Articles Posted in Assault Crimes/Violence

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prison cellIn a recent Massachusetts assault case, the defendant pled guilty to assault and battery on a girlfriend and her child. A judge sentenced him to 2 1/2 years in the house of correction, but he only had to serve six months with the balance suspended for three years. He was sentenced to three years of probation on the second charge.

He moved to revise and revoke the sentence. He asked if he could serve the sentence on weekends. The sentence was stayed until 2015, and on that date, the judge allowed the motion. The Commonwealth appealed, arguing the judge had made a mistake in granting the defendant’s motion. It argued the defendant didn’t meet the criteria provided under M.G.L. c. 279 section 6A that would allow him to serve a special weekend sentence.

After the appeal was entered, the judge held a hearing on the sheriff department’s petition to modify after the appeal was entered. The sheriff argued that the defendant should not be eligible due to his priors, having been imprisoned on prior convictions. The judge reduced the committed part of the defendant’s sentence to time served.

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stairsIn a recent Massachusetts aggravated assault case, the defendant was convicted of assault and battery by a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, and threatening. The case arose from the defendant allegedly kicking the victim multiple times with a closed-toe shoe while the victim was trying to go down a flight of stairs to get away from her. The kicks were such that the victim needed help from her boyfriend to avoid falling down.

Among other things, the defendant claimed that “dangerous weapon” as described in M.G. L. c. 265, § 15A(b) was unconstitutionally vague. A law is considered unconstitutionally vague if people with ordinary intelligence have to guess at what it means. When a law has been clarified by a court’s explanation, it withstands such a challenge. “Dangerous weapon” has a meaning that’s regularly applied, and dangerous weapons include objects designed and constructed to cause death or catastrophic injuries, as well as objects that aren’t dangerous per se but become dangerous based on how they’re used. Whether a weapon is dangerous within the law’s meaning is a question for the jury or fact-finding judge.

The appellate court reasoned that someone of usual intelligence would realize that using closed-toed shoes to kick someone multiple times as they went down the stairs was prohibited by the statute. It found no error on this point.

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showerIn a recent Massachusetts criminal case, a defendant appealed after being convicted of rape, assault, and battery with a dangerous weapon. The case arose when the defendant started dating the victim, and the victim moved into his apartment, where he lived with a male roommate. Soon afterward, the defendant and the victim started arguing, and these arguments turned into physical fights. The victim would later testify that the defendant physically abused her each week within months of her moving in.

After one argument, the roommate asked the defendant and the victim to leave. When they left, they went to the victim’s car outside the building. Inside the car, the defendant strangled and hit her. The police came, and the assault stopped. The victim would later testify she didn’t tell the cops what happened because the defendant made her feel guilty for getting him in trouble. There was no arrest. Shortly after that, the victim saw the defendant texting another woman. She told him the relationship was over and locked herself in the bathroom and got in the shower. The defendant broke in with a knife. He took off his clothes and got in the shower and smashed her head against the shower wall three times.

The police responded to a domestic violence report. The officer saw the victim crying in the bathroom. There were unattached pieces of hair on her shoulder. He arrested the defendant.

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fighting dogsIn a recent Massachusetts appellate case, the defendant was convicted of assault and battery on a girlfriend. He appealed on the grounds that the conviction was a result of speculation and conjecture and that there were no findings to support it.

The appellate court explained that after a defendant raises self-defense while being prosecuted for assault and battery, the burden shifts to the prosecutor to show the defendant didn’t act in self-defense. This requires the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant didn’t use all appropriate ways to avoid physical fighting before resorting to the use of force. Generally the right of self-defense can’t be claimed by someone who starts the fight or assault unless he withdraws from the fight and lets the other party know that this is what he’s doing.

In this case, the defendant argued that the judge hadn’t properly considered whether he acted in self-defense based on his speculative finding that he and the victim had been involved in a mutual fight, rather than a one-sided attack. He basically argued that the evidence was insufficient on the issue of self-defense. The appellate court reviewed whether a rational fact-finder could find the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt he hadn’t acted to defend himself.

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handcuffsIn a recent Massachusetts appellate case, a juvenile was found delinquent on a charge of assault and battery. He appealed, arguing that the judge had made a mistake in denying his motion for a required finding of not guilty and requiring him to pay restitution when there was no causal link between the crime and the loss.

The case arose out of an assault and battery. The juvenile claimed there wasn’t enough evidence to show that he’d pushed the victim or that he’d committed a joint venture, and none of the state’s witnesses identified him as a perpetrator. In order to convict him of assault and battery, the prosecutor was supposed to show beyond a reasonable doubt that he’d intentionally touched the victim in a harmful or offensive way without justification or excuse or that he’d wantonly engaged in conduct that resulted in an injury to somebody else.

To prove a joint venture, the prosecution had to show beyond a reasonable doubt that he knowingly participated in the commission of a crime alone or with others with the required level of intent.

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neighborhoodIn Commonwealth v. Romero, a Massachusetts defendant appealed from a conviction arising from M.G. L. c. 265, § 13A(a), which covers assault and battery. The defendant argued that the judge improperly denied her motion for a required finding of not guilty and had given incorrect jury instructions regarding the elements of the crime and the burden of proof.

The case arose when the defendant became angry over a dispute between her daughter and the victim’s son. The victim was a woman who lived across the street with her husband. In 2010, the defendant and her husband argued with the victim and her husband. It escalated into a physical confrontation in the victim’s hallway. The victim wasn’t injured, and the defendant, her husband, and two other men left the house. However, minutes later, the defendant came back into the victim’s house with a machete and tried to kick the victim’s five-year-old son. The victim’s husband punched the defendant to protect the son. The victim felt somebody pull her hair and push her down. The husband pushed the defendant off his wife.

The defendant’s husband then came back with the two other men and attacked the husband. Later, the victim’s daughter testified she saw the defendant and her mother fight. The defendant was convicted at trial.

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lady-justice-1203983In Commonwealth v. Bonsu, the defendant was convicted of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon for using a stick on the victim. The defendant argued that the judge shouldn’t have admitted hearsay evidence and unfairly excluded rebuttal testimony by her husband on the issue of bias, creating a risk of miscarriage of justice.

During trial, the victim of the defendant’s assault with a stick testified that neighbors ran outside during their fight shouting “Stop hitting her.” The appellate court found the judge had not erred in admitting these statements because the prosecution was entitled to tell the jury everything that happened. They were not offered as hearsay—to show the victim was in distress—but to explain what caused the assault to stop.

The judge had instructed the jury that it couldn’t conclude the statement was actually made based only on the victim’s testimony. The court added that, even assuming the statements were inadmissible, there was no prejudice, since the testimony was cumulative to an eyewitness’s testimony. The eyewitness had testified that she called 911 because she saw the defendant beating the victim with a tire iron and told the defendant to get off the victim.

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parking-lot-1450508In Commonwealth v. Messina, a Massachusetts appeals court considered a case involving charges of offensive battery. Under G. L. c. 265, § 13A, the Commonwealth is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally touched a victim, without justification or excuse, and this touching occurred without the consent of the victim.

Offensiveness is an element, but it is established by proving lack of consent, not by showing a particular harm to the victim. Proof that there was no consent doesn’t require a victim to explicitly state nonconsent by screaming, asking for help, or even asking the defendant to leave her alone.

The case arose when a 24-year-old victim was working for an animal rescue organization. One morning, while in her work uniform and hat, she left her cell phone in her locker and drove to a grocery store to buy some work items. It was crowded, and she lined up to pay with six or seven people in line before her. Her friend was working at the service desk. The defendant was a stranger who came about one foot from her and stared at her hat. He had the smell of alcohol on his breath. He said hello and asked her questions about where she worked. He walked away to pay at a different register.

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dumpster-alley-1510844.jpgSomebody can be found guilty of a criminal offense even if he or she didn’t actually commit the crime but aided and abetted the perpetrator of the offense in a “joint venture.” You can be guilty if you intentionally act with another to commit a crime in order to bring it about and make it succeed. In some cases, statements made by someone in a joint venture are used to convict his or her partner.

In Commonwealth v. DiGregorio, the defendant was found guilty of home invasion, kidnapping, assault, and battery by means of a dangerous weapon. On appeal, he claimed that the judge had improperly admitted statements between two friends, these statements didn’t fall under any exceptions to the hearsay rule, and they were therefore inadmissible.

One of the exceptions at issue was the joint venture exception to the hearsay rule. Under this rule, when joint criminal venturers make out-of-court statements against others, these statements are admissible if they are made while a criminal enterprise is pending and in order to further it. The judge must determine whether there was a criminal joint venture between the person making the statement and the defendant, but the judge doesn’t need to make a preliminary ruling that there was a joint venture. The evidence can come in, subject to a motion to strike at a later time if the prosecution doesn’t show there actually was a criminal enterprise. The judge needs to give a jury instruction informing the jury they can only consider the hearsay if they find there was a joint venture, based on all the other evidence except the hearsay statements.
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depressed-girl-1429979.jpgUnder Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 275, Section 4, it is a crime to threaten to commit a crime against someone else. If the defendant is convicted, he can be punished by a fine of $100 or less, or by imprisonment for six months or less. In many cases, there are additional charges brought against someone prosecuted for threatening to commit a crime, such as assault and battery.

In Commonwealth v. Montoya, the court considered a case in which the defendant was convicted of assault, battery, and threatening to commit a crime. The crimes arose from a turbulent romantic relationship between the defendant and the victim. The victim lived with the defendant, their four-year-old son, and her daughter from an earlier relationship. The defendant accused the victim of infidelity, and this developed into a physical confrontation.

The victim ran from the apartment with the children and went to her aunt’s, where she called 911 to report domestic violence. She asked the police to hurry because the defendant was crazy and was using her car to chase her around the neighborhood. A police officer responded to the call and came to the victim’s apartment. The officer observed blood on the victim’s ear, scratches, and a bruise. The apartment was in disarray.
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