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Massachusetts Court Reverses Indecent Assault Conviction Based on Insufficient Evidence

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts sex crime case, finding that the jury’s verdict was based on insufficient evidence. The court determined that a hug given to the complainant by the defendant was not “indecent” in nature, and thus, the Commonwealth’s evidence was insufficient to support the indecent assault charge.

Barbed WireThe Facts of the Case

The complainant was a 13-year-old girl who was interning at an aviation company. One day, the defendant, a 60-year-old man, approached the complainant, whom he had previously met at the airport, and told her he would like to get her a gift for her upcoming birthday. He also told her that he would like to give her a hug in another room. The complainant went into the hallway and waited, but she returned to work a few minutes later when the defendant never showed up. Later, the complainant ran into the defendant and offered him a hug.

A little later that day, the defendant asked if the complainant wanted another hug. This time, the defendant led the complainant into a private room, gave her a hug, and kissed her on the cheek. The complainant testified that she was not initially alarmed because it seemed like a common greeting for someone of “European descent.”

The defendant later gave the complainant a third hug, this time lower on her body, around her waist and hips. The complainant testified that she found this to be “kind of odd.” After hugging the complainant, the defendant lifted up the complainant’s shirt a little bit but never exposed any skin.

Based on that evidence, the defendant was charged with indecent assault. He was tried and convicted and ultimately sentenced to 15 years in prison. The defendant appealed.

The Appellate Decision

The court focused its analysis on just one of the elements of indecent assault:  specifically, whether the contact between the defendant and the complainant was considered to be “indecent.”  The court explained that an unjustified and intentional touching of “sexual parts” has been determined to be indecent. Additionally, the court noted that contact with a complainant’s mouth can also be considered indecent. When deciding whether contact is indecent, courts consider whether it is “fundamentally offensive.”

Here, the court held that none of the hug, the kiss, or the lifting of the complainant’s shirt was indecent under the statute for indecent assault. The court explained that while hugs can be indecent, here there was no additional touching or rubbing. Regarding the lifting of the complainant’s shirt, the court explained that the complainant’s skin was not exposed, differentiating this case from similar scenarios in which the conduct was determined to be indecent. As a result, the defendant’s conviction and sentence were reversed.

Have You Been Charged with a Sex Offense?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a sex offense in the Boston area, you should consult with Attorney Patrick J. Murphy. Attorney Murphy is a dedicated Boston criminal defense attorney with decades of experience representing those charged with serious crimes in and around the Boston area. He works tirelessly to defend the rights of his clients throughout trial and, if necessary, in appeals as well. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with an attorney, call 617-367-0450 today.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Appellate Court Denies Defendant’s Motion to Suppress Based on Allegedly Illegal Stop-and-Frisk, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published May 16, 2018

Massachusetts Court Discusses When Miranda Warnings Are Required in Recent Drug Trafficking Case, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published May 30, 2018