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Assualt Charges Leveled Against Massachusetts Police Chief

1066864_police_cruiser.jpgWaltham, Massachusetts lawman Thomas M. LaCroix, the city’s chief police officer, was arraigned in Concord District Court on two charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and threats charges and was ordered held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing in court set for this Tuesday.

LaCroix is accused of attacking and injuring his wife and her female friend in two separate incidents at his home in Maynard, Massachusetts. LaCroix is said to have used a bicycle rack and a countertop as the dangerous weapons in the alleged attack. Further details about the case have yet to be released according to the report of the incidents in the Boston Globe. The prosecutor is seeking medical records,if any, of Mrs. LaCroix to substantiate the alleged injuries in the case. Waltham’s Mayor, Jeannette A. McCarthy deemed the arrest a “serious matter” and named the city’s Deputy Chief to act as Chief in place of LaCroix. LaCroix earns about $160,000.00 per year and has been suspended with pay and his badge and gun have been taken away from him by the Waltham police.

Domestic assault and battery in Massachusetts is taken seriously by prosecutors and the courts. When a person who is sworn to uphold and enforce the law gets in this type of trouble the case get extraordinary coverage and scrutiny. The public and the press will follow the matter closely to determine if the accused is treated differently than anyone else accused of such a crime. Right now we do not now all the details in this case and what really happened. Apparently, Mrs. LaCroix alleged that she was assaulted by her husband but she did not call the police when it initially happened. She went to a female friend’s house. The friend did not call the police either despite the fact that she allegedly heard LaCroix’s story and saw injuries. Remarkably, they both decided to go back to where the alleged perpetrator was at home. According to the report this is when the second alleged assault took place involving the wife and her friend. Sometime after this alleged assault the police were finally called. It is not clear how much time had elapsed between the first and second alleged incidents and when someone decided to call the police.

Although the police report and the prosecutions summary of the case were impounded by the court, at first glance, it does not appear that the chief has been treated fairly so far in this case. We can assume that the chief does not have a prior criminal history and, therefore, no history of defaults in court. From the news report, he apparently was a pretty good police officer rising through the ranks while earning his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree before being named police chief in Waltham. Is the District Attorney’s office looking to make an example out of the chief who was apparently hospitalized with chest pains after the incident? You be the judge. They claimed the chief may be suicidal but LaCroix’s own lawyer expressed no such concerns after meeting at length with his client. Is it remarkable that the prosecution would want the chief held without bail and that they would seek a dangerousness hearing against him, the result of which could cause him be held without bail for 90 days in a case such as this? The chief could have been released on his promise to come back to court. The prosecutor could have requested a bail warning or sought a reasonable bail in the case that would ensure that Mr. LaCroix would come back to court if he were released. The prosecutor could have asked the court to order the chief to stay away and have no contact with his wife or her female friend during the pendency of the case. The prosecutor could have asked the judge to order other pretrial conditions of release such as electronic or GPS monitoring on the chief or weekly reporting or conditions such as drug or alcohol testing if the abuse of substances was an issue. Yet, the District Attorney’s office decided to take the most drastic approach to the case which resulted in depriving the chief of his freedom even though he is presumed innocent of the crime. Did this action result in punishment before the case has even gone to trial? What are the odds of similar treatment to other ordinary defendants if your were to look up the last few cases involving allegations of assault and battery with the use of dangerous weapons in that court? Did the prosecution seek to hold those defendants pending a dangerousness hearing?

I think it’s safe to say that the chief probably didn’t appreciate a skilled and aggressive criminal defense attorney before these charges were leveled against him. He probably now hopes that he has such an attorney in his present defense lawyer, Peter Bella.

I raise these points because it is not uncommon for an individual without a criminal history to be released upon just his promise to come back to court to attend all court proceedings even on assault/dangerous weapon and threats charges. Indeed, the presumption under Massachusetts law is for personal recognizance. Bail is set in the appropriate cases if the crime is more serious or the person has a history of committing crimes or failing to come back to court when told to do so.

In this case, the prosecution will have the heavy burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the chief touched the person of alleged victim(s) however slightly, without having any right or excuse for doing so. Secondly, they must prove that the chief intended to touch the alleged victim(s). Finally, the prosecution must prove that the touching was done with a dangerous weapon. Regarding the threats charges, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that that the chief expressed an intent to injure his alleged victims and/or their property, now or in the future. Secondly, the chief must have intended that the intent to injure be conveyed to the alleged victims. Third, that the injury that was threatened, if carried out, would constitute a crime; and finally the chief must have made the threat under circumstances which could reasonably have caused the alleged victims to fear that he had both the intention and the ability to carry out the threat.

The Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy has been defending client accused of assault related crimes for nearly twenty years. Attorney Patrick Murphy is available 24/7 for a free and confidential consultation about your case. Contact Attorney Murphy today and get the benefit of his legal experience and skill as a Massachusetts assault and battery crimes lawyer.