Today is Columbus Day. As we honor the adventurer who is celebrated as the man who discovered America (although other people were already living here at the time), I think it appropriate that we recognize other valiant efforts at similar discoveries. However, being that this is a daily Criminal Law blog, we unfortunately have to focus on a few not-so successful voyages.
It turns out to be easy, though; last week was not a particularly good week for voyagers to the other side of the law, especially south and west of Boston.
Let’s turn first to Tuesday in Warren, Massachusetts, where the police believe they have linked a suspect to three recent break-ins. This gentleman, Matthew W., 24, (hereinafter, “Defendant 1”), was captured thanks to his alleged intended victim – a 78-year-old woman who confronted him in her bedroom and chased him out the window.
Defendant 1 is currently being held at the Hampshire County House of Correction in Northampton, awaiting trial on charges out of Ware. Tuesday, he was arraigned at Western Worcester District Court in East Brookfield on nine counts related to three break-ins.
According to court documents, the intended not-so-helpless victim was inside her apartment in West Warren about 9:30 a.m. when she heard a voice yelling “Hello, Hello,” outside her bedroom window. She went to the window and saw a young man, who asked if she’d like him to mow her lawn. She declined and he asked her if she got out much.
We don’t know her answer, but she did not go out at that time. Instead, she soon headed into the bathrom and noticed the man in her bedroom, rifling through the drawers, according to the police. Apparently, she confronted the man, grabbed him and said, “Get out of here you son of a bitch, and never come back.” He went out through an open window. Noticing some jewelry was missing, she called the police.
State police assisted, and later were able to match a fingerprint lifted from the scene to Defendant1. Police believe they have also linked him to other similar thefts.
Defendant 1’s alleged travels have awarded him charges of felony breaking and entering in the daytime and placing a person in fear, trespassing, breaking and entering in the daytime, three counts of larceny from a building, and three counts of larceny of property valued at more than $250. He is being held on $75,000 bail, but gets to venture out again to court for his pretrial conference later this week.
On Wednesday night, Troy L., 31 of Taunton, Massachusetts (hereinafter, “Defendant 2”), decided to prepare for the upcoming holiday weekend in a manner more akin to the Columbus voyage. He “discovered” a car that already belonged to someone else. Well, not just “someone else”…it was a marked Taunton police cruiser. His newly claimed vehicle had been sitting seemingly uninhabited…in the cruiser parking lot.
Police determined Defendant 2’s identity through the use of video cameras in the parking lot and immediately searched the area of his home; the cruiser was found on the railroad bed, directly across the street from his home. He was then found walking from the railroad bed toward his house.
As he reached his next door neighbor’s home, he made a new discovery…police officers waiting with the Commonwealth’s bracelets of shame. Nature took its course, however, and the explorer ended up with charges for larceny of a motor vehicle, larceny over $250, larceny of a firearm, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, OUI liquor, third offense, two counts of assault and battery on a police officer, and operating a motor vehicle with a license suspended for OUI.
Given the way the week was going for the pioneering spirit, it is perhaps not surprising that Framingham explorer Felix R, 30, of Framingham (hereinafter, “Defendant 3”), lost his nerve mid-voyage.
Police say Defendant 3 tipped them off that he may be breaking the law when he broke out in a run upon seeing them. If the running were not enough of a clue, his allegedly throwing two baggies of marijuana on the ground was a dead giveaway.
Defendant 3 was with fellow adventurers standing outside drinking beer. As the plain-clothed detectives approached the group, badges showing, according to the police, Defendant 3 shoved his right hand into his pocket and ran away. En route, he is said to have pulled out a small plastic bag and cash and tried to empty the bag. Catching up to him, one of the officers grabbed his hand and knocked him to the ground. Upon his apprehension, he was found with a small bag of marijuana as well as $85.
Defendant 3 was charged with resisting arrest and possession of marijuana.
Meanwhile, even without the clue of attempted escape, the detectives detected that one of Defendant 3’s fellow travelers was also breaking the law. Henry R., 27 (hereinafter, Defendant 4), who had been drinking with Defendant 3, was charged with trespassing because he had been issued a no-trespass order for the location of the gathering.
Christopher Columbus would be proud; the pioneering spirit is alive and well in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It would seem, however, that the brilliance of discovery has somewhat dimmed. After all, if Mr. Columbus had simply taken the ships and parked them outside his house, or broke into Queen Isabela’s chambers while he knew she was there to see him, or suddenly took off in front of the royal guard dumping whatever substance was illegal back then, we would likely all be at work today.
We all do things which, in the light of day, we realize was not the smartest thing to do. Having been in the trenches for over 20 years, on both sides of the criminal justice aisle, there is very little left that I have not seen in these endeavors. The important thing, however, is what you do next. If you have done something that rivals the brilliance of Homer Simpson or simply are suspected of doing so…and if it has potential legal consequences…you need to consult an experienced defense attorney who can advise you.
While each case is different, it is unlikely that the advice on how to extricate yourself from trouble will be akin to, “park the stolen police car outside your house”, “make sure the homeowner is there before you climb into her window” or “get the police officers’ attention, then dump the contraband out in front of him”.
I have as much sense of adventure as the next guy…but I start by assuming you would like to be a host in your own home…not a guest of the Commonwealth it hers.
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 defense attorney in Boston over 18 years. He frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network
The full articles of these stories can be found at http://www.telegram.com/article/20081010/NEWS/810100645/1008/NEWS02, http://www.enterprisenews.com/news/x2004894022/Stolen-Taunton-cop-car-quickly-recovered and http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/news/x1733503889/Cops-say-man-ran-when-he-saw-Framingham-detectives