In the north of Boston, there is a little city called Salem, Massachusetts. Salem is a fun place with its own claims to excitement. A number of years ago, for example, we used to hang people for being witches. Next to Salem, is Lynn. Perhaps for more mundane reasons, Lynn tends to be a rather exciting place to live too as we have discussed in the this daily blog many times.
Last July, a Lynn man, apparently unsatisfied with the adventures that Salem had to offer, engaged in alittle excitement of his own. Well, his and his lady friends…
Michael B., 37, (hereinafter, “Boy Defendant”), and his girlfriend, Caroline T., 27 of Woburn (hereinafter, “Girl Defendant”), came to Salem two days ago to put an end to their pending criminal matter. They were coming to plead guilty .
It had been an assault case. Actually, a domestic violence assault case. A domestic violence assault case that was allegedly committed right outside the courthouse.
The alleged victim? Boy Defendant’s estranged wife (hereinafter, “Mrs. Boy Defendant”).
You see, what the prosecutor called a “vicious” fight between Mrs. Boy Defendant and Girl Defendant began. the incident was apparently the result of escalating tension between the two ladies.
You see, the separated couple had been in court that morning for proceedings in their divorce case.
Girl Defendant waited outside in Boy Defendant’s truck.
When Mrs. Boy Defendant came out of the courthouse, words were exchanged between the ladies of common heart. According to Boy Defendant’s attorney, Mrs. Boy Defendant had gone by her estranged husband’s apartment earlier in the day and yelled vulgarities at Girl Defendant.
Incidentally, Mrs. Boy Defendant is also currently awaiting trial on charges that she deliberately rammed Boy Defendant’s truck in Lynn while he and Girl Defendant were inside. But, that’s a story for another day.
Clearly no victim to gender-bias, the prosecutor asked the judge for lengthy jail time for both Boy Defendant and Girl Defendant. “It’s unbelievable to the Commonwealth that such a vicious attack could occur right outside a courthouse,” she said.
Boy Defendant’s lawyer acknowledged that his client took things too far when he participated in the beating of his wife, which left Mrs. Boy Defendant with a broken sternum and other injuries from being punched and kicked. However, he argued, his client had already paid a high price for his actions that day, including being held without bail for a month and a half as a danger to the public after his arrest.
Boy Defendant was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail, with six months to be served and the balance suspended for three years.
After learning that she would have to serve a month in jail, Girl Defendant withdrew her plea and asked for the case to continue toward trial.
“You always hurt the one you love” is a cliché that I have heard since before I can remember.
But when the romance is over and is replaced by punches, kicking and broken body parts…I think it has gone beyond love. But that’s just me.
“Assault and battery” is no longer always simply “assault and battery”. There are certain additions the system has added in certain cases. For example, an assault case that is based on racial hatred is now also a hate crime. An assault and battery case like this, against a spouse (or even former spouse) is considered a domestic assault and, in many cases, is treated more seriously than a regular assault.
This has resulted from many years of tolerating domestic violence. For too long, women would be abused by husbands and nobody would really take notice until she ended up dead one day. As a result, we have created changes in the law, including the infamous 209A Hearing which I have written about in past blogs.
This is not your typical domestic violence case, although it seems to be treated like one. Most domestic assaults, for example, do not take place on the courthouse steps. Further, it is usually a one-on- one type of thing, not a two-on-one.
There are many misconceptions about domestic violence cases. For example, many complainants in such cases feel that, the next day, if they decide that having the defendant arrested was a mistake, they can go down to the courthouse and simply drop charges.
As in any criminal case, the plaintiff (moving party) is the government. The “victim” is simply a witness. While there is a spousal privilege in most cases which mandates that a spouse cannot be forced to testify against a spouse, this does not mean that the case will be end up being dismissed. It certainly will not be dismissed right away except in the most unusual of cases.
It is one of many situations where what you might consider “common sense” and the law do not have a complete meeting of the minds, although there are reasons for the rules the courts follow.
You may also wonder how Girl Defendant could have been allowed to withdraw her plea because she did not like what the judge was going to do. This is commonplace. When the parties do not agree upon a sentence, but the defendant is willing to plead guilty, they can go before the judge and ask the judge to decide (unless the crime charged has a mandatory minimum sentence as in many drug cases). If the defendant will not accept what the judge says the sentence will be, the plea can be withdrawn and the case continues to trial.
In this case, Boy Defendant accepted the proposed sentence while Girl Defendant did not. This creates an interesting question about what will happen at Girl Defendant’s trial. In pleading guilty, Boy Defendant has waived his 5th Amendment right, at least with these charges, against self-incrimination. Could he be compelled to testify?
Will he be compelled to testify? On which side?
Ahh…more questions for another day..!.
In the meantime, you have another reason for contacting an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible if you are involved in such charges. You need a lawyer who knows the nuances and can best advise and defend you.
Have a good and law abiding weekend!
Samuel Goldberg is the senior criminal defense attorney at the firm of Altman & Altman, LLP. 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. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call 617-492 3000
The full article of this story can be found at http://www.salemnews.com/punews/local_story_352225413.html