In my previous post on this subject, explained that I believe that Suffolk County District Attorney Rachel Rollins is ill-fit for the job of top county prosecutor in Boston. My view is that her views on the purpose and role of prosecutor – offered by her under the guise of being a “criminal justice reformer” – (how vaguely ‘positive’) endanger the public safety, and in fact frustrate the goals of criminal justice, instead of advancing them. As it turns out, the timing for this second post could not be better, and the reason for this is the embarrassing and dangerous conduct Rollins put on full display in Boston Municipal Court these past few days. Those actions followed the arrest by Boston Police of approximately 36 defendants at last weekend’s Straight Pride parade in downtown Boston. Many of those defendants were charged with violently attacking not only parade participants, but Boston police officers as well. At least four officers were injured seriously enough to not be able to report to work following these assaults.
Almost all those protesters arrested at the Straight Pride parade were members of a violent leftist extremist group calling themselves “Antifa” (supposedly, for anti-fascism). This group is known for advocating violence to achieve their leftist (socialist) objectives, and in order to hide their identities many of them wear black hoods (remind you of anything similar, in U.S. history?) According to official statements from the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, many of these individuals came here from outside Massachusetts, specifically to agitate and engage in violence at this licensed parade. As a Boston criminal defense lawyer with more than 30 years of experience, I very much believe this assessment by the police union. Further, these protesters were witnessed by hundreds of people along the parade route, screaming profanities at parade participants, making obscene gestures, and shouting threats of physical violence against anyone in the parade who dared to disagree with their views.
Many of these protesters were seen hurling containers of liquid at parade marchers that were later determined to contain dangerous and caustic ingredients, such as bleach, other dangerous chemicals and even urine. Their threats of violence escalated to actual violence when many of these protesters rushed the parade marchers, physically assaulting and battering them. When Boston police officers rushed in to stop the mayhem, these protesters then attacked the police officers themselves. The attacks against police became so severe that officers were forced to use pepper spray against them. These protesters, mind you, are liberal extremists that promote themselves as seeking “peace”, “equality”, and “social justice”.
The day after Labor Day, 36 of these defendants were arraigned before judges at the Central Division of the Boston Municipal Court. As the Suffolk County District Attorney, Rachel Rollins’ job is to prosecute those defendants for the crimes they were charged with – many of which were serious, violent crimes that seriously threatened public safety. Shockingly – but then again, not so shockingly at all, given Rollins’ public actions the past nine months she has so unfittingly occupied this office – she instructed her line Assistant DA’s to file motions to dismiss most of these cases. Yes, you read that correctly – dismiss them. Still in disbelief? It’s quite true. One would expect this action from a defense attorney – either public defender or private attorney – but not from the District Attorney that was elected to prosecute cases – especially cases involving violence, such as these.
Two judges at the Boston Municipal Court heard these motions to dismiss – Judge Richard Sinnott and Judge Thomas Horgan. Both denied the DA’s motions to dismiss. However, the Commonwealth (prosecutor) is not without procedural options at that point: He/she can then file what is called a “nolle prosequi”, which is Latin for essentially saying “The Commonwealth chooses not to prosecute this case.” At that point, the judge has no option but to effectively cease the prosecution of the case, so long as the prosecutor files an accompanying statement outlining his or her reasons for filing a nolle prosequi. That is required per M.G.L Ch. 277, § 70A (30 MASS. PRACTICE SERIES (Smith) § 857 (1970, Supp.1978), but a judge is required to act accordingly once a nolle prosequi has been filed by a prosecutor.
However, prior to the filing of a nolle prosequi, a judge may hav ethe authority to deny a prosecutor’s motion to dismiss. Judge Richard Sinnott did just that on several of the cases that Rollins’ staff attempted to dismiss. In my view as a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney, Judge Sinnot did the right thing: Many of these defendants had been accused of publicly violent and disturbing criminal offenses. It is the DA’s job to prosecute those cases. As a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney, let me make the following very clear: Each of those defendants should (must) then receive a zealous and vigorous defense – there is zero dispute about that. And with a good defense, at the conclusion of those cases, one or more of them might result in acquittals – but those cases resulting from this horrid riot last week should have been prosecuted, nonetheless. The obvious reason why? To protect the public safety, serve the public interests, and send a message to others who would be prone to commit such crimes, that public safety and criminal justice will be enforced: That people cannot commit violent acts against the law, and walk away ‘scott-free’. That these obvious reasons even need to be said, is disturbing.
Yet, stunningly, that’s not how Rollins thinks. Since prior to her even beginning her job as Suffolk County DA, she has set out to treat criminals with kid gloves. Yes, before Rollins even won the election for Suffolk County DA last November, she “declared” that if elected, she would immediately move as the new District Attorney, to literally no longer prosecute a long list of crimes that the state legislature has deemed to be criminal offenses requiring prosecution. Instead, she stunningly asserted, cases against persons charged with such crimes would be dismissed – regardless of the individual case facts. These criminal offenses included:
- Shoplifting (including offenses charged as larceny)
- Larceny under $250
- Receiving stolen property
- driving offenses, including operating with a suspend or revoked license
- Wanton or malicious destruction of property
- Threats To Commit A Crime
- Minor in possession of alcohol
- Drug possession
- Drug possession with intent to distribute
- A resisting arrest charge combined with charges that all fall under the list of charges to decline to prosecute
This wasn’t and isn’t efforts to promote “criminal justice reform” – by the way, that very term openly implies that “reform” of the criminal justice system is needed – i.e., that the present system is somehow “broken” – and there has been no such proof of this offered by such “reformers”.
In truth, such ‘reformers’ are leftist extremists, who would like to remove almost all prosecutions for most crimes and replace them with a proverbial slap on the wrist. This is how such people believe society should be structured – along with the elimination of any differences between men and women, gender roles or classes. So how did Rollins get elected? Through a loosely structured coalition of women in the year of the #MeToo movement (huge), minorities (she is a member of a minority group herself – and no, that’s not an insult), liberals and voters who have had prior scrapes with the law (plenty of them). As just one example of how pernicious and destructive such broad-based, case-specific irrelevant proposals are, can you imagine, upon hearing of Rollins’ plan to eliminate prosecution for shoplifting arrests, the response of people who were ever previously arrested for shoplifting, or thinking of shoplifting? Surely, they headed straight for the voting booth to vote for her – then had a field day at their favorite stores! How anyone in their right mind cannot see, in just this one example, how such a drastic legal change will increase the number of criminal offenses committed in Suffolk County, is beyond me. Yet, both Rollins and her backers will tell you the opposite: And the people who must face a variety of increased crimes, since those crimes are longer prosecuted and carry no more criminal penalties? That’s their tough luck. Rollins is all but clueless about the meaning of , even the concept of, criminal deterrence. Never mind public safety.
My position may sound unusual, given the fact that I’m a criminal defense attorney – but it’s not. Let me make very clear: I zealously defend all my criminal defense clients. I fight tooth-and-nail for them, with a well-known record of success – and any prosecutor who has handled cases with me knows that. I thoroughly and completely support, and have always encouraged, District Attorneys’ offices throughout Massachusetts to regularly exercise prosecutorial discretion when dealing with low-level offenses, ‘victimless crimes’, or with defendants who made an isolated mistake and deserve a second chance to move on with their lives. As brief examples, these can include minor offenses such as possession of cannabis that is just over the legal limit, mistakenly driving with a vehicle registration that has been expired for a very brief time due to an oversight, one-time vehicular offenses when there has been no injuries or property damage, or a very minor scuffle where neither party was injured, etc. In such cases, leniency, justice and common-sense call for dismissal or a decision for nolle prosequi, and I would be the first attorney to advocate for that case-specific approach.
But that’s not what Rachel Rollins came into her job promising to do. She declared a blanket, wide-scale policy of ceasing prosecutions for a variety of crimes, based solely on the type of crime, and regardless of the individual facts presented. And to a large extent, that’s what she did with defendants charged with serious crimes at last week’s riot in Boston.
And most of the defendants that were arrested and charged surrounding the riot that occurred last weekend in Boston, were charged with serious offenses threatening the public safety. In an embarrassing and continuing dereliction of duty, Rollins instructed her staff DA’s to act, essentially, as defense attorneys for these individuals – and that is, expressly, not her job. She is acting like a chief defense attorney, not a prosecutor. She belongs working as a public defender for the state agency responsible for hiring and training public defenders – the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS). This is a laudable agency, with many fine, dedicated attorneys who do hard and necessary work. The difference between them and Rachel Rollins, is that they know what their job responsibilities are, and Rachel Rollins clearly doesn’t.