Recently in Sex Offense Category

May 19, 2014

Counsel's Failure to Raise Improper Expert Testimony Issue on Appeal Earns Defendant New Trial

Last week, the Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed the defendant's conviction in a sexual abuse case, based upon the improper expert testimony offered by the Commonwealth at trial, and the defendant's appellate lawyer's failure to raise that issue on the original appeal of the conviction.

In Commonwealth v. Aspen, the defendant was convicted of one count of rape of a child under sixteen, six counts of rape, two counts of indecent assault and battery, and one count of assault and battery, all in relation to accusations of sexual abuse made by the defendant's stepdaughter. At trial, over the objection of the defendant's trial attorney, the court permitted an expert witness to testify about general behavioral characteristics of sexually abused children in a manner that could have improperly suggested to the jury that the stepdaughter's testimony was credible.

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March 17, 2014

Massachusetts High Court Examines Statute Permitting Defendants to Seek Post-Conviction DNA Testing

Last week, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued its opinion in Commonwealth v. Wade relative to the standards applicable to M.G.L. c. 278A, a statute enacted in 2012 that provides convicted and incarcerated defendants access to forensic and scientific analysis of evidence used to convict them. The statute's purpose was "to remedy the injustice of wrongful convictions of factually innocent persons by allowing access to analyses of biological material with newer forensic and scientific techniques."

In Wade, the defendant was convicted in 1997 of first-degree murder on a theory of felony-murder and aggravated rape. The defendant was accused of raping the 83-year-old victim who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, and who lived on the farm where the defendant worked. The victim was allegedly found naked on the defendant's bed on the property with injuries, which later led to complications and eventually her death. Evidence found on the victim and her clothing showed the presence of semen and sperm, but neither the defendant nor the Commonwealth sought DNA testing of the evidence. Since at least 2002, the defendant has been attempting to obtain DNA testing of the physical evidence against him, with the belief that it will exonerate him of the crimes for which he has been convicted. Each such attempt has been unsuccessful.

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August 13, 2013

New Sexual Harassment "Blueprint" Could Impact Local Universities

Sexual misconduct and harassment scandals in colleges and universities across the country have unfortunately become more and more commonplace. This trend has justifiably resulted in additional attention from federal and educational institutions. Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Education (DOE) have published a "blueprint" for colleges and universities to follow in cases of sexual assault and harassment. The DOJ and DOE co-authored a letter in May, involving Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, to the University of Montana as a resolution to a series sexual misconduct incidents. This letter is regarded as a significant change from the status quo and has received a significant amount of opposition.

The DOJ and DOE joint letter asserts a broader definition of sexual assault and harassment that will act to more aggressively prevent sexual discrimination and misconduct. The two major government agencies presented a more subjective definition of sexual harassment that rejected the standard of "objectively offensive," used by the University of Montana. The DOJ and DOE clarifies that any sexually harassing conduct ("verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature") must be investigated if it creates a "hostile environment" for the victim. Moreover, the letter states that the institution must "examine[] all the relevant circumstances from an objective and subjective perspective." Obviously, and by design, this will result in more investigations by educational institutions and procure more attention to these types of incidents.

This subjective perspective, the major point of dissention from previous interpretations, will change the standard for reviewing sexual misconduct incidents. In the DOJ and DOE interpretation, even a subjective - personal to the victim - manifestation of sexually offensive conduct or material could create a "hostile environment" for which the institution would need to act to prevent. The opposition points to the fact that it is very difficult, and at times impossible, to prevent students from being exposed to sexually offensive conduct or material when the offensive conduct or material may only be offensive to one person. Consequently, this has many civil liberties organizations and opposition to the "new" expansive definition arguing that the definition could interfere with First Amendment rights and make it very difficult for colleges and universities to implement. The opposition fears that this definition could be overly broad and interfere with free expression and academic freedom.

Further, the letter is considered a federal interpretation that holds precedential significance for future cases. In the past, the DOE has issued advisory letters that clarified expectations and requirements for educational institutions in dealing with sexual misconduct. For example, a 2011 DOE letter predicated a change for institutions to appoint a Title IX coordinator and require schools to use a "preponderance of the evidence" standard, rather than a "clear and convincing" standard while assessing complaints. As a result of this most recent letter, colleges and universities will likely review and assess their current sexual assault and harassment policies and procedures for adherence to these changes.

Finally, with New England, and the greater Boston area, as a prevailing center for educational institutions, this federal interpretation could significantly affect the manner in which colleges and universities handle sexual misconduct in the immediate future.

March 5, 2012

Firefighter Discovers Man Indecently Exposed at Watertown Library

According to police, a Cambridge man was caught by an on-duty firefighter watching pornography and exposing himself inside the Watertown Public Library. The man was arrested on charges of open and gross lewdness.

The man was caught after an on-duty firefighter noticed him through a window in the main fire station which abuts the library. The officer responded to the report around 6:36 p.m. on Friday after the man was seen in the conference rooms and was later located in the young adult section of the library.

Watertown Public Library director Leone Cole told reporters that, "it is the library's policy to allow patrons to access any material through the library computers that is not illegal." The Cambridge man had been using a library laptop to access pornography. Cole said that, "it was the first time that she was aware a member of the public was arrested for masturbating in the library... I hope it's an isolated incident."

The full article can be seen here.

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February 16, 2012

Alert: "Peeping Tom" Reported on Boston University Campus

The Boston University Police Department issued a crime alert for an alleged "peeping Tom" a week after two incidents were reported in Claflin Hall. The alert was issued to all Claflin residents. The hall is located at 273 Babcock Street in the West Campus.

The first issue that was described took place on January 22 when a female resident of the hall reported an "unknown suspect holding a cell phone up from under the shower stall in their direction." The second incident in the hall occurred on January 25. A second recording took place in the shower stall, but this time an iphone not blackberry was used.

The BU Police Detective Division is currently investigating both incidents, but there has not been an announcement whether the two are connected. BUPD Sergeant Jeffrey Burke has urged students to "remain vigilant about observing their surroundings in dorms, especially around shower areas."

The full article can be seen here.

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February 2, 2012

Newton Teacher Faces Multiple Child Pornography Charges

A Newton teacher of 12 years was arrested on Tuesday on possession of child pornography. The man, 34, of Brighton, Massachusetts, is facing charges in Boston of child pornography, a second set of charges in Brighton, and a third set of charges in Louisiana. The 34 year old man is a second grade teacher at Underwood Elementary School.

When arrested, police discovered image files depicting children under 18 in sexualized contexts at his home. Newton Mayor Setti Warren said, "our priority is ensuring the safety of every child. If these allegations prove to be true, the suspect detained should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The type of behavior that is alleged has absolutely no place in our community."

The man also faces child pornography charges in Louisiana for participating in a child exploitation business. The teacher was one of 52 people arrested in the online federal sting entitled, "Operation Delgado." The 52 people arrested allegedly took part in a member only online message board called "Dreamboard" which was created to share and promote pedophilia and child pornography.

Click here to read the full article.

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December 28, 2011

Boston University Hockey Star Charged with Sexual Assault

A Boston University star hockey player, and New York Islanders draft pick, was arrested by Boston University police after allegedly assaulting a female student. Reports indicate the 21 year old student followed a young woman back to her room and forced his way in.

According to police, the female student told him to leave but he refused and began indecently kissing and groping her. He apparently left the room twice, but continued to return. The student called campus security after the third attempt.

The student hockey player was arrested by BUPD in the dorm's elevator and was reported to be intoxicated. The player was permanently removed from the team, where he was the leading scorer in Hockey East.

The full article can be seen here.

Attorney Tofani, of counsel to Parker|Scheer, LLP and an associate of the firm's criminal practice group, reflects:

The allegations that led to the serious charges that Corey Trivino currently faces out of the Brighton District Court provide an example how college students that are charged with crimes in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts face potential sanctions that exceed those that a non-student would face under similar circumstances.

As the news article points out, Trivino was quickly removed from the Boston University hockey team's roster. Additionally, he was ordered by the Brighton District Court to stay away from Boston University housing and he was ordered to forfeit his Canadian passport. In other words, at the commencement of the criminal proceedings, Trivino was subject to independent sanctions from: 1) Brighton District Court; 2) United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement ('ICE'); 3) the Boston University hockey team; and, 4) the Boston University disciplinary board.

This is a common situation that college students charged with crimes often face: proceedings and possible sanctions from a number of different governing bodies, in addition to the courts of the Commonwealth. This is precisely why it is important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who can fight for the best interest of the college student before each governing body.

The university disciplinary board is a distinct entity from the court system, and generally operates independently. Depending on the particular policies of the specific university, the disciplinary board may communicate with the investigating police officers, if necessary, or may have no communication with any individuals beyond the student and the employees of the institution. Notwithstanding, a positive disposition in the courtroom often allows for a positive disposition before the respective university disciplinary board, and minimizes potential immigration consequences.

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December 1, 2011

Utah Professor Caught Watching Child Pornography

According to reports, a University of Utah professor, 47, was caught watching child pornography on a school laptop on a flight to Boston. Prosecutors informed reporters the laptop in question was purchased with a school research grant.

A passenger on the Boston-bound plane took a photo of the professor with his cellphone and then alerted flight attendants who subsequently called the police. Boston police found over than 66 pornographic images on the laptop involving children as young as five years old.

During the flight, attendants went over to the man and asked him to put his computer away, at which point he attempted to delete the images. The man is being held on $75,000 bail and has been ordered to have no unsupervised contact with children.

The full article can be seen here.

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September 26, 2011

Boston Police Urge Caution on the Esplanade

After a string of assaults on the Esplanade in Boston, police are continuing to search for the person that they believe is responsible for the attacks. In the wake of recent assaults city officials are urging residents, especially college students, to exercise increased caution while going through the park at night.

Boston law enforcement are urging people who are going through the park to 1) walk with a friend when possible, 2) carry a cell phone, 3) avoid poorly lit areas, 4) refrain from wearing headphones or earbuds, 5) and let someone know when you expect to arrive home. The city requests people remain calm yet vigilant.

Boston Police believe that the same suspect is behind three separate attacks on woman in the Esplanade in June 2007, July 2007, and July 2009, as well as an attack that took place in Joe Moakley Park in 2006. The suspect is a male, African American and between 5'8", and 5'10".

The full article can be seen here.

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August 26, 2011

Weymouth Club Tennis Pro Accused of Unlawful Filming

A tennis professional at a Weymouth health and wellness club has been accused of secretly videotaping a man in the facilities' locker room. The accused man, 47, of Braintree, was arrested after the victim confronted him about it in the club lobby.

The 21 year old victim told police that he saw the with a handheld camera facing directly at him in the locker room. He was not harmed physically. The man has pleaded not guilty to the charges of photographing an unsuspecting person in the nude and being disorderly.

Weymouth Club owner Steve Goldman told reporters that they are "extremely shocked and concerned to learn of the charges against Mike Quirke, who served as a staff member at the Weymouth Club for over 15 years." In his 15 years at the club there had been no prior allegations of inappropriate behavior against Quirke.

The full article can be seen here.

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June 3, 2011

Police on the Lookout for Man Taking Inappropriate Photos on the T

According to reports MBTA police are searching for a man who they allege took indecent pictures under a woman's skirt on a Green Line train. According to the MBTA the alleged incident happened on Saturday between the time of midnight and 12:40 a.m. The suspect photographed the woman on an outbound Green Line train leaving Park Street, and then he got off at the Paul Street stop.

The suspect is being described as a Hispanic male, between 5'6" and 5'8", with a slim build and a faux-hawk hairstyle. The suspect was also seen, on two separate days, wearing blue jeans, white sneakers, and a white t-shirt.

The MBTA investigation has indicated that the subject rides the Green Line trains in a deliberate loop from the Park Street or Government Center station to the Kenmore Station. MBTA investigators are having difficulties locating the suspect and they are asking anyone with any relevant information about him to please come forward.

The full article can be seen here.

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May 6, 2011

Man Exhibits Indecent Exposure in the Brookline Public Library

The Brookline Police Department is trying to track down a man who allegedly inappropriately touched himself at the public library on Saturday. Brookline Police and investigators are working with library officials to locate the suspect. Brookline Public Library director Chuck Flaherty is optimistic that a surveillance video that they have of the suspect will help police nab him. Flaherty is quoted as saying that "unfortunately this case was the most extreme that he has had to deal with."

The suspect allegedly walked into the Brookline library with a laptop computer, sat down at a table and exposed himself, prompting a nearby woman to scream. Brookline Police Lieutenant Philip Harrington stated that the woman "turned and noticed the subject indecently exposing himself." The suspect then took off. When the woman brought the situation to the attention of another bystander, they proceeded to chase the suspect out of the library.

Flaherty wanted to reiterate to the public that "they do their best to create a safe environment for our patrons, but that sometimes these things happen." Flaherty went on to assure the public that "if that person comes back here in the future, he is going to get caught because the staff members are familiar with the photo."

The full article can be seen here.

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April 6, 2011

Sex Offender Caught

A level 3 sex offender apparently took off his pants and walked around Independence Mall in Kingston, Massachusetts, wearing only a shirt and see through underwear. Kingston Police were called to a Target around 9:30 p.m. after several employees reported that the 57 year old John Coppinger was walking around the store in revealing skin tight underpants.

According to reports, Coppinger has a record of sex crimes dating back almost 15 years.
According to a Target employee, Coppinger walked up to an employee at the service desk and asked if it was ok to wear shorts in the store and he then subsequently took off his pants. He then walked to the women's clothing department and at one point even went into the women's bathroom. Mall security guards then walked the man to his car and instructed him to put on his pants; the Kingston police then proceeded to met them there.

After police arrived they found rope, binoculars, candy, sex toys and naked pictures of Coppinger, stashed in his car. Coppinger was charged with open and gross lewdness and accosting and annoying a person of the opposite sex. Coppinger's record of sex crimes dates back to October 1995, including 11 convictions for open and gross lewdness and a conviction for attempted assault and battery on a child under 14.

The full article is featured here.

March 31, 2011

Stonehill College Student Charged

On March 22nd a 21 year old Stonehill College student pleaded not guilty to two charges of rape of a child with force, and two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child. The student was working as a math tutor in a federal program in a Brockton School where the allegations took place. Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz said that "a child was abused in a classroom between January and March while class was in session, at a table in the back." The accused student is due back in court on April 21.

In a second major story involving Stonehill College an ex student from Connecticut is charged with threatening to blow up the college through menacing text sent to a female student at the college. The 23 year old suspect was a student at Stonehill until he was expelled in 2009 following an assault arrest on campus. He is also charged with threatening to kill two staff members at the college.

One of the texts sent between March 17 and March 18 said, "The school already stripped me of everything," and another said, "it's not hard to get on campus and do what I need to do." The threatening text sent to the female student said, "yea do me a favor, be at Stonehill the day I blow it up." These threatening texts against the School, a student, and faculty led to the 23 year old Connecticut man appearing in a Boston courtroom on Monday the 28th, following his arrest last Thursday in Connecticut.

The full article is featured here.

March 17, 2011

Sex Offender Caught

Massachusetts state police recently captured a "sexually violent predator" from Milford who was freed despite convictions of aggravated rape, rape and abuse of a child, and indecent assault and battery. The sexual predator, Brian Addeo, 32, cut of his GPS tracking bracelet Friday in a Tewksbury parking lot and tossed it in the back of a pickup truck. Addeo remained on the loose until last night when State police finally caught up to him in Augusta Maine.

State police spokesman David Procopio said, "We're thrilled we got him because he's a serial rapist, and had to be taken off the streets." According to the Sex offender registry board Addeo was convicted of rape and abuse of a child in 2002, and in 2010 was convicted of aggravated rape, rape and abuse of a child, and indecent assault and battery on a child.

It was unclear why Addea was allowed to remain free, but nonetheless he had been freed before his flight on lifetime parole and was being monitored by the GPS tracking bracelet. Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early stated that the release "raises his concern, but that he would have to know more about the facts of the release before commenting on it."

The full article is featured in here.