at the teddy bear he is said not to like. His mom’s theory seems logical. Of course, we do not know the extent of the evidence linking him to the earlier explosives…although his mom appears to be ready to accept his guilt, although she is “not sure” why he did it. Seems to be just looking for attention, she figures.

Well, psychology is not my expertise. I generally get involved after the psychological issues have gone awry. They are alleged to have done so in this case.

You might be a bit surprised that Juvenile Defendant could be held before his upcoming hearing with a judge. It happens. However, juveniles are not housed with adults. Usually, instead of the Department of Corrections, the youth is held by the Department of Youth Services. If sentenced to incarceration, a juvenile’s custody is given to the same agency, which loses jurisdiction of him when he becomes an adult.

Often, custody of a juvenile is given to the parent, at least while the case is pending. We do not know what, if any, prior record Juvenile Defendant may have had before this arrest. However, it would appear that his mom was not considered sufficient under these circumstances.

It should also be noted that additional charges may be forthcoming in this case.

The aim of the juvenile justice system is somewhat different than adult court. The aim, as one would hope, is more focused on “saving” the juvenile and preventing an ongoing life of crime. There are cases in which the Commonwealth can prosecute a juvenile in adult court, however. The focus of the adult court is not quite the same.

And they sentence to jail and state prison.

Speaking of adult prison, let’s turn to Adult Defendant.

You may be wondering what weapon he is charged with using. The weapon is the car. In Massachusetts, anything can be a “dangerous weapon” if used as one. Often it is a “shod foot”, which is legalese for “shoe”. Here, he used the car for the assault, and so it became a weapon.

Under Massachusetts law, a criminal defendant may be held without bail pending a “dangerousness hearing”. This is an exception to the usual concerns involving bail. The issue of bail is supposed to be whether the defendant is likely to appear at court dates. The point of the dangerousness hearing is that the Commonwealth is alleging that the accused is a threat to the community if he is not in custody. An evidentiary hearing gets set for the Commonwealth to persuade the court that such is the case. In the meantime, the defendant is generally held. If the Commonwealth is successful, he will remain held.

Yes, that means that he is held without bail because he is considered dangerous based to a great extent on the charges of which he is actually presumed to be innocent.

Does your head hurt?

In any event, I expect that this is a case that a court will not be too anxious to rule against the Commonwealth, but it could happen.

Adult Defendant is likely to be looking at heavier charges, such as “assault with intent to murder” up ahead. Again, we do not know if he has any prior record, but this was a pretty serious case and I would expect it is likely to be indicted. Once indicted by a grand jury, the case moves up, often with additional charges, to superior court.

One of the most disconcerting things I have experienced in my many years in the trenches is how a “bad moment” can change alot of lives for the worse. This may be one such matter. We do not know much about Adult Defendant, but, if he is guilty as alleged, that one very bad, perhaps momentary, decision could have killed three kids and has already altered his future.

As emotional issues arise, try to deal with them non-violently. Therapy is not a bad thing. See a professional to help you with the emotional issues. If you haven’t, and you ended up with having one of those “bad moments”…seek another type of professional – an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help, at the very least, minimize damage to the rest of your life.

Samuel Goldberg is the senior criminal defense attorney at the firm of Altman & Altman, P.C. A former prosecutor in New York, he has worked as a Boston defense attorney over 18 years. 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

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