Lawrence police opted to escalate a vehicle stop to the point of threatening to use potentially lethal force (while endangering bystanders and other officers) rather than identify themselves, then violently arrested and refused to provide medical aid for the victim of their aggression.Read More
Salem police records catch dispatcher fabricating details related to our Sep 1 detention.Read More
The public is not able to see the WorcesterRead More
Salem police detained us for shooting video of a National Grid property from a public beach. There was reason for the police to believe we had committed a crime.Read More
The Gloucester police didn't post or provide an email address to receive a public records request, so now they'll have to process them through Facebook.Read More
A man survived a harrowing experience with an off-duty, plainclothes Medford police detective on Sunday after driving the wrong way through a rotary, then being threatened with death during a subsequent traffic stop.
In a dashcam video recorded by the motorist, who Boston.com has identified only as "Mike," Medford police detective Stephen Lebert is seen stepping out of an unmarked, red pickup truck while wearing a white, sleeveless shirt and shorts. Lebert begins reaching behind his back while approaching the car menacingly.
Mike puts his car in reverse and begins driving away, but stops as it becomes clear that Lebert was reaching for a police badge, not a weapon.
"I'll put a hole right through your fucking head," Lebert screams as he approaches the vehicle.
“I didn't know you were a cop,” Mike replies.
“I'll put a hole right through your head,” Lebert again threatens.
Mike pulls into a parking space and Lebert approaches him again and begins yelling and swearing at him.
"You're lucky I'm a cop 'cause I'd be beating the fucking piss out of you right now," Lebert threatens.
Mike mentions that he was recording the traffic stop with a dashcam and Lebert responds by threatening to take the camera, which is generally illegal for police to do without a warrant, although he didn't end up following through with the threat.
Mike explains that he told Lebert he was recording because he's required to do so by Massachusetts state law. Boston.com further explains that "Massachusetts is a 'two-party consent' state, which means it’s illegal to record audio without the knowledge and permission of the person being recorded." However, this information is false. According to the 2001 Hyde ruling, it's only necessary to keep an audio recording device in "plain sight" to avoid violating the wiretapping law and no consent is required. Furthermore, the 2011 Glik ruling, which found that records police and other public officials is protected by the First Amendment, has left it ambiguous as to whether the Massachusetts law is constitutional.
Later, another police officer shows up. Mike tried to explain how Lebert threatened him, but the officer shows no concern at all and instead begins grilling the driver about allegedly not having the correct address on his license.
After Mike was issued a citation, the police officer begins to walk away until the driver asks to speak with him again. Mike again explains how Lebert had threatened him, but the officer continues to show no concern at all. Rather than advising the driver of how to make a complaint against Lebert, he instead suggests appealing the ticket. He then said, “The longer you stay here, the more trouble you're just gonna get into.”
Lebert was placed on paid administrative leave Monday morning after Mike uploaded his dashcam video to YouTube.
“He’s a 30-year member of the department and works in our detective division,” Medford Police Chief Leo Sacco Medford Police Chief Leo Sacco told Boston.com. “He’s a very effective police officer but last night’s incident that’s on video, at least that portion of the video that I saw, is troubling to say the least.”
Here is the full description of the video that Mike posted on YouTube:
Driving home today I got lost and made a wrong turn. In an unfamiliar area I drove slowly but made the mistake of not seeing a poorly marked rotary. I stopped midway through it when I realized I screwed up and fortunately there were no close calls or potential accidents. Only a single oncoming car (not the medford cop/detective in the video, he was on the other side) that had fully stopped before the rotary seeing my stupid mistake. After I stopped and realized it was too late I just continued out of the way and back onto the correct road in front of me. This man starts tailgating me and puts his high beams on in his Red Chevy Silverado pick up truck. He then yells how I'm an asshole and that he is going to hurt me, and well the rest is in the video.
The date is incorrect as my dashcam apparently was set wrong. I very rarely ever need to pull videos off of it over the period of time I've owned it and just didn't notice the date mistake. The time however is right.
I also never gave my address to him, he found it by running my plates/license so him saying I'm not registered is false. I have had that info updated since I moved.
Mike has not yet responded to a request for comment.
The weather in Boston during this year's Independence Day was beautiful, but the atmosphere was marred by the an overbearing law enforcement presence and police state checkpoints. The police establishment in Boston has previously claimed the power to search backpacks at checkpoints set up on on public streets during certain events without probable cause. Now they are claiming the power to simply ban backpacks from public places even though there is no law that allows them to do so.Read More
A recent conviction of a Massachusetts police chief for extortion raises questions about whether clerk magistrate’s hearings, a common type of criminal procedure in Massachusetts courts, should have more transparency. In almost all courts, these hearings are closed to the public and the media. Clerk magistrate’s hearings are used to find if there is sufficient cause to proceed with a formal criminal charge against a defendant.
Former Lee, Massachusetts police chief Joseph Buffis was convicted of extortion last month for his role in coercing a couple to donate to a charitable toy fund he controlled in exchange for a favorable outcome in a prostitution case. He was found not guilty of other charges, including multiple counts of money laundering and wire fraud related to the toy fund. He faces up to 20 years in prison for the extortion charge and will be sentenced on October 19.
The extortion revolved around a prostitution sting that resulted in a criminal citation for Thomas Fusco and Tara Viola, the former owners of the Inn at Laurel Lake. Viola was charged with sexual conduct for a fee, and both were charged with keeping a house of prostitution. Buffis knew that Fusco and Viola were eager to work out any deal that would both get them out from under the charge and stop any additional bad publicity from destroying their business.
He concocted a scheme where he would agree to not issue the criminal complaint at a clerk’s hearing, have them sign non-disclosures about the agreement, and even issue a memo to his own department to be silent on the matter in exchange for a $4000 charitable donation to his fund. He worked out this arrangement in a meeting before the hearing, and also convinced them not to bring their own attorney.
Buffis counted on the fact that proceedings at a clerk magistrate’s hearing are closed to the public. He used the flexible rules and his power as a police prosecutor to his advantage to force the donation, in exchange for quietly killing the charge.
The clerk magistrate himself who presided over the hearing had no role in either the payment or the non-disclosure, which is very unusual. However, it is common for a Clerk to agree to not issue a criminal complaint when the police prosecutor in not interesting in pursuing the case further.
How clerk magistrate’s hearings work and how they can be exploited
Clerk magistrate’s hearings are a common, but poorly understood criminal proceeding in Massachusetts courts. For misdemeanor offenses, a police officer can, at their discretion, issue a criminal citation for a person to appear at a clerk’s hearing instead of arresting them. Also, if someone is suspected of a misdemeanor crime not witnessed by a police officer, they are always issued a citation. A “show cause,” or clerk magistrate’s hearing is to determine if there is probable cause to issue a formal criminal complaint and proceed with charges.
Clerk’s hearings are closed to the public and the press in almost all courts, including Southern Berkshire District Court where this hearing took place. The widely understood reason why these hearings are not public is to protect the privacy or the accused, which is generally a good thing because a defendant at a clerk’s hearing has not been arrested or charged with a crime.
The magistrate has a great deal of discretion in whether or not to proceed with issuing a criminal complaint. If the prosecutor is not pursuing the charges aggressively or is willing to cut a deal in exchange for not issuing the charge, the magistrate will almost always agree. The magistrate can also rule against a prosecutor arguing in support of the charge if he doesn’t find sufficient probable cause to proceed, or for any other reason in the interest of justice.
It is a police prosecutor from the department, typically a high ranking officer, and not an Assistant District Attorney who is in charge of the prosecution. That is how Buffis was able to control the outcome of the hearing in this case.
It is not required that the defendant have his own attorney at the hearing, but it's usually a good idea. A defense attorney’s role, besides winning the hearing on the facts, can be to help negotiate a creative solution to avoid charges for his client. However, alternate solutions are almost always tied to solving the problem, not just a simple payout.
For example, with a leaving the scene of an accident charge, it is typical to work out a deal where all damages are paid by the defendant or his insurance. Or in drug cases, the defendant might be required to complete a treatment program. If these terms are agreed upon and the conditions are met, the police will drop the case.
Should clerk’s magistrate’s hearings be opened up to the public?
There has never been a definitive answer as to how Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:19 concerning media access applies in clerk magistrate’s hearings. The rule states that:
A judge shall permit photographing or electronic recording or transmitting of courtroom proceedings open to the public by the news media for news gathering purposes and dissemination of information to the public, subject to the limitations of this rule.
However, most courts do not classify clerk magistrate’s hearings as “courtroom proceedings open to the public.” They are almost always open only to the parties involved and court officers. To my knowledge, the only district courts that have clerk magistrate hearings open to the public and media are Newton and Quincy.
A publicly accessible hearing would have made this extortion attempt difficult, if not impossible. However, I believe what happened in this case is very rare. And keeping the defendants names off the record is a very reasonable privacy request, given that unless a complaint is issued, they are not charged with any crime.
In fact, in the few courts that do have open clerk’s hearings, like Quincy District court, I have in the past requested that my client’s hearing be moved to a closed court to protect his privacy in the case of a delicate and potentially damaging public accusation.
So I believe that it still makes sense to keep these hearings closed. To respond to the Buffis extortion by opening all clerk’s hearings would be an example of "hard cases make bad law." This was an extreme and unusual situation that would cause more harm than good for individual rights.
But the public does have a right to know what is going on in its courtrooms. Government transparency and as much openness as possible in all courtroom practices should be the goal.
It would be reasonable to track the outcomes of clerk magistrate’s hearings, as long as the names of those not ultimately charged is kept private. That can help inform the public of both government overreach, and flaws in the process and outcomes.
Russell Matson is a drunk driving and criminal defense lawyer in Braintree, Massachusetts. He represents clients on criminal matters across Massachusetts. His web site is http://www.madrunkdrivingdefense.com.
The Boston Police Department says they have almost completed their internal investigation of a brutality case that happened nearly six years ago, despite never collecting crucial video evidence. On June 9, 2009, Boston police officer Adarbaad Karani and bouncers at the Revolution Rock Bar were caught on video attacking a patron, causing severe injuries that included a broken jaw and multiple concussions.
Jacob Carnelli, who was very intoxicated that night, was removed from the bar by bouncers, but later returned to retrieve his credit card which he had left behind.Read More
A man under investigation by the Joint Terrorism Task Force was killed earlier today outside a CVS in Boston after allegedly refusing to drop a knife. Both a Boston police officer and an FBI agent fired, but it's not clear who hit the man at this point. According to The Boston Herald:
An armed man in his 20s being watched by the FBI counterterrorism unit was shot and killed by an FBI agent and a Boston police officer in Roslindale this morning, according to Boston Police Commissioner William Evans.
"He was on foot, under surveillance," Evans said. "The officers have been surveilling him and again they wanted to speak to him ... and he turned and our officers gave several commands for him to drop the weapon and unfortunately he came at the officers and they did what they were trained to do and that's never an easy decision for any officer to make."
One FBI agent and one BPD officer fired, FBI Special Agent in Charge Vincent B. Lisi said.
Evans said the suspect was wielding a large military-style black knife that he could have "done a lot of damage" with.
"I think our officers tried their best with the FBI to try to convince him to put down the knife but he didn't leave us a choice," Evans said. "It's an active investigation with the joint terrorism task force ... It's very fluid it's ongoing, but we have one male shot and as you can see it is a very active scene."
The man was taken to Brigham & Women's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
It's not clear why the man was under investigation, but CNN, citing an anonymous “law enforcement official,” claims he was “part of a broader terror investigation involving suspected Islamist extremists." Citing an anonymous "second law enforcement source," CNN also claimed that the man "belonged to an ad hoc terror network.”
The man has not been identified yet by police or the FBI, but a Boston imam has claimed that the man was his brother, Usaama Rahim. In a Facebook post, Ibrahim Rahim provided an account of the shooting that differed from the one provided by police:
Your prayers are requested:
This morning while at the bus stop in Boston, my youngest brother Usaama Rahim was waiting for the bus to go to his job. He was confronted by three Boston Police officers and subsequently shot in the back three times. He was on his cell phone with my dear father during the confrontation needing a witness. His last words to my father who heard the shots were:
I can't breathe!
While at the hospital, Usaama Rahim died!
From Allah we come, and to Allah we return.
It's not clear how Rahim would know his brother was shot in the back as he did not actually witness the shooting, however, the incident was likely captured by surveillance cameras from a nearby Dunkin Donuts. Video from those cameras will hopefully clear things up when it is released.
Update: The Boston Police Department has issued the following press release, which says that another person has been arrested:
Today, Tuesday, June 02, 2015, at about 6:59 AM, members of the Boston Police department and FBI Special Agents assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) were conducting an ongoing surveillance investigation in the area of 4600 Washington Street, Roslindale. As part of the investigation, detectives and agents approached an individual in the convenience store parking lot to conduct a threshold inquiry. The individual, who has since been identified as Usaamah Abdullah Rahim, 26 of Roslindale, pulled out a large knife (pictured above) and came towards the officers in a threatening manner. In response to the unprovoked assault, an officer and agents immediately created distance while instructing Rahim several times to drop the knife. Despite repeated commands to drop the knife, Rahim continued towards the officers in a threatening manner forcing the officers to discharge their firearms striking Rahim several times. Rahim was transported from the scene to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he was later pronounced deceased.
Additionally, as part of this ongoing investigation, Boston Police and State Police made an arrest this evening in Everett. This suspect is in the process of being booked, fingerprinted and interviewed.
Said Commissioner Evans, “One of the most difficult decisions a law enforcement official has to make is the decision to use deadly force. In this case it appears the decision to do so was justified and while we wish the outcome could have been different, the officers did what they were trained to do.”