In my career, more than one person has asked me the oft-repeated question, “How can you defend people accused of rape and other terrible crimes?” My answer is always the same: “What if it were you who were accused? Would you want everyone to just assume that you were guilty, and throw away all presumptions of innocence and legal safeguards? Because someone is accused of a crime does not necessarily mean that they are guilty – legally guilty or factually guilty.”
Exhibit “A” on that point is a case I wrote about a couple of months ago, concerning a Boston University student by the name of Max Nicastro, of Thousand Oaks, CA, who was accused of rape by a female student. NiCastro was a star on the BU men’s hockey team, and thought by many to be headed for a career as an NHL pro. He had been a 2008 draft pick for the Detroit Red Wings; he had a promising career.
All that ended with the pointing of an accusatory finger by the young woman who made the accusations against Nicastro (the woman’s name was never released for understandable reasons): After he was arrested on February 19, he was suspended from the BU hockey team, and “withdrew” from the school (there was no comment at the time from either BU or NiCastro as to whether his departure from the school was voluntary or not.) Fast forward 3 ½ months to present: It seems that after extensive investigation, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley’s office has decided to drop the charges against NiCastro. Reason: Insufficient evidence to prove their case. The DA’s own office acknowledged that the office and “had an ethical obligation not to pursue it further.” Exactly what happened, I’m not presently aware. And I laud the DA’s office for reaching the decision they did. I think Dan Conley is a responsible and ethical prosecutor. I’ve worked with many a District Attorney’s office in defending Massachusetts sexual assault cases, and I know this: If they had any credible evidence to move the case forward, they would have.
All this is welcome legal news for NiCastro, but whether this news will help restore his student status at BU, or help revive his hockey pursuits, is another question. Unfortunately, he will always carry the stigma of this accusation, regardless of what were to ultimately have happened with the case. As a Norfolk County Massachusetts rape lawyer, I have seen and defended many, many cases involving someone accused of a Massachusetts sex crime – whether rape, aggravated rape, or statutory rape. And I can assure you: Sometimes things are not always as they seem, and a person accused of such a crime deserves a presumption of innocence.