The best way to understand this case is to identify the players and the incidents which caused Timothy Flaherty to be sitting in the federal district court last Wednesday as a defendant listening to motions being argued. I set it out from the beginning to the present time.
The defendant: Tim Flaherty is around 50 years old, has been practicing law for twenty-five years in the hardest part of the law which is the trial of criminal cases. He started as an assistant district attorney where he worked for several years and then became a defense lawyer. He has a reputation as a clean, well-liked, hard-working, highly effective defense attorney who is not afraid of taking on the most difficult criminal cases. There is no pubic record of discipline against him and it goes without saying he has no criminal record. He is facing one count in federal district court in Boston of interfering with a witness. That charge exposes him to a potential penalty of 20 years in prison.This is the same type of penalty Mafia gangsters face when charged with racketeering. If convicted he will lose his license to practice law. It is the federal prosecutors intent that his lose what has been his livelihood. Surely, you think, this is a grave matter.
The incident: The alleged victim who has been described as a 28 year-old man in good shape was driving down Massachusetts Avenue. He took a turn onto a side street. Right after him a car being driven by a 65-year-old man who shows that his life had been pretty much dedicated to the avoidance of gyms or exercise tracks turned onto the street behind him. The victim stopped his car, put it into reverse, and was intending to back out onto Massachusetts Avenue to go back the way he had come. With that he backed into the old man’s car. The old man may or may not have beeped his horn.
Keep in mind there are no independent witnesses to what occurs although some of the actions of the two vehicles involved is recorded on video tape. This shows the whole incident lasted around a half a minute. The victim then became the aggressor. He gets out of his vehicle and goes back to confront the old man who is sitting in his car. He goes up to the passenger side, leans in through the open window and words are exchanged between them.
Now here comes the hate crime.
It is not the 28-year-old guy who got out of the car and brought about the incident who will be charged with the hate crime but the old man in the car. The victim said while he was leaning in the car the old guy grabbed his wrist and called him a “f . . . ing Muslim and a terrorist.” Then he drove away holding his wrist. There were no injuries.
Obviously there was no plan by the old guy to do this if he did. He tells a different story of the encounter. It boils down to a “he said the other guy said” type of incident without any lasting consequence. It involves some words between two strangers and if you believe it a grabbing of the wrist of a 28-year-old man by an old guy. Not the type of encounter that old guys are usually interested in starting.
The immediate aftermath: The police arrive at the scene.
The old guy is no angel so he takes off. He’s got a few open Coors bottles of beer in the car being described as “cool to the touch” which he does not want discovered. He has prior arrests. He’s also has just gotten off probation for a prior incident of having too much to drink and interfering with a flight to Las Vegas. There are one or two other incidents that happened fifteen or more years earlier involving using a racial epithets.
The Cambridge police give chase. He is quickly stopped and arrested.
He contacts Flaherty. He hires him as his attorney. He wants to see if the case can be settled prior to trial. Flaherty calls the victim to see if he is willing to enter into what is called “an accord and satisfaction.”
That is a common procedure used in Massachusetts where a victim of an assault can receive some compensation in exchange for not going forward with the case. Flaherty had a couple of conversations with the victim. The victim agreed to settle the case for $2,500. The day before last Christmas Flaherty met with the victim and gave him the money. The victim was asked to sign the accord and satisfaction. He refused. Flaherty had no concern since he would tell the court at some point of their discussions and ask to have the case dismissed.
How then does the case end up in federal court? I explain tomorrow.