Misleading Cops: Is Just Saying ‘No’ OK?

nancy_reagan2The mystery on the boat “Naut Guilty” which is owned by a lawyer and whose motor cut off the arm of a young woman who was in the water deepened. Alexander Williams, 24, was arraigned in the Boston Municipal court for operating the boat negligently. It is also reported“Williams is charged with misleading an investigator under the state’s witness intimidation statute”

That’s the same statute that the DA in Suffolk County used to charge Aaron Hernandez with a crime for shooting some dude believed to be Alexander Bradley in Florida. I noted before that Hernandez’s intimidation occurred out-of-state in Florida so I suggested the Suffolk DA will eventually have that case tossed out. He probably knows this but he brought the charge not because he ever planned to prosecute it by itself but to have it consolidated with the Boston murder charges so that evidence of the Florida shooting will come into the trial.

With respect to Williams on the Naut Guilty he is charged with misleading an investigator. I’m not quite sure what he did so we’ll have to wait and see.

The statute in question is MGL, Ch 268, Sec 13B. That section reads in pertinent part: “(1) Whoever, directly or indirectly, willfully . . . (.c) misleads . . . another person who is (III) a . . . police officer . . . investigator, defense attorney . . . (V) . . .             with the intent to impede, obstruct, delay, harm, punish or otherwise interfere thereby, . . . with such a proceeding . . . shall be imprisoned in a state prison for not more than 10 years.”

Then there is this, the statute says the indictment for such can be in the place where the action such as misleading occurred or where the grand jury is sitting. The latter was used to charge Hernandez’s Florida crime in Massachusetts.

I was not aware that Massachusetts had this law even though it came into effect in 2006. It also seems to be a tool the Massachusetts prosecutors will be using more and more. The DA in the western part of the state found it very useful.  There the police were investigating a boat accident and the person operating the boat did not tell them he had smoked marijuana earlier in the day it happened after being asked whether anything else may have interfered with his operation of his boat. He was sentenced to 2 ½ years in jail for that. That DA has also used it against a person charged with arson who didn’t place himself at the scene of the arson when asked by police where he was at the time of the fires.

The DA out western Massachusetts says misleading an investigator is a form of obstruction of justice. I suppose it is also a form of lying to a police officer. Those are important new crimes that the citizens of Massachusetts should be aware of now that the DAs intend to be more aggressive in using them. Did you notice that as crime goes down the DAs seem to invent new crimes?

How does the Fifth Amendment which states nor shall [any person] be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself” play into this. It doesn’t unless there is a form of compulsion which does not usually exist in an investigation outside of an arrest.

What makes this a big deal is that it is a felony and you can go to prison for up to 10 years. It is a pernicious statute that rather than aiding law enforcement will hinder it. The best thing one should advise a person in Massachusetts is not to have any discussions with investigators. If you see an incident and the cop asks you about it best keep your mouth shut. If it turns out what you tell the cop about what you thought  you saw misleads the cops you may be charged.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) considered the marijuana denial case mentioned above about a year ago. It said the term mislead means: a knowing or intentional act calculated to lead another person astray.”  It said: “Absent additional evidence of specific intent, such exculpatory denials, [as not admitting smoking marijuana} standing alone, rarely will permit a reasonable inference that a defendant possessed the specific intent” to mislead the cops.

It appears the marijuana defendant’s “no” answer was not enough because the SJC said it was “not a content-laden fabrication designed to send police off course, thereby interfering with their investigation. . . .“

The SJC’s desperate attempt to limit this foolish law by suggesting saying “no” is not enough because it is not designed to send police off course makes no sense. I would suggest that a simple ‘no’ can mislead cops as much as a paragraph of false facts. If a person who witnessed a murder, in reply to a cop’s question whether he witnessed it or not says no, then that will send the police off on a wide goose chase as much as any content-laden fabrication.

This is an example of how bad laws lead to bad decisions. Making misleading a cop a crime is just a bad idea since it opens a Pandora’s box of crimes. The SJC recognizes this. But it is stuck with it. To try to limit its effect it suggests a ‘no’ answer by itself is not enough to mislead cops when it clearly is.

 

 

15 thoughts on “Misleading Cops: Is Just Saying ‘No’ OK?

  1. There is a well-known proverb in Irish:

    Is cuma cad a deir tú, a rá rud ar bith

    ‘Whatever you say, you say nothing.’

    And remember Martin Lomasney’s advice:

    “Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never nod if you can wink.”

    1. Henry:

      That advice that one should say nothing may not apply anymore. If I see you holding up a bank but don’t want to dime you out and a cop asks me if I saw who robbed the bank and I just smile and say nothing aren’t I misleading the cop or interfering with or delaying his investigation by my silence? If I say to the cop I take the Fifth can it later be shown I had no Fifth Amendment right so by suggesting that I had such a right wrongly interfered with the investigation. I suppose I could pretend I planned the robbery with you which would give me a Fifth Amendment right; however if you got caught the FBI would make a deal with you to implicate me. My trying to avoid one crime (interference by silence) by pretending I committed another (conspiring to rob the bank) would get the FBI angry so it would give you the bank robber a great deal to implicate me the bystander. My advice to anyone who witnesses something that looks like a crime is to just take off otherwise you may get yourself in a worse situation than the criminal.
      With respect to Martin Lomasney: I have to wonder why I am doing the writing on the blog. Perhaps I should have a picture of me winking and whenever a subject comes up I post that picture and hope that everyone can figure out what it means. That is what we are coming to in our ever less than free society where we now are being more and more forced into a big posse.

      1. Matt: Some time ago I learned that when a US citizens returns from outside the country, the Bill of Rights does NOT apply until he has passed through Immigration Control. I would have thought a person was protected when they touched US soil.

        Sometimes our freedoms are not there at all.

        1. Henry:

          That is true. You have no rights upon coming into the country. It is strange to think of that but the courts have reasoned the US can keep anyone it wants out of the country even its own citizens. Isn’t there a story about some guy who was kept on one ship and then another because he had been punished with being expelled from the country. We have the freedom to stay in the US; we have the freedom to leave; but we don’t have the freedom to come back in without saying “may I?”

  2. Matt
    I posted a few follow up comments in the MOVING FROM YOUR ROOTS post. I would like your feedback when you get the chance. Thanks

    1. Jerome:

      A couple of things. All the comments that are posted I read whether they are under a previous post or the present one. The site I am on puts them in chronological order without regard to the post I made. So you don’t have to worry that I am missing any of your comments. I see all comments as they are made; it is just as you understand I don’t sit waiting for them. I do others things and don’t get back to some for days or even a week or so but as far as seeing them I see them all.

      As for feedback, the next couple of days I will be using your comments in my posts which should give you the feedback you are looking for. After you read them if they don’t I’m sure you’ll inquire further. Be patient, my friend. I’ll do what I can to get you the answers.

      1. Matt
        Thanks for the quick response. Its the realization that so many people are calling Whitey an informant and that he may be one according to FBI records. But in all my reading it never dawned on me to question just what Bulger was telling the Feds. Similar to the accounts of his murders. There is a huge gray area in all this because as you pointed out so eloquently so many criminals LIE for their own benefit. At this point I dont know what “really” happened and never will know beyond what is speculated based on lying testimony by the 3 amigos. The one thing that is interesting too is why Bulger just didnt say “F it” and testify on his behalf. There is a mystery to Whitey Bulger since he hasnt revealed what he really did and his thinking process. Thanks again

  3. This brings Harvey Silverglate’s book “Three Felonies a Day” to mind. The drive to collect prosecutorial victories, defined as more people in jail rather than doing justice, seems to require going after things most of us would not imagine to be crimes. In some situations, these can shade into political prosecutions, such as the travesty of the Don Siegelman case.

    1. Cambridge:

      I have not read Silverglate’s book but have read many other things he has written. I find myself in agreement with him most of the time which worries me. He is right about most prosecutors seeking victories rather than doing justice. I was fortunate when I was a prosecutor to have complete discretion over all my cases as did most of the staff at the senior level. We kept no statistics; we really tried to do our best to do justice but unfortunately rather than being the rule we were the exception. That is why I find common ground with Silberglate on many issues dealing with the criminal justice system.

  4. What a cauldron of witches’ brew we imbibe. PLANNED PARENTHOOD has gone SOYLENT GREEN on our ass in an organ harvesting for profit scheme that leaves Dr.Joseph Mengele, the Nazi twisted top Death Camp ” Divinity ” clicking his skeleton dice with an approving chuckle, and we wonder at SJC decisions about what constitutes ” misleading ” an investigator? … ” Bottom feeding Irish gangs, petty cops, petty prosecutors ” as a commenter cited, wrought, or cut/pasted yesterday …. da de de give me a frickin ‘ break from the m
    MORAL FANTASY; THE CRAFTY ELITISTS’ HOLE CARD OF
    MORAL SANCTITY that there is a cosmic
    particle of difference between humans regarding their capacity for corruption as well as greatness and existential grandeur ; Venality and a Nimbus lambent blinding invincibility. What a Species of wholly hellish and hellishly HOLY . I AM.

    1. John:

      Apt comparison of Planned Parenthood with Mengele when the video showed how they talke about carefully aborting the fetus to save the best parts – heart, lungs, etc. to provide to others. They didn’t sell the body part because that was prohibited by law. They only redeemed their costs (you know how broad the word cost can be – just think of all those military “cost-plus” contracts. We ought to be proud in this country that we are killing potential babies and trafficking in their parts.

  5. Mtc:

    PLANNED ” BLACK GENOCIDE ” Founder Margaret Sanger was a fire breathing racist, eugenecist, and Mengele tailored deranged Muppet Doll of a disgrace to our Humanity. So, was not surprised that her ardent sterile souled acolyte was cramming her mouth with healthful leafy greens from a twenty dollar salad, and breezily confiding that the economic solvency of this hideous charnel factory scheme of PP’S was so sweet that she really would be able to purchase that ” Lamborghini ” she lusts for. As all related by her to Investigator who filmed her divulging shop secrets. They are a Cult. The really embarrassing reality for Society is that none of this has been a secret when it comes to PLANNED PARENTHOOD. Hannah Arendt might powerfully note that ” We ” are all silent collaborators. It’s a beauuutiffuuulllll World We live in … With people dressed in black …. ( DEAD KENNEDY’S) ….. Punk band 🙂

  6. A big proponent of eugenics was FDR. See Reeves book Infamy. He thought Asians were two thousand years behind Whites. He put 100 thousand Japanese Americans in Concentration camps in 1942. The ACLU supported this act Others complained that he was copying Hitler. The Korematsu case upheld it. The dissent by Jackson and Murphy said it forever validates racial discrimination. That case, Roe v Wade, Dread Scot and others forever undermine any moral authority the Supreme Court ever had. Thankfully all their decisions can be changed.

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