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As I write this post, Thanksgiving Day is winding down. Another exercise in mad dashes and massive traffic jams, to get together to give thanks for what we have. (Though most people use it as an excuse to gorge themselves, watch football, and avoid arguments with family members.) Regardless, if you got through this day unscathed from any of the above risks, I’m afraid you may not be in the clear just yet.

Not if you plan on joining the mad throngs descending on the retailers who run “Black Friday” sales. Black Friday, of course, is so named for the fact that the sales volumes typically racked up at large retailers on this day, create large profits leaving these stores “in the black” –earning profits – instead of “in the red” – losing profits. But aside from accounting jargon, this day should be called black for another good reason: The dark, disturbed impulses it brings out in so many people – in the name of “getting a good deal” on some ridiculous material purchase (did someone say the latest iPhone? 60” Flat screen TV?) Continue reading

Police Department records are public documents. Though not everyone knows that, many people do. That’s a good thing, because, for obvious reasons, we wouldn’t want Police Departments to operate in secrecy. Not only do police departments keep their daily logs public – which are abbreviated, digested descriptions of police activity, they must also make the full records of those incidents, which are much lengthier than a simple log entry, public upon request.

So you’d think that the same laws would apply to Massachusetts college & university campus police departments, right? If you said “yes,” you’d be wrong. Continue reading

Yesterday, the Boston Globe reported on a murder that almost certainly could have been prevented, involving a domestic violence call that Boston Police Department officers had responded to a year ago, in November 2014.  This story has cause a lot of concerns among the public about the effectiveness of restraining orders, that I’d like to address today.

The BPD officers who responded to the call, reportedly did not check to see whether the victim had previously been previously granted an Abuse Prevention Order (restraining order) against her boyfriend.  Doing so is the first order of business when police officers respond to calls of domestic abuse.  Instead, the officers removed the boyfriend from the apartment, and dropped him off at a detox center.  A day later, that person murdered the victim, who previously had, in fact, taken out a restraining order against him.  If the officers had checked this out as protocol requires, they would have arrested that person, immediately.  To be fair, both the victim and the accused were reportedly extremely intoxicated at the scene, and in no condition to convey accurate information to the officers.   Regardless, the officers could have checked for this information, with a simple call to their dispatcher. Continue reading

Here in Massachusetts, we’ve got a serious problem involving heroin use. A lot of deaths have resulted, and clearly, we need to address this problem. No one, including myself, disputes that.

But you can rely on government to step in and largely botch the potential solutions to a given problem. Entirely unproductive efforts, misguided approaches and hundreds of billions of dollars of wasted taxpayer money have been the combined legacy of this country’s utter and abject failure to address drug use that is harmful. For the past 40+ years, the federal and state governments have dramatically called this effort, the “War on Drugs.” And it has been no more effective than the “War on Poverty.” (Look around you, if you doubt that.)

The most recent, and here in Massachusetts, most local example of this wasted and misdirected energy to address the heroin epidemic in Massachusetts? Gov. Charlie Baker’s recent proposal to limit the amount of painkillers that doctors can prescribe for patients, a product of his “Opioid Working Group,” which he assembled to “tackle” the heroin epidemic in Massachusetts. As part of his grand plan, Gov. Baker would step in between the privacy of doctors and patients, and actually prevent doctors from writing prescriptions for pain medications beyond a very small number of pills (maximum of 72 hour supply,) for seriously injured and ill patients, suffering from severe pain.

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“Deja Vu, all over again.” I don’t mean for that quote from the late Yogi Berra to be humorous here. I’m talking about yet another mass shooting, this time in Oregon. Ten people killed, seven wounded. For me, as Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer, one of the scariest things about this latest massacre, is this: Here in Boston, this story didn’t even make the Headline on the front page of yesterday’s Boston Globe. It was on the front page, but it wasn’t the headlined story: Another, local story did. That’s how common and relatively un-shocking this type of violence has become.

And once again, the pro-gun control/gun rights advocates will begin the shouting sessions and the finger-pointing at each other. The script never changes; it likely never will. Our country and its elected officials must get beyond this tired, cyclical debate marked by catch phrases such as “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” and ask a far more fundamental question:

Why has this country become such a savage, violent society?

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Boston Fox TV25 has reported that a Brewster, Mass., woman has been fired for her job — for testing positive for marijuana use — even though she has a completely legal prescription from her doctor, to treat a serious disease that she has. That disease is Crohn’s Disease, a gastrointestinal ulceration disease which is extremely painful and difficult to live with.

The fired employee, a Cristina Barbuto, is not (apparently) being charged with a crime, and at present this is an employment law case, not a criminal prosecution. But as a Boston Massachusetts drug offense attorney, I can assure you that she may as well be accused of being a criminal. That this employer, Advantage Sales & Marketing LLC, would do this, is beyond embarassing to them: It is shameful that someone who has a legitimate medical ailment, and who has been given a legitimate medical prescription for treating that ailment, should lose her job, effectively branded as a “drug use violator.” While the law that made medical marijuana legal in Massachusetts over two years, overwhelmingly supported by a vast majority of Massachusetts citizens, doesn’t mandate that employers allow employees who have a valid cannabis prescription to take it while at work, the law clearly does not prohibit authorized employees from using at when not at work.

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I grew up just down the street from Boston University, on Crowninshield Road in Brookline, Mass. Every late August and early September, I would watch as thousands of “grown ups,” as I thought of them in those much younger years of my life, swarmed Commonwealth Avenue and North Brookline, in the annual ritual of a new academic year. (Those “grown ups,” of course, were students aged 18-22 years old, an index of just how much time has passed in my life.) At any rate, I never thought much more of what their lives consisted of, than studying. How near-sighted of me – but then again, I was maybe 10-15 years old.

Practicing law as a Boston criminal defense attorney over the past 25 years, I’ve seen a very different side of a typical university student’s life. It doesn’t just include classes, student clubs, and exams. It also includes several activities that can often lead to unexpected outcomes – and that can land a student before university disciplinary authorities, or even worse – arrested and charged with a variety of criminal offenses. Many of these are offenses that can jeopardize a young person’s college financial aid package, enrollment at school, and even their entire future. These offenses can include allegations of student rape and sexual assault, various Massachusetts drug offenses, property crimes such as larceny, as well as serious Massachusetts motor vehicle violations.

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I don’t usually weigh in on cases outside Massachusetts, but the St. Paul’s Prep School rape trial in New Hampshire merits a few observations.

First, in the event that some people might think that, as a Boston Massachusetts sex crimes attorney, I’m going to dismiss all the allegations that have been made in this case, they’d be wrong. (At least one of those charges is likely statutory rape, since the alleged victim was 15 at the time of the alleged sexual encounter, which the defendant claims was consensual.) I think it’s fairly clear that, notwithstanding the press statements issued by administrators at this school denying that any kind of culture exists at the school that would promote sexual misconduct bewteen students, such a culture has existed. This culture, part of which appears exemplified by the “senior salute” ritual testified about in this trial, should be investigated by New Hampshire state authorities extensively – with the more important goal being the identification, firing, and prosecution of any and all school administrative personnel – teachers or otherwise – who knew of this culture and allowed it to continue. In my view as a Massachusetts rape defense lawyer, there are obvious parallels to the catholic clergy sex abuse scandals roiling the nation (and first uncovered in Boston.) I find any such professional school staffers, if it can be shown that they knew of this culture and allowed it to continue, to be equal in guilt to the bishops who knew what certain sexually abusive priests were doing, yet turned a blind eye to it.

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In my previous post on this subject, I wrote of how colleges and universities across the United States are rapidly disassembling the way that accusations of college campus rape and college campus sexual assault are handled – and of how, in the process, many accused students’ legal and constitutional rights are being trampled in the process.

While there are many examples of this disturbing trend across the country, making Exhibit “A” is the story of John Doe v. Amherst College: A shocking story of how a male student was railroaded out of one of the country’s most “esteemed” universities, based on the shallowest of claims and weakest of evidence offered.

This suit raises disturbing questions about whether colleges and universities conducting their own internal “investigations,” do so within the rules of law. These questions haven’t come out of nowhere – they’re prompted at least in part by the pressure that federal regulators have exerted upon colleges and universities to use a less stringent standard of evidence to “convict” an accused student, than that which has been used in courts across Massachusetts and the entire country for hundreds of years. As anyone who has ever read a legal thriller or watched the same kind of movie, in order to legally convict an accused of a crime (any crime, never mind one so serious as sexual assault or rape – a jury or judge must find that the accused is guilty to a standard of “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.”

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There’s a growing trend across Massachusetts college campuses, and at universities throughout the United States, and it isn’t pretty: Colleges and universities that conduct their own “investigations” over accusations of sexual assault, and hear “evidence” in their own internal “tribunals,” consisting of anything but trained judges or even attorneys.

What’s going on here, you ask? Why aren’t accusations of campus rape referred to the local police department for investigation, just as they would be normally? Two reasons – neither of which is conducive to producing just outcomes in cases of Massachusetts campus sexual assault accusations: 1) Campus ‘women’s rights’ activists (read: militant feminist extremists who think all men are out to “conquer” them,) have created enormous pressure on college officials to punish – fast and furious – anyone accused of campus sexual assault or rape. Their “rationale” for keeping these investigations internal (on campus)? They claim that police departments and prosecutors’ offices “don’t care” about allegations of rape or sexual assault on college campuses. (Yes, you read that correctly); and 2) The U.S. Department of Education, which doles out hundreds of millions of dollars to colleges and universities every year in the form of federal grants and financial assistance and enforces a federal law called “Title IX,” wants universities to “get tough” on campus sex assaults – and they’re using their purse strings to make sure that happens. Seemingly, without regard for minor things called “justice,” “due process,” and “presumption of innocence.”

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