Articles Posted in Sex Offenses

A rape victim who was impregnated as a result of a rape that took place when she was 14 is fighting in court to keep her convicted rapist from being awarded visitation rights to the daughter she gave birth to nine months after the assault.

The victim was in 8th grade when an individual named Jamie Melendez had sexual intercourse with her several times in 2009. At the time of these sexual assaults, Melendez was 19 and met the victim through a friend of her older sister’s.   The victim testified that Melendez visited her at her home several times when he knew she was alone, and testified that Melendez pressured her into intercourse with him on four separate occasions.  Violence did not appear to be present in any of these rapes – they were statutory rapes, which take place even if the victim consented, any time an alleged victim is under a certain age (16 in Massachusetts.)  The victim became pregnant following one of the attacks and gave birth to a girl in 2010.  Melendez had been arrested in 2009 and initially denied paternity, but DNA evidence proved him to be the father.  Eventually Melendez pled guilty to charges of statutory rape in 2011 – however, he avoided jail as the trial judge ordered  a lengthy probation sentence instead – 16 years- reasoning that allowing  Melendez to work and hold down a job would enable him to pay the victim child support.  After Melendez’s 2011 sentencing, the case was transferred to the Massachusetts Probate and Family court – which the victim now argues should never have been done.  As a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney, I think she’s probably right. Continue reading

In my previous post on this subject, I wrote of how the only sex crime prosecution to date against Bill Cosby, may be ultimately derailed.

The reason has to do with an agreement that the previous Montgomery County District Attorney, Bruce Castor, made with Cosby’s attorneys, over ten years ago.  Then agreement promised not to prosecute Mr. Cosby for what is essentially the crime of indecent assault & battery in connection with allegations made by a woman named Andrea Constand.  Mr. Castor says that he agreed not to prosecute Mr. Cosby, in order to increase Ms. Constand’s chances of prevailing in a civil suit against Mr. Cosby for damages relating to the alleged incident. Continue reading

Up until very recently, it looked as though Bill Cosby’s legal luck had run out; that the celebrity actor was finally going to face prosecution for at least one allegation of rape and sexual assault.  That case stems out of Pennsylvania, and involves an alleged victim named Andrea Constand, who told police in 2005 that Cosby drugged her and then sexually assaulted her at his home in  Pennsylvania in 2004.   At that time, the former Montgomery County District Attorney, a man named Bruce Castor Castor, determined that there was not enough evidence to charge Cosby, but stated in a press release that  all parties to this matter that he will reconsider this decision should the need arise.”

Fast forward ten years, and just last month, December 2015, Cosby was legally charged for the first time, even though almost 50 women have come forward claiming that over decades of time, Cosby drugged, then sexually abused and /or raped them.  The specific crime that Cosby was charged with in Pennsylavnia in December was indecent aggravated assault, involving Andrea Constand’s 2005 allegations against Cosby.   So it looked as though the law had finally caught up with the entertainer.  But some interesting events over just the last few days may imperil that case being prosecuted. Continue reading

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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More than one person over the course of my career has asked me – usually with disbelief written all over their faces – how I can defend people accused of rape and other sexual crimes. My answer is always the same: Because the person who is accused may not be legally guilty of the particular Massachusetts sex crime they happen to be charged with.

While that usually gets the person to think twice, what’s disturbing is the attitude – more specifically, the pre-conceived notions – that most people start off with on this subject. This attitude almost translates to: “Anyone who is accused of rape or other sex crime, must be guilty.” The retort that usually silences them for good is this: “Really? Then I suppose that if you were accused of a sex crime, by your own reasoning, you’d have to be guilty, wouldn’t you?” A blank stare is the universal response to that comeback. But beyond this attitudinal presumption of guilt that people harbor about rape and other sex offenses, is something just as, or even more, pernicious: Twisted “new” definitions of what rape really is – fueled largely by militant feminists and liberal ‘activists’ on college campuses across the United States. This is all fueled by political correctness – that toxic idea that has said for too long now that one can’t say anything that could even remotely offend anyone, at any time, in any place, for any reason.

Rape has always been defined legally as: “The unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman by a man forcibly and against her will.” “Unlawful”, “Force” and “against her will” have always been central to this definition. (By the way: While the feminine pronoun has always been used in this definition, it should go without saying that a man can be raped, also.) Rape has always been viewed as a violent crime, savage in its commission, and always defined by a lack of consent. However, that time-honored legal definition is apparently not good enough for many “activists” in universities in this country. Exhibit “A” on how college campuses across America are twisting the time-tested legal definitions of rape? A recent study by Reason Magazine revealed that more than half of MIT students believe that rape and sexual assault “can happen unintentionally, especially if alcohol is involved.”

In my previous post on this subject, I wrote of how, recently, my wife and I, as well as several other people, were exposed (pardon the pun) to a man on Cape Cod who was wearing a “swim suit” that was, in the expressed opinion of several observers, extremely offensive and obscene. I mentioned how odd the timing of this incident was, because the Massachusetts Appeals Court had delivered a ruling earlier that very week, on the subject of what is and isn’t legal, when it comes to very revealing clothing.

The defendant in that case, Commonwealth vs. Coppinger, was charged with the Massachusetts sex offense of Open and Gross Lewdness. He was tried before a jury, and was found guilty of that charge. He appealed his conviction, his lawyer arguing that the judge who presided at his earlier trial erred in denying the defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. That Motion had claimed that the statute prohibiting open and gross lewdness is “unconstitutionally vague,” and thus unenforceable. In addition, the defendant also argued on appeal that the trial judge erred again when instructing the jury on an accepted definition of the word “exposure” – because he claimed he was not “exposing” himself. Why? Here’s where things get interesting: Because, the defendant claimed, the translucent (see-through) “compression shorts” he was wearing, constituted “clothing,” and thus he could not have been legally “exposing” himself.

Interesting argument, but the Appeals Court denied both claims. First, on the issue of whether the statute was vague, the court outlined what elements of this Massachusetts sex offense the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, which are: (1) That the defendant “exposed his or her . . . genitals, buttocks, or female breasts to one or more persons”; (2) That the defendant did so “intentionally”; (3) That the defendant did so “openly,” that is, he or she intended public exposure, or recklessly disregarded a substantial risk of public exposure, to individuals who might be offended by such conduct; (4) That the defendant’s act was committed in such a manner as to produce alarm or shock in anyone witnessing it; and (5) That one or more persons were in fact alarmed or shocked by the defendant’s act of exposing himself or herself.”

The other day, my wife and I were on Cape Cod. Suddenly, she directed my attention away from the water I was gazing at. “Look over there – Can you believe that?” she asked, incredulously. What I saw was a man, who appeared to be in his mid-to-late 50’s or perhaps early 60’s, “wearing” – and I use that term loosely – what I am sure he would have claimed was a “bathing suit.” What it actually consisted of, was two cords around either hip, leading to a small swatch of cloth that acted as a pouch, or pocket, for the man’s genitals.

To give you an idea of how much material this “pocket” consisted of, think of this comparison: If you made a fist, the material this man was wearing would not be enough to cover the top of an average person’s fist. In the rear (pardon the pun) there was no material whatsoever; his buttocks were completely exposed. I myself was quite offended (and I’m no prude.) Not just ‘somewhat’ offended, but very much. Other people in the area that we observed displaying uncomfortable facial expressions were also offended, and I know this for a fact because I quietly asked them if they were. Even children and teenagers were staring in stunned amazement. The man was not oblivious to the resulting attention, and he seemed to enjoy it, at one point even getting off his lounger to engaging in “stretching.”

OK, quick: Was this man’s appearance a crime in Massachusetts? Or just extremely poor taste? As a Boston sex offense lawyer, I can tell you that I’ve seen many of these types of cases. But first, exactly what Massachusetts sex crime could a person such as the above man, be charged with? The appropriate criminal charge for someone appearing in a state of ‘dress’ that violates state law is called “Open and Gross Lewdness,” which is a violation of M. G. L. c. 272, § 16. That statute makes it a crime to “intentional(ly) expose .. genitalia, buttocks, or female breasts to one or more persons.” This charge is also known as “Lewd and Lascivious Conduct.” Exposing one’s genitals, buttocks or breasts is not the only way that a person could be charged with this crime; it is just one. Public urination – sadly common at public gatherings such as sporting events – also triggers this crime.

In my previous post on this subject, I wrote about how people sometimes ask me how I can defend clients accused of sex offenses, and of how my answer is always the same: Not everyone accused of a Massachusetts sex offense is guilty. A recent example is a young man by the name of Ross Currier, 26 years old, who was recently arrested by Boston Police, jailed, fingerprinted, and arraigned on charges of Assault & Battery and Indecent Assault & Battery on a Person Over age 14. He was brought into court, his name brought before the media, and his reputation ruined in the process. After being released on bail, he was forced to wear a visible GPS device, tracking his movements at all times. There was just one slight thing wrong: Currier was completely innocent; he never committed this crime.

On February 15 2014, a woman reported to Boston Police that she was jumped by a man, from behind, early that morning outside her North End apartment. She reported that the man threw her to the ground, groped her sexually, and took a photo under her skirt with his smartphone. About three weeks later, Boston Police arrested Currier on March 10 after the alleged victim saw him in the North End and told patrol officers that she was “90 to 95 percent positive” that Currier was the man who had attacked her.

Another slight hitch: It seems the alleged victim had previously also misidentified another man in a photo array she had been showed by police, who – unbeknown to her – just so happened to be incarcerated at the time of the alleged assault. Worse, Currier had an alibi, specifically that he was at home with his fiancée at the time of the alleged attack. Notwithstanding, Currier was charged with this extremely serious crime.