In the recent Massachusetts case of Commonwealth v. Lemery, the defendant appealed from a conviction of receiving stolen goods worth over $250. She argued on appeal that there was insufficient evidence to support her conviction, that the judge should not have admitted irrelevant evidence, and that impermissible factors went into her sentence.
The appellate court explained that in order to be guilty of the receipt of stolen property, a defendant has to buy or receive property that has been embezzled or stolen and know of its stolen status. This crime can be established through the use of circumstantial, rather than direct, evidence.
The appellate court reasoned that the jury could infer that the defendant knew the jewelry was stolen because she told conflicting stories about how she got it, and she had the items in her hands 24 hours after the report they were stolen. It noted that if a defendant possesses property that’s been stolen recently, possessing it is enough of a basis for the jury to infer she knows it was stolen. The court also reasoned that the jury could have found that the items were worth at least $250 because she sold them for $2,400. The victims had identified several pieces, including an engagement ring that had been appraised at between $7,000 and $8,000.
The buyer of the stolen jewelry testified that the defendant had informed him she got the jewelry from her family as a present or inheritance. The defendant argued that this was an overly prejudicial and irrelevant statement. However, the court pointed out that at trial, the defendant claimed she got the jewelry at a junkyard and was unaware that it was stolen. To the appellate court, this contradictory account showed a consciousness of her guilt.
The appellate court also considered the defendant’s sentence, which she claimed violated the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. She’d been sentenced to two years in a house of correction, which fell within the sentencing limits. However, she believed that the sentence was based on improper factors, including the court’s consideration of her drug addiction, uncharged criminal activity, and pregnancy.
The appellate court found this was unsupported by the record and noted that she’d tried to get a more lenient sentence by bringing her pregnancy and miscarriage before the court. The court had provided reasons why it was appropriate to state a committed sentence, including the placement of the defendant on probation repeatedly only to have the defendant violate probation over and over. The court had also found the harm to the victims was emotionally and financially significant.
The appellate court explained that the judge had noted he didn’t know whether the defendant engaged in a burglary of the victims’ home, but instead the judge looked at the nature of the stolen goods charge, the circumstances, and the defendant’s priors. The defendant had created a market for stolen goods she’d received and was therefore accountable for the violation of the victims. In fact, the judge had considered her drug dependence a mitigating factor when imposing the sentence. The judgment was affirmed.
If you are charged with a property crime in Massachusetts, contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy today to discuss the criminal charges. Call us at 617-367-0450 or contact us through this website.
More Blog Posts:
Assault and Battery Causing Serious Injury in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published January 14, 2015
Receiving Stolen Property in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published December 15, 2014