A Braintree resident found himself facing a court hearing for allegedly “impersonating a police officer” last month after he decorated his Maserati to look like Barricade, a character from the Transformers franchise.
The vehicle bears some resemblance to a police cruiser, but says “Decepticons” – the name for the villainous, shapeshifting, alien robots from the Transformers universe – where most cruisers would have the name of the police department. The vehicle also says “to punish and enslave” in lieu of the usual police motto, “to serve and protect.”
The man was pulled over on August 9 by Braintree Police Officer Brian Holt, who wrote in his report that he stopped the vehicle because he was not aware of the police department owning any Maseratis.
Holt, another officer, and a sergeant took pictures of the vehicle and allowed the driver to go on his way. After consulting with Lieutenant David Delpapa, Holt requested that the man be issued a summons.
Russell Matson,* a criminal defense attorney who is representing the man, said his client is innocent of any wrongdoing and that the police are wasting tax dollars by moving forward with the case.
“Braintree police do not traditionally either drive Maseratis or have 'punish and enslave' written on the side of their police cars,” Matson noted.
Matson declined to release the name of his client at this time, citing the man's desire to avoid publicity, but has said he's a University of Massachusetts-Amherst graduate in his 20s.
The law Matson's client is accused of breaking states that it only applies to someone who “falsely assumes or pretends” to be a police officer and “acts as such or requires a person to aid or assist him in a matter pertaining to the duty of such officer.”
The police report does not accuse Matson's client of misrepresenting himself as a police officer to anyone or of attempting to exercise any police powers, so the case does not appear to meet any of the criteria set forth in the law.
The police report fails to mention that the vehicle said “Decepticons.” It also did not mention that the vehicle lacked lights and sirens that could be used to pull other motorists over.
Matson was quick to point out that as absurd and comical as the case is, it is still a serious matter for his client, who faces up to a year in jail and a $400 fine if convicted.
The Transformers fan faces a clerk magistrate hearing in Quincy District Court on September 4. The clerk magistrate will have to determine if there is enough evidence for a criminal complaint to be issued.
Matson said he hopes to get the case dismissed during the hearing, but it's impossible to predict what will happen.
We went to the Braintree police station to inquire about the case, but were met with hostility instead of answers.
The officer we first spoke with said he could not speak to us about the case, but offered to get his lieutenant. When the lieutenant came out, she demanded that we turn off our camera and claimed that we didn't have the right to record her voice without her consent.
In reality, there is no law in Massachusetts that makes it illegal to record anyone without their consent and the First Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled multiple times that people have a clearly established First Amendment right to record police and other public officials.
When we repeatedly challenged her on the law, the woman told us that we could stay in the police station “all day” if we wanted, but that no one would answer our questions if we continued recording.
She would not tell us her name or show us her police ID card (as required by state law), but she did say that her badge number was 73. She was not wearing a badge or name tag when she spoke to us. We later determined her identity to be Lieutenant Karen MacAleese by calling the police department.
We ultimately left the police station without getting any answers since no one would talk to us on camera.
The Transformers case isn't the first controversy the Braintree police have found themselves in the midst of in the past few weeks. Last month, Cape Cop Times reported that Braintree police had arrested a medical marijuana patient, taken cash and medicine from him, and refused to give it back after being ordered to by a judge.
Instead of harassing Transformers fans, shaking down medical marijuana patients, and making up fake laws to try to intimidate journalists, the Braintree police should focus their limited time and resources on real problems plaguing their community such as unsolved murders.
The Bay State Examiner will be reaching out to Mark Wahlberg, an actor from the Transformers movies who is himself from Braintree, as well as Michael Bay, the director of the movies, to ask them to weigh in on the case.
*Disclosure: The Bay State Examiner has published writing by Russell Matson in the past.