Kevin Burnham, a “decorated and highly-respected” Springfield police officer who retired in 2014 (and hereinafter, the “Defendant”) has been indicted with stealing approximately $385,317 which had been evidence in 170 drug cases. He has pleaded “not guilty” and released on his own recognizance.

The Defendant must turn in his passport, not travel out of state without Probation Department permission, turn his guns over to counsel who must give them to any successor counsel, and give his license to carry firearms to the police commissioner.

The defense attorney at the bail hearing was appointed “for arraignment only” and so now the Defendant must find his own criminal defense attorney by January 19th.

The Indictments charging the Defendant with larceny counts name a timeline of more than a four year period .

According to the BOSTON HERALD and MASSLIVE, Boston’s
Attorney General’s investigation revealed that between December 2009 and July 2014, the Defendant allegedly stole cash from the evidence envelopes of more than 170 drug cases.

According to the Attorney General, the Defendant’s role at the time at issue was to retrieve evidence that had been deposited into the “secure” evidence room by other officers, who initially counted the cash seized and attached the evidence receipt tags. He would recount the cash, place it in envelopes and secure those envelopes in one of two locked safes inside the evidence room. He was also in charge of the disbursement of the money when a case was finished.

In some instances, the Defendant allegedly “shorted” the cash count by taking money when he recounted it. He is also accused of allegedly replacing money he stole from various evidence envelopes with previously seized counterfeit money or with newer money that was put into circulation after the original seizure date.

Attorney Sam’s Take On “Suddenly Discovered” White Collar Crimes Of The Past

Now, you may be expecting me to focus on the “haven’t we seen this type of thing before?” aspect of this story.

After all, we have discussed matters in the past about situations in which illegal tampering and/or thefts took place by chemists and police officers which not only were illegal in themselves, but ended up casting doubt on many convictions which had been predicated, in part, on such evidence. In this case, of course, one can expect questions to come regarding the cases in which the money at issue was part of the evidence.

“Why is that? It does not mean that amount of money found was any different than what was testified to at trial.”

Maybe. But in those cases, law enforcement took the stand and told juries about a “chain of custody” and how the evidence seen by the jury was the actual evidence that had been seized. They explained how there had been no way the evidence was tampered with.

It should also be remembered that the extent of the alleged thefts discovered by the Attorney General may or may not be all there was to the scheme alleged.

I have ranted in the past, both in regular media and in this very blog about how safeguards are needed and the idea of someone responsible for evidence cannot be assumed to have tongues of gold which we must all assume could never offer an untruth.

But I digress…because I am not going to concentrate on all that today.

There is another aspect to which I would direct your attention. It has to do with many white collar type of criminal investigations.

How can they know?

At this late date, did they discover a video tape of this activity? Did a state investigator suddenly have a yen one day to review the details of dollar bills in cases from the decade?

Or was it that someone who was facing a prosecution of their own suddenly had a “crisis of conscience” and tell law enforcement that the Defendant had confessed to him or her? What if that person made it up? What if she were the one who actually had done the thefts?

These types of white collar criminal charges really necessitate close scrutiny and not the blind acceptance of what law enforcement now says.

Now, the Defendant’s prosecution will be given media attention and as a result, the Commonwealth are liable to try to make an example of him. He’d better find good experienced counsel.

Remember, the Commonwealth’s swearing by its investigators who are now pointing the finger at the Defendant is the same Commonwealth that was willing to swear by the Defendant’s credibility in days gone by.

And remember… it is the same Commonwealth that seldom learns from its mistakes when making assumptions, but continues to assert that it is beyond reproach.

At least until the next time that is,

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