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Essex County Superior Court Judge Holds Marblehead Teenager Without Bail Following “Dangerousness Hearing”

A Salem Massachusetts teenager is being held in the Essex County jail where he will remain for up to ninety days without the possibility of being released on bail, following a “dangerousness hearing” in the Salem Superior Court. According to The Salem News, eighteen year old Michael Ehlert was held following testimony from a seventeen year old special needs student who described what the judge called a “fairly vicious beating.” According to the paper, Judge John Lu stated that he believed that it is “reasonable” to believe that Ehlert might follow through on his threat to slit the throat of the complaining witness and have his mother sexually assaulted if he is released. Testimony of this alleged intimidation was a factor Lu relied on in concluding that there were no terms of release that would protect the safety of the boy, his mother or the public at large.

The witness testified that after he left his house to buy cigarettes at the store, Ehlert and a co-defendant dragged him into a Marblehead cemetery and beat him. Defense counsel highlighted inconsistencies between the teenager’s initial statement to the police and his “official” version given nine days after the incident. Despite pressing by counsel, the witness maintained that the relationship between Ehlert and himself was limited to interaction at the town’s skateboard park with mutual friends. Ehlert and eighteen year old Michael “Tampa” Leoni are facing charges that include robbery, assault and battery, and witness intimidation. Ehlert’s twenty-two year old brother is facing a charge of witness intimidation. It is alleged that the made phone calls to the witness following Michael Ehlert’s arrest.

Based on the facts in this case it appears that a thorough pre-trial investigation must be conducted to determine the motive for the complaining witness to change his story. Massachusetts General Laws 268 ยง 13B states that the crime of witness intimidation requires proof that (1) an individual was a witness in a stage of a criminal proceeding, and that the defendant (2) willfully endeavored or tried to influence the witness, (3) did so by means of intimidation, force, or threats of force, or the offering of inducements, and (4) did so with the specific intent of influencing the witness. Based on Massachusetts case law, it is not necessary that charges be lodged at the time of any alleged intimidation. “Any stage of a criminal proceeding” may encompass actions committed by a defendant before the police was called or the alleged crime was reported. For example, the authorities often charge a defendant with “intimidation of a witness” when a complainant alleges that the defendant took his or her phone in an effort to prevent the reporting of a crime.


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