We have all heard the expression innocent until proven guilty. We all know that the proof is on the district attorney to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime charged. We are familiar with those historic words "cloaked with the presumption of innocence". Yet any time someone is charged with the crime of rape of a child people run and hide from those constitutional protections and principles. Opinions are immediately formed. The defendant is now a pariah. Even judges overlook those bedrock ideologies. The only person someone this position can count on is his criminal defense lawyer.
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In almost every case involving child pornography prosecutors in Massachusetts are faced with what should be a difficult decision: to charge possession of child pornography or to charge distribution of child pornography. Let's look at some common facts. Rarely, if ever is a defendant caught with one image or a few images. This is because child pornographic materials are accessed through file share programs. The files that people receive though peer to peer networks usually contain scores if not hundreds of images. Under Massachusetts law this permits the prosecution to charge the more severe felony, distribution of child pornography. And usually, the prosecution does just that, it charges distribution. However the charge of possession, a lesser included felony is typically charged as well. This post examines why that is done and some thoughts on defending these cases.
I Was Arrested For a Crime in Massachusetts. The Cops Set Me Up. Can I Claim Entrapment as a Defense?
At least once a week I get a call from a perspective client who wants to discuss a criminal case that he or she thinks is a classic case of entrapment. While the facts are always different a common theme underlies every story. An undercover police officer is involved in some sort of investigation. The officer is playing the part of a criminal or someone engaged in some sort of wrongdoing. My client takes the bait and enters into discussions and interaction with the officer. Then, either just prior to, or at the time of the consummation of the crime an arrest is made. My client claims to be the victim of entrapment. He's right isn't he? After all, he did not know that the person he dealt with was a cop. Shouldn't they dismiss my case? Nope. This is not entrapment. It might be an underhanded police tactic. It might be a waste of the taxpayer's money. But it is not entrapment.
Possession, Distribution of Child Pornography Against Former Peabody Cop Charged Following Computer Search
Late last week Julie Manganis of the Salem News reported that Joseph Ferrante, a retired Peabody, Massachusetts police officer has been charged with Possession of Child Pornography and Distribution of Child Pornography. Both charges are felonies in Massachusetts.
In September of the year a Massachusetts State Trooper got onto a file-sharing website and obtained information that a Comcast customer was viewing child pornography. The officer subpoenaed the Comcast information and learned that the IP address was registered to Ferrante. With that a search warrant was secured and served on Ferrante's home last Monday. Ferrante was questioned during the execution of the warrant and admitted that he had viewed the illicit material but denied storing it on his computer. A preliminary search revealed the existence of evidence of the crime on the computer. A more thorough search of the computer will be conducted over the next several months.
Essex County Sex Crimes Lawyer
Being a criminal defense lawyer I have concerns about the representations that Ferrante actually admitted to having committed these very serious crimes. As a former cop he has to know that anything he says will be used to prosecute him. He also has to know that proving these cases is extremely difficult, unless of course the suspect confesses to the crime. Computers in private residences are rarely secured. Family members, guests, friends, etc. regularly go onto a household computer. Thus, proving that the subscriber is the guilty party is difficult. A successful prosecution becomes even more difficult if the IP address is not secured. Anyone within the range of the wireless mechanism can access the Internet if it is not secured. This makes it appear that the subscriber is using the Internet when in fact it is somebody else. This happens more than you may think, particularly in restraining order violation cases where the defendant is being set up by the "victim". Assuming Ferrante knew any of this you have to wonder why he would admit guilt to the police. Or did he?
I have defended many Child Pornography cases in Massachusetts and on only one occasion did the prosecution attempt to proceed without a confession. In all of these cases the link to the defendant that made the case provable was the defendant's confession. Again, this shows that nothing good can come from talking to the police. You have a constitutional right to remain silent. It was given to you for a reason. Use it. If you have any doubt call a criminal lawyer. I can assure that the advice will be the same. Keep your mouth shut.
Today's Somerville Patch reports that a woman had been advertising her services over the Internet. Specifically, she offered sex for a fee. Her advertisement listed the Washington Street Holiday Inn in Somerville as her place of business. An undercover detective responded to the listing and met up with the woman in her hotel room. She requested one hundred twenty five dollars for one half hour of sexual services and two hundred dollars for a full hour. The woman, a sixty year old from Randolph, Massachusetts then took off her clothes, provided the undercover with a condom and laid out some rules for the encounter. She was then arrested and charged with sexual conduct for a fee, also known as prostitution.
I get calls on cases like this one from perspective clients on a regular basis. Several of them ask me the same question: "Isn't this entrapment?" The answer is no. People think that police officers conducting covert operations that result in an arrest is entrapment. It is not. Entrapment is a defense to criminal charges that focuses on the predisposition of the accused. It is not entrapment for police officers to entice a prostitute or drug dealer into performing or attempting to perform their services. If the person is predisposed towards the commission of a crime and the police simply facilitate their efforts entrapment has not occurred. Entrapment is a viable defense where the government or its agents overcome the will of a person and in some way coerce them to commit a crime.
On several occasions I successfully represented people accused of trafficking cocaine with an entrapment defense. On one occasion I represented a recent college graduate (Jim) who enjoyed smoking marijuana and sometimes snorting lines of cocaine. One of his "friends" would share with him a small amount of cocaine. Unbeknownst to Jim the "friend" was actually an informant, trying to work off a pending drug case. The informant had convinced his handler, a state trooper, that Jim was a major drug dealer. In order to work off his case the informant had to produce, or, in this case introduce the trooper to a drug dealer and to actually access drugs.
So one day the informant brought the trooper over to meet Jim. The trooper was introduced as a cocaine supplier. During the meeting the trooper pulled out a small quantity of cocaine, similar to the amount that the informant would share with Jim. Jim and the informant snorted a few lines. The next day the informant called my client and told him that the individual he had just met wanted a large amount of cocaine and that he wanted Jim to get it for him. Jim was confused and wanted to know why this person would think he could get him a large quantity of cocaine. Jim said that he had no interest in this proposition. Over the course of the next several months the informant badgered and threatened Jim. He convinced Jim that the person who had given him some cocaine, the trooper, was dangerous and that Jim owed him. A record of hundreds of telephone calls was produced from the informant to Jim. The calls were made at all hours of the night. The informant incessantly harassed Jim and had him fearing for his life. Consequently, Jim gave in and agreed to produce a large quantity of cocaine. The informant introduced Jim to a major drug dealer and a deal with the undercover was ultimately consummated. Jim was arrested and charged. We were able to show that the government's harassment of Jim overcame his will and forced him into the drug deal. Jim was acquitted before a Suffolk County jury.
How Will Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyers Use XPS Testing To Defend Clients Accused of Serious Felonies
Earlier this week an article circulated via UPI talked about an evolving test that Massachusetts prosecutors will undoubtedly be using to help prove their cases. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, commonly referred to as XPS, looks at individual cotton fibers that contain distinct chemical traces on their surface. The chemicals are used in the treatment and manufacturing process of cotton garments. The XPS process helps to distinguish cotton fibers that through microscopic examination were thought to be indistinguishable. The chemicals in question are used to make the clothing article wrinkle free, resistant to staining or waterproof. Through XPS these chemicals can be identified on the surface of the individual fibers.
I imagine that once XPS testing is "perfected" this science will become prevalent in Massachusetts courts, particularly in serious felonies being prosecuted in the superior courts. I say this even though I do not believe that using XPS experts will be beneficial to the district attorney. Here is why. Prosecutors will want to test fibers to see if a match can be made to clothing worn or owned by the accused. At least initially, if there is a match there will be an argument that this link to the defendant corroborates other evidence in the case. This strategy will ultimately appear desperate. In general the fibers we are talking about and their processing and manufacturing treatments are not typically unique. Clothing is mass manufactured. In many cities it is common for youth to be wearing the same or similar clothing made by a particular company. For instance, for years black hooded sweatshirts made by a particular sporting goods company were the wardrobe of choice in certain parts of Boston and other major cities. You could walk down the street and see scores of youth wearing the same articles of clothing, same make and same logo. So how then does this more effectively link a particular defendant to a crime scene? It probably doesn't and defense lawyers will quickly pick up on this as a challenge to the significance of this evidence.
Then why would prosecutors get into XPS testing at all? The trend among prosecutors in Massachusetts for more than a decade now is to introduce evidence known to have little significance if they believe that the defense will comment on its absence otherwise. For example, in murder cases where DNA is not an issue a prosecutor may nevertheless call a DNA expert to testify that certain evidence could not be tested for DNA. The same logic applies to fingerprinting and testing blood samples. So, once XPS testing becomes a household term we will see prosecutors, through their expert witnesses discussing this process. This will apply whether or not XPS testing was done and regardless of the test results. Thus, it will be important for Massachusetts criminal defense lawyers to familiar themselves with this process whether or not they use it.
While reading a Courthouse News Report earlier today I was again struck by the inflexible approach that federal judges take towards child pornography distribution cases. A federal judge in New York sentenced a teenager to thirty months in prison after he pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography. No doubt this was an excellent deal. There was a large quantity of images on the defendant's computer accessed through a file-sharing program. This fact alone satisfied the element of distribution. Yet this judge, Judge Jack Weinstein correctly recognized that this form of distribution is at best passive. The government appealed the sentence. The Second Circuit of Appeals criticized the judge's sentence, ruled that he misinterpreted the law and remanded the case for further sentencing. The district court then, without any choice, imposed a sixty-month sentence, the minimum mandatory under the law.
What I find most appalling about the appellate court decision is its failure to respect the detailed, well-researched efforts of the lower court judge. Consistent with his practice Weinstein visited a federal prison at Fort Devens, Massachusetts that was established to treat sex offenders. He believed that treatment at Devens for this defendant would be rehabilitative and would enable the accused to perhaps reenter society at a later date in a productive manner. Weinstein has made frequent field trips like this in the past so that he can better understand the implication of his rulings and sentences. Imagine that? A federal judge who cares enough to take off his robe and step down from his pulpit to ensure that his decisions are just and productive not simply for the defendant but for society as a whole. Weinstein's sentencing decision was issued with great thought. The supporting memorandum was over four hundred pages in length. It contemplated several days of expert mental health testimony. It considered the defendant's childhood, one that is riddled with scarring incidents of abuse and neglect. The sentence placed form over substance, treatment over punishment.
So what happened? The Court of Appeals decided that notwithstanding Justice Weinstein's findings it knew better. It told Weinstein that he must apply the enhancements set out in the sentencing guidelines. Let's take a look at just one of these enhancements. Using a computer to access child pornography enhances the sentence. What? How else would this be accessed nowadays?
This enhancement is best characterized as idiocy. It is 2013 folks. The Internet is used for everything. It is virtually the only way people are accessing child porn. So Justice Weinstein used common sense and justly decided not to enhance the sentence using that criteria. Unfortunately he must have forgotten that in federal court the culture is one of hostility. Prosecutors and judges alike want to "one-up" each other by showing how smart they through sentencing hearings they shout out "look, I found another way to increase the sentence".
Earlier today I was reading the Lawrence Eagle Tribune and came across an article about a Methuen, Massachusetts man just convicted of one count of Rape. The man, Kenneth Poirier was being tried for a rape that occurred over three years ago. It was alleged that Poirier picked up a woman outside of a Lawrence rooming house and at gunpoint and took her to a wooded area in Methuen where he raped her. His defense was that believing she was a prostitute he picked her up and that all sexual contact between the two was consensual.
An earlier article about this trial reported that the woman did not appear in court to testify claiming that she had medical issues. However, the police had to go out and find her. When they did she was put up in a hotel, fed and clothed. The woman admitted having no recollection as to whether or not she told the police that she was forced into the car at gunpoint. There was no physical evidence corroborating the woman's claim that she had been raped.
Consent is a defense to allegations of Rape. It is one of two defenses I would expect to see in a case with facts such as this. The other defense would be a denial of engaging in any sexual act. Both defenses seem to fit the newspaper accounts of the crime. For example, where, as here there is no physical evidence suggesting a sexual assault I can see where the defendant would deny any unlawful contact with this woman. Why then would she make these accusations? There are countless reasons, the most common being a prostitution deal gone bad or a failed drug deal. But you have to ask yourself this. If Poirier didn't rape her and there was no physical evidence corroborating her accusations, why admit to having sex at all?
Sex crimes can be difficult to defend. There can be a tendency on the part of jurors to sympathize with someone making this claim. Even though judges instruct jurors not to let sympathy interfere with their verdict the actions of the complaining witness can elicit emotion and sway jurors. In this case it is also troubling that as the victim became emotional during the trial the judge ordered a recess for her to compose herself. The recess causes pause and immediate reflection on the words and actions of the emotional witness. Some lawyer might even argue that the judge's decision to break from trial at that time suggested that the judge was sympathetic towards the witness and perhaps believed her. This can be difficult for the defense to overcome, regardless of guilt or innocence.
As I was browsing the Brockton Enterprise today I came across a story about two people arrested on unrelated prostitution charges a few nights ago. The arrests occurred in Brockton, Massachusetts. Around 10:00 p.m. Charie Shaw was arrested and charged with Sex For a Fee. About an hour later Kenneth Ritter was arrested and charged with Sexual Conduct for a Fee and Possession With Intent to Distribute a Class B substance. No more information was offered relative to the details of the alleged crimes.
I have been representing people accused of Soliciting a Prostitute and for Prostitution for over twenty-six years. In the past several years I have noticed a troubling trend among law enforcement agencies wherein undercover officers, posing as prostitutes approach men, engage them in discussions about their services and make an arrest. On countless occasions the accused comes into my office and makes clear that he was approached by the undercover cop and had no interest in engaging their proposed services. In most of the instances, once the officer has any discussion with her target a surveillance team swarms in and either makes an arrest or tells the individual that a summons will be sent to his home. Many times the interaction is far from a "discussion". Rather, once the officer initiates the conversation an arrest is made. Many of these accused had absolutely no interest in the services of a prostitute nor did they have any interest in even continuing the discussion that the undercover initiated.
Not long ago I represented a lawyer charged with Solicitation of a prostitute. He was with colleagues, leaving a restaurant after a late night dinner. The undercover officer approached this man and his friends and offered sexual services. All of them declined. As they were walking away the officer looked at my client and reduced her price. He jokingly said "how about one million dollars?". He was arrested. Fortunately his friends were able to corroborate his story and the charges were dismissed. But what about those occasions where someone does not have a witness? Hopefully the accused will hire someone experienced at resolving these cases in a manner in which there will be no trace of a criminal record.
Over the past twenty-six years I have represented thousands of people who have been charged with crimes ranging from misdemeanor Motor Vehicle Crimes, like OUI to major felonies such Murder, Rape and Distribution of Child Pornography. The source of my clients has varied. Family and friends have sent me business. Years ago, just like all other professionals I was listed in the phone book and just by luck someone would call me. For a short period of time I had paid listings in local yellow page books. When I was younger I was on various lists for state agencies that would appoint lawyers paid by the state, counties or the federal government. Lawyers in Massachusetts, particularly those who do not practice criminal defense law might refer a case to me. Lawyers from out of state with whom I had cases either in Massachusetts or their jurisdiction often sent me business. Finally, in 2003 I started marketing through the Internet. Yet no matter what the source of this business potential clients had an abundance of questions and many of these questions were asked by a majority of prospective clients. These people had certain expectations of their lawyers, some realistic, others not so realistic. I realized that the decision to hire me would at least in part stem from my responses to these questions. Rather than hustle the business I simply answered the questions as honestly as I could and let the person then make his or her decision of who to hire. Reflecting on this I think it is valuable to share a few of these questions and what I believe are proper responses so that anyone reading this post can make a more informed decision about what to look for when seeking a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer.
1. If I pay you more money will I be more likely to get a better result?
The answer is absolutely not. Criminal Defense Attorneys in Massachusetts have different fee schedules. Most charge some sort of flat fee that varies depending on the lawyer and the crime. No matter what you are charged you should expect your lawyer to give your case his best effort and maximum attention. Steer clear of any lawyer telling you that paying more will get you a better result.
The proper response is that "my fee is my fee and no matter what I get paid I will give your case my best effort".
2. Can you guarantee me that you can win my case?
Never. No lawyer can predict what a jury or a judge is going to do in a particular case. Experienced lawyers can tell you what usually happens in certain cases but they cannot predict or guarantee a result. Stay away from any lawyer who guarantees a win.
A proper answer to this question is that no one can make guarantees in this business but in situations similar to yours here is what typically happens.
3. Does knowing the district attorney or judge help?
There is no doubt that relationships in life can have value in certain instances. Any yes, some lawyers can get a better result in front of some judges than others or with some assistant district attorneys than others. But you shouldn't be deceived by this. The judges in Massachusetts are often rotated from court to court or from session to session within a particular court. The same is true for assistant district attorneys. There is no guarantee that that judge or district attorney will be at all involved in your case. Moreover, ethically, the trend has been for judges to recuse themselves from cases where they feel too attached or "friendly" with one of the lawyers. Assistant district attorneys often need to adhere to certain office policies that prohibit them from treating friends with more favor. Moreover, any lawyer who tells you that he is "friends with the judge" or "friends with the district attorney" should not be trusted. Think about it. What kind of person would risk jeopardizing a relationship for a client? Obviously this is not someone who you can trust.
It is not improper for the lawyer to let you know his or her experience in certain courts or to give you opinions about the judge's proclivities relative to cases like yours. The same applies for the assistant district attorney.
Lawyers Defending Crimes in Massachusetts Now Must Find Ways to Refute Twitter, Facebook and Other Social Media Confessions
I was browsing the web earlier today and saw a CBS News article about the "thrill kill" that happened last week. The article mentioned that one of the accused tweeted about killing someone, three days before he supposedly committed this crime. He tweeted under a handle @Jamesakabug. This particular defendant also tweeted about being a thug and about Firearms. Even though the tweets were not addressed towards any individual victim you can be sure the district attorney will fight to have them admitted as evidence. In Massachusetts there is no doubt in my mind that most judges would permit the prosecution to introduce this as evidence. Massachusetts Appellate Courts have ruled that in cases involving Firearms, a person's statement about guns, can in many contexts be admissible to show that this person had familiarity with Firearms. While the statement will likely be admitted with a limiting instruction the damage is still done.
This is not an isolated case in which a criminal defendant published something on social media. On August 9th of this year the Bradenton Herald published an article about a Miami man who posted details about killing his wife on Facebook. Just two days ago police in Long Island were able to charge a man for Statutory Rape after seizing Facebook posts between the twenty five year old man and his thirteen year old girlfriend. Some Ohio high school football players got themselves in some hot water after posting a video and pictures of a girl who, while passed out had been the victim of a Sexual Assault and possibly a Rape on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. A man from Hawaii had a drinking and driving posted showing him having a beer while driving and talking to a camera for five minutes.
As a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer I see more and more evidence being used against my clients that stemmed from their ill-advised posts. There is however much more to this rising trend. I have some clients who have been framed by social media posts. How does this happen? Well in this case the damaging posts were created with my client's cell phone. Most people now carry smart phones, especially young people. They all have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google+ apps. They leave these apps in a "signed in" mode. Anyone who accesses one of these phones can go right to the app and post as if it were the person who owned the social media page making the comment. In several of these cases witnesses were located and provided the defense with evidence of sabotaging the social media pages. Here is how else social media confessions can help the defense. There are people other than the accused who take credit for the commission of the crime. Their admission is admissible evidence at trial and if there exists some corroboration of the statement a jury might believe that confession credible evidence favoring the defense. Also, witnesses sometimes boast about their value to one side or another through social media outlets. The bottom line is this; social media now plays a significant role in Massachusetts Criminal Defense strategy, a role that should be embraced by the defense.
Any Criminal Lawyer in Massachusetts will tell you that you don't want your case to be prosecuted in the Federal Court. There is a litany of reasons why. Federal prosecutors have a limited ability to negotiate pleas. They have numerous channels they must go through to get approval to "amicably" resolve cases. In some cases they need authority from Washington, D.C. The laws in many state are often more pro-defendant in state courts than they are in the federal courts. In Massachusetts for example Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights provides greater protections than its counterpart, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Article 12 is viewed more favorably by the defense than the Fifth Amendment. More time is permitted in state court for trial preparation than in federal court. And, for the most part, sentencing schemes in the federal court system are much more rigid and severe than in state courts. Judges in federal courts lack the discretion vested in state court judges to impose sentences that they deem fair and the result is often a huge sentence drastically disproportionate to the crime charged. Here is a look at that sentiment in the context of a Federal Child Pornography Distribution Case.
Lets assume that the client, John Doe is caught in Possession of Child Pornography using peer to peer file sharing. Lets further assume that John has no criminal record. John will be charged with Distribution of Child Pornography. In federal court that charge carries a minimum mandatory five-year sentence. Now in Massachusetts the same crime carries a ten-year minimum mandatory sentence but the prosecutors have discretion to reduce that to a possession charge, which they often do. I have never seen a district attorney ask for the ten-year sentence for a first time offender with no criminal record. Rarely will state prosecutors even ask for a five-year sentence on the possession whereas the federal prosecutors will not go below the five-year minimum mandatory. So, difference number one is the ability to negotiate a better result for your client and to get below the dreaded minimum mandatory required by federal law. Difference number two involves the federal sentencing guidelines. Still using John Doe and these facts as our example, lets look at factors that will likely result in John getting much more than five years if prosecuted in federal court. John's base offense level is a 22. Assuming a criminal history category I he is looking at a guideline range of 41-51 months. But this is just the beginning. If the minor(s) in the images are under the age of twelve or prepubescent than two levels are added giving a guideline range of 51-63 months. If a computer was used to view the material then add two more levels making the sentence 63-78 months. If there were at least ten images add another two levels making the sentence 78-97 months. This is just the beginning. If sadistic conduct is involved, add four more levels. If there are six hundred or more images add another three levels to these calculations. Keep in mind, most of these images are accessed in large volumes. Six hundred plus images is more the norm than the exception. So now what are we up to? A level 35 which requires a sentence of 168-210 months, or fourteen years to seventeen and one half years. So while John Doe actually may not actually get the 168-210 month sentence you can be sure that the prosecutor will be pushing a sentence much greater than that which a state district attorney would be looking for. This is why it is critical that when hiring a lawyer you make sure that your lawyer has experience in the system where the case is being prosecuted. There are things that can be done to convince judges to impose a just sentence.
It is now 2013. Just about every American has access of some sort to the Internet. Information flows freely and quickly. Whatever you want to know about is at the tip of your fingers. If you want sports news, just Google it. If you want to know how to fix your car you can Google it. If you need a recipe you can Google it. If you have an ailment you can Google it to try to find out what it is. And of course, if you want legal news just Google it. Even if you are not searching for information it appears on every page of the Internet through advertisements or pop up adds. You can't escape the overload of information being thrown at you each day. And everyday more and more Criminal Defense Lawyers in Massachusetts and throughout the country are launching websites. And on every criminal law website, somewhere in bold print you will see a message telling you not to talk to the cops. Yet for some reason people choose to ignore this warning. They talk to the police and then get charged with a crime.
Here is what I am talking about. About two years ago a perspective client came into my office with a police report and grand jury minutes. He was charged with Rape. He denied the allegations. The police report said that Jane Doe, a pseudonym showed up at a local police station claiming that she had been raped by this man. It was about 4:00 in the afternoon when she made the report. She told the sexual assault officer that she had a date with the man the night before. She said that the two went out to dinner and then back to her apartment for a drink. Her roommate was awake watching television in an adjoining room. They started to kiss. She then claimed that the man became aggressive and digitally penetrated her. She never told her roommate. The roommate heard nothing. The complainant never went to the hospital. There were no texts between her and the defendant. Just her report to the police. So what happened next? The police went out to visit with the man. He confirmed everything that the woman told the police...except for one thing. He denied that the digital penetration was done without her consent. What? That's right. He actually admitted to committing a sexual act that if proven to be nonconsensual would leave him with a Felony Sex Crimes Conviction. Had the man not opened his mouth he probably would not have been charged with anything at all. But now, simply because he opened his mouth he faced a Rape Charge.
So how do you handle a situation like this one. The answer is simple. Just shut your mouth. I have never had a client who was able to talk his way out of being charged with a crime. To the contrary, a large percentage of my clients charged with crimes are being charged because they did talk to the police. Keep this in mind. Your silence can never be used against you in court. You have an absolute right to remain silent and no district attorney or other prosecution witness can comment on that silence to a jury. If the police tell you that it is in your best interests to talk and cooperate with them they are lying to you. It is not in your best interests. So please keep your mouth shut.
Eighteen Year Old High School Student Charged With Sex Crimes After Consensual Relationship With Fifteen Year Old Schoolmate is Revealed
Kaitlyn Hunt is an eighteen year old high school student who had a consensual relationship with a fifteen year old basketball teammate. The younger girls' parents found out about the relationship and pressed criminal charges. Now, Hunt faces Felony Sex Crime Charges. A plea deal that prosecutors offered for Hunt would have placed her on house arrest for two years. Of course, this felony conviction would result in Hunt having to register as a Sex Offender. The article states that Hunt would have plead guilty to misdemeanor sex crimes but not to the felonies. Hunt's lawyer correctly pointed out that being a convicted felon would adversely impact her ability to enter college and to prevent her from holding certain professional positions. Unlike Massachusetts where the age of consent is sixteen the age of consent in Florida is seventeen.
The Hunt case has sparked some interesting debate. A state senator, Thad Altman, known for having conservative views believes that this case is "tragic" and that the laws should be changed. He is quoted as saying "You would like to think this wouldn't happen in this country, two teenagers in a moment of passion do something consensual and suddenly one is facing fifteen years in prison". Altman intends to sponsor legislation that would address the Florida age limit issue. Altman is not alone. Over three hundred people have petitioned the Florida legislature to abort this prosecution.
So you ask "does this happen in Massachusetts". The simple answer is yes. It does. Massachusetts law is a bit more forgiving in one respect. The age of consent is sixteen, one year younger than it is in Florida. I have defended charges involving consensual sexual relationships between fifteen year olds and seventeen year olds. Perhaps most troubling is the nomenclature of the crime in Massachusetts. It is called Rape of a Child. That is what your criminal record will reflect if you are convicted of having consensual sex with your underage partner. Your board of probation printout will not distinguish between a consensual relationship or a forcible rape. It will simply read that you were convicted of Rape of a Child in Massachusetts. You will most likely have to register as a level two or three sex offender, something that will stay with you for years and possibly for life. Schools will not accept you. Your employment opportunities will be limited. Your neighbors will probably learn that you have been convicted of a sex crime. You will not be able to coach your kids youth sports teams. Your life will be ruined.
Today's Lawrence Eagle Tribune reports that evidence in the case against Lori Barron, defendant in the Lawrence, Massachusetts day spa Sex Trafficking Scandal is still being processed. In the meantime countless local businessmen and male professionals fears are mounting.
It was about one week ago that news of Barron's arrest and a potential "client list" broke. Barron, a fifty-year old Salem woman supposedly recorded her employees engaging in unlawful sexual acts and threatened them with exposure if they quit or failed to accede to her demands. Authorities estimate that Barron had hundreds of customers some of whom she solicited through backpage.com and other internet advertising websites. Barron, who has a previous criminal record for Prostitution has been charged with Prostitution, Photographing Unsuspecting Persons in the Nude, Human Sex Trafficking, violating the Massachusetts Wiretap Statute, Extortion and Intimidation of a Witness. She posted thirty thousand dollars cash bail in the Lawrence District Court. The police learned of her operation when a former employee complained that Barron Assaulted her when she refused to give in to a client's peculiar sexual demands.
Lawyers Who Defend Sex Crimes in Essex County Massachusetts
So here is what clients now fear. The supposed "client list" is rumored to contain the names of lawyers, doctors, teachers, law enforcement officials, court employees firefighters, politicians and local professionals and businessmen. It is suggested that proof of that list exists through cell phone records and a computer hard drive, both of which are being examined through forensic experts. The most legitimate concern involves the publication of the names of the persons on the list. Try explaining this one to your wife, kids, friends and employer. Our office has received countless calls in the past week from potential clients and existing clients concerned about the dissemination of the list and their possible criminal exposure. I can tell you as a practical matter that the former is much more ominous than the latter. As a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer I am pretty confident that if criminal charges against clients issue the cases will be difficult to prove unless of course there is video evidence of unlawful acts or the person talks to the police. Absent video evidence and a confession the cases will be virtually non-provable.
This is not to say that the people on the "client list" will not be prosecuted. The standard for issuing criminal complaints is far lower than the standard for proving the crime alleged. Even if law enforcement knows that the case cannot be proved they might still issue complaints or publish the list. Why would they do this? It is usually done to serve as a deterrent. It sends a message to people who engage in this behavior or are inclined to do so. The message is simple. If you are going to frequent prostitution establishments be prepared for public exposure and humiliation even if the district attorney's office cannot successfully prosecute you.
In the meantime clients have asked me what they can do right now. The simple answer is nothing. Why put your name out there? You might not be on the list. Can you see the client list? No. You can't. Is there anything you can do to prevent the issuance of criminal charges? Yes. Hire a Massachusetts Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer. Your lawyer will make sure that you avoid incriminating yourself so that if you are a suspect or if you are charged you will not be in a position where your words help to convict you.