Articles Posted in Harassment Crimes

The evolving methods of digital communication that Massachusetts residents are using in all aspects of their lives present challenges to lawmakers who want to ensure that state laws criminalize digital harassment and intimidation, as well as the distribution of pornographic materials. Dating in the digital age often includes electronic communications, “sexting,” and the exchange of intimate photos and videos among dating partners and others. While creating and sharing intimate photos and videos is a legally protected and acceptable practice among consenting adults, the rise of “revenge porn” presents a challenge to lawmakers.

Revenge porn includes the distribution by one party of intimate pictures, videos, and other communications which include the other party without their consent. Commonly, revenge porn distribution becomes an issue after a couple has broken up, when a party possessing intimate or embarrassing files involving the other party releases (or threatens to release) the material in an effort to hurt their former partner, or even to coerce them into taking some action.

Forty-eight states in the U.S. have laws on the books specifically criminalizing revenge porn. Massachusetts and South Carolina do not have such laws. Former Governor Charlie Baker made it a priority for the Massachusetts legislature to outlaw revenge porn in the previous legislative session, and the Massachusetts House of Representatives unanimously passed such a bill in May of last year. The State Senate, however, was unable to pass a bill to get to the governor’s desk before the session closed last month.

In Commonwealth v. Leboeuf, the defendant appealed from a conviction for criminal harassment and making harassing telephone calls under G. L. c. 265, § 43A and G. L. c. 269, § 14A. He presented seven arguments as to why the conviction should be overturned: insufficient evidence, erroneous denial of a motion to dismiss, improper entry of a partial nolle prosequi, violation of due process, erroneous jury instructions, violation of confrontation rights, and double jeopardy.

The case arose when a woman received about 30 phone calls on her cell phone from an unavailable number in the middle of the night. She recognized the defendant’s voice when he asked for contact information for her friend, who was also the mother of his child. She refused to give him the information, but he continued calling both her cell phone and her employer’s home phone. He asked her if he needed to come to Boxford, which was the location of the home where she served as a nanny. After 26 phone calls, she let her employer know and called the police.

In order to prove criminal harassment, the Commonwealth must show: (1) the defendant engaged in a knowing series of actions or speech on at least three different occasions, (2) the defendant intended to target the victim with harassment, (3) the conduct was such that it seriously alarmed the victim, (4) a reasonable person would suffer significant emotional distress due to the conduct, and (5) the defendant acted maliciously and willfully. The defendant argued that the Commonwealth had not shown the conduct was willful and malicious or that a reasonable person would have experienced significant emotional distress.
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Homemade bombs are illegal in Massachusetts and elsewhere. Anybody convicted of control or possession of an explosive device faces the possibility of fines and imprisonment of either up to 2 1/2 years in the house of corrections or between 10-20 years in the state prison. In the recent case of Commonwealth v. Huacon, the defendant was charged with malicious burning of property, malicious explosion, control or possession of an incendiary device, and violating a restraining order. The case arose during the defendant’s and victim’s romantic relationship, which lasted about two years before the events at issue.

The victim lived with her family. The victim invited the defendant into her house, where they got in a fight. The victim’s mother asked the defendant to leave, but he wouldn’t. She went downstairs, and the defendant followed her.

He got a knife and told the family he would kill everyone and burn the house down. About 30 minutes later, three police officers arrived, took the knife, and arrested the defendant. Later, a restraining order was obtained. Nonetheless, the defendant called the victim at work.
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Last month Boston Firefighter Kenneth Veiga, a 24 year veteran, was facing potential charges for threats he made against his department following a requirement that he see a predetermined physician in order to return from his paid leave.

Veiga allegedly told his commander that he was thinking about smashing a fire truck into a wall, and further that,”I am Army trained and have weapons and ammunitions (sic) in a storage locker. Dorner will be child’s play.” The reference to “Dorner” being that of the former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner who killed several people last month, resulting in a man hunt and standoff prior to killing himself earlier last month. Boston Police also said Veiga additionally stated that he was “upset with City Hall, Fire Department Headquarters, and the Firefighters Union Hall.”

It was reported this week that no charges will be filed in the case.

Under Massachusetts law, in order to be criminally liable for making a threat, the prosecution must prove that a person has done all of the following:

  • the defendant expressed intent to injure a victim and/or his or her property;
  • the defendant intended to convey this to his victim;
  • the injury or harm that was threatened, would be a crime if carried out; and
  • the threat was expressed in such a way as to give the victim reasonable fear or apprehension that the defendant had the intent and ability to carry out what was threatened.

Thus, comments made merely in jest or as an expression of frustration, may not rise to the standard required under criminal law. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that in its case against a defendant, the government must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, based on the limited information and evidence reported, it isn’t that surprising that the case was not pursued.
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A Boston Globe article reports that the recently enacted Massachusetts harassment laws have led state officials to place Kingston Town Administrator, Jim Thomas, on administrative leave. The board, acting on the advice of town counsel Jay Talerman, made this decision after Thomas was allegedly heard making threats to Selectwoman Susan Munford. Munford filed the complaint after learning of three alleged occurrences threatening the Selectwoman. The final incident was reported to Munford after two Town Hall employees allegedly overheard Jim Thomas making loud, expletive threats expressing his intent to “bring [Susan Munford] down.” Following Thomas’ administrative leave, other town employees came forward with their incidents of Thomas’ unprofessional conduct, claiming that Thomas “used threatening and retaliatory behavior against them, along with bullying tactics, and displayed lack of respect in his dealings” with other employees. A hearing is scheduled to determine whether to reinstate Thomas or to permanently dismiss him from his duties.

Government officials, local, state and federal, are highly respected individuals expected to uphold the law and make decisions for the community at large. Harassment, discrimination, and abuse are crimes that not tolerated in the workplace as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. government officials are not immune to harassment crimes law in Massachusetts. Crimes such as harassment often escalate to more serious crimes including assault and battery and violation of harassment prevention orders and should be addressed immediately. Crimes against the individual are considered serious in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and are prosecuted vigorously. The implementation of laws to curtail harassment in Massachusetts has resulted in an increase in court filings, hearings and charges alleging violation of harassment orders.

The harassment law mentioned above came into effect in Massachusetts in February 2010 and allows a broader range of individuals suffering from harassment to obtain a harassment prevention order. In the past, the Massachusetts Superior Court was the only court permitted to grant a restraining order or Ch. 209A protective order, unless a petitioner qualified as family or household member of the perpetrator of harassment. However, the implementation of Chapter 258E of the General Laws, allows for the Superior Courts, Boston Municipal Court, District Courts, and Juvenile Court to issue Harassment Prevention Orders if an individual can prove that they suffered from three or more acts of willful and malicious conduct. The law provides that a Harassment Prevention Order may be granted to protect an individual from abuse, harassment, and may require the defendant to refrain from contacting the individual or visiting the individual’s workplace or household, and may require the defendant to pay monetary compensation for losses suffered resulting from the harassment. Ex parte (one side only at the hearing) or temporary harassment prevention orders may also be ordered by the court to protect an individual if they are in immediate danger of harassment. Typically, a harassment prevention order remains in effect for one year, and may be extended for an additional period at the anniversary of the original hearing date if the petition requests an extension on that date.
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The interaction between airline personal and members of the general public since September 11, 2001 seems to have changed and not in a positive way. Indeed, news reports of incidents involving people accused of crimes such as assaulting or harassing flight crew attendants or interfering with a member of a flight crew or operation of the aircraft in any way seem to have increased dramatically since 9/11. Is this change due in part to the hyper-sensitive reaction of flight attendants or flight crew to any criticism or concern raised by members of the flying public? If you find yourself in the position of being under arrest in these circumstances you just might think so.

Unfortunately, some conversations between flight attendants and the general public are often viewed as arguments or complaints that have escalated to the point where what we see now is the innocent individual being detained on the plane, arrested upon landing and prosecuted in the nearest court within the airport’s jurisdiction. The police take the statements of the airline crew at face value to substantiate the arrest and they seem more than happy to provide information that the person was in some way disruptive or disorderly while on a plane. Ultimately, the post-9/11 airline crackdown on alleged bad behavior may have had a chilling effect on speech and has led to many improper arrests of members of the flying public.

In Massachusetts, under M.G.L. Chapter 90, Section 40, a person can be prosecuted for interfering with, or threatening to interfere with the operation of an aircraft. The penalty for violation of this law is significant and involves imprisonment for not less than one month or not more than six months. Fines ranging from $10 to $500 may be imposed in addition to any incarceration. If a person is convicted of this crime also referred to as “interference with a flight crew”, the clerk magistrate of the court must report the conviction to the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission.

If you have been accused of a crime while on an airplane that lands at Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, you may be taken into custody by a trooper from the Massachusetts State Police (Troop F). Your case will fall under the jurisdiction of the East Boston Division of the Boston Municipal Court located at 37 Meridian Street in Maverick Square, East Boston, Massachusetts. You will either be released after posting bail at the F Troop State Police barracks and given a date to appear for arraignment in court or you will be detained by the police and taken to the East Boston District Court on the day or your arrest or the next available date if you cannot post bail and your arrest occurs over the weekend or on a day when the court is closed.
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It has been a year since Massachusetts introduced the new Harassment Order law (G.L. c. 258E) last May which allows a plaintiff to seek a “Harassment Prevention Order” in court against a defendant for “Harassment”. Since the enactment of the Harassment Law in Massachusetts there has been an explosion of new cases and a corresponding increase in the need for an experienced Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer.

In order to obtain a Harassment Order against another person, the moving party must demonstrate that 3 or more acts were committed against them in a “willful and malicious” manner with “intent to cause fear, intimidation, abuse or property damage.” The Plaintiff can seek a Harassment order in the District Court, Boston Municipal Court, Juvenile Court, or Superior Court.

The principle difference between Abuse Prevention Orders (G.L. c. 209A) and Harassment Orders (G.L. c. 258E) concerns the class of people eligible for relief under each law. With Harassment Orders anyone can seek relief by filing an application in court and proving a case of harassment as defined above by a preponderance of the evidence. The Abuse Prevention Order only allows “Family or Household Members” to seek relief. In short, there must have been a relationship between the parties by marriage, or persons residing together in the same household, or relation at some point by blood or marriage between them. One could also seek an Abuse Prevention Order if they were or had been in a dating relationship with the offending party.

The Harassment Order law re-defines and greatly increases the pool of eligible plaintiffs who have access to the courts to obtain a “Harassment Order”. Consequently, we are now seeing a flood of new filings by neighbor against neighbor which has overwhelmed already swollen court dockets. Due to the increase in cases an experienced Boston Criminal attorney is crucial to have at your side when seeking or defending against Harassment and Abuse Prevention Orders in Massachusetts.
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