For those of you who still hold fast to the fantasy that law enforcement never lies, prepare for a shock. Of course, this case does not feature law enforcement lying to convict a defendant. Instead, it is a Massachusetts law enforcement official lying to federal law enforcement who needs a criminal defense attorney.
Arlindo R., a 37-year-old former Stoughton police detective, (hereinafter, the “Defendant), admitted in federal court yesterday that he lied to FBI agents during an ongoing investigation into corruption in the police department and had promised to help authorities in their probe.
The Defendant pleaded guilty in US District Court in Boston to one count of making false statements last July 13. Agents had asked whether he knew of Stoughton police officers receiving stolen gift cards and other items from an informant secretly cooperating with the FBI. According to the government, the Defendant had been among the recipients.
The Defendant is the latest Stoughton police officer ensnared in a series of scandals that have rocked the department in recent years. He faces a maximum of five years in prison. However, federal sentencing guidelines recommend that he serve 10 to 16 months in prison, according to Assistant US Attorney Brian T. Kelly, who oversees the public corruption prosecution unit. In exchange for the Defendant’s late-coming cooperation, prosecutors are expected to recommend to US District Court Judge Patti B. Saris that he be sentenced to less than that.
Apparently, another cooperating witness “saw the light” before the Defendant. According to the prosecution, FBI agents spent most of last year investigating allegations of corruption against the Stoughton police department. The cooperating witness told agents that he gave stolen Best Buy and Home Depot gift cards and other merchandise to officers. The officers, in turn, allegedly provided the witness with confidential law enforcement information, including data about motorists from the Registry of Motor Vehicles that the witness used to make phony identification documents.
When the FBI asked the Defendant whether he knew of officers receiving stolen goods and supplying such information, he answered in the negative even though he himself had made such exchanges with the witness according to the prosecutor.
As I have often described, this is how many federal prosecutions are made. One potential target becomes a government witness, who, in turn, becomes another government witness and so on up the ladder.
In this case, as in many of these cases, potential defendant/cooperating witnesses could save themselves a lot of trouble by simply looking to their Constitutional Rights.
Lying to the police during an investigation is a crime both in state court and in federal court. It is a crime taken quite seriously. The state law calls it the felony “Intimidation of a witness”. In the federal system, it is called something else, but also a felony.
“So what is left, Sam? Can’t lie and you have a Fifth Amendment right not to tell the truth and incriminate yourself.”
Simple. Don’t talk. Politely indicate that you would be more comfortable continuing discussion with a lawyer present, or that you want to talk to your lawyer first.
“But won’t that tip them off that I have something to hide?”
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But in either case, it is better than opening yourself up for a spanking new felony charge. A wise man once said, “It is better to be silent and let people think you stupid than to open your mouth and eliminate all doubt.”
…or words to that effect. In any case, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to advise and represent you. If you are facing such a scenario and wish to discuss it with me, please feel free to contact me at 617-492-3000.
To find the original story upon which this story is based, please go to http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/01/former_stoughto_2.html