While the trial of Irish mob boss Whitey Bulger ended in a conviction for extortion, money laundering, drug dealing and weapons possession, the ramifications of his crime ring have yet to cease. The grand jury recently charged William Camuti, an alleged ally of Whitey Bulger, with the murder of extortion victim Stephen Rakes.
Details of the Murder
According to the authorities, William Camuti arranged a business meeting at a Waltham McDonalds with Stephen Rakes on July 16. Therein, Camuti presented Rakes with a cup of McDonalds iced coffee, which he had laced with two teaspoons of potassium cyanide. The poison acts against the body’s ability to process oxygen intakes. Accordingly, Rakes was soon to become unconscious. Camuti sent two emails inquiring about the price of potassium cyanide in the days before Rakes’ death. Police investigation revealed that Rakes took a sip of the coffee and thought it tasted too bitter. Nevertheless, he remained in Camuti’s car and was driven around Waltham, Woburn, Burlington and Lincoln until he eventually died. A jogger found Rakes’ lifeless body in a wooded area in Lincoln the next day, and alerted authorities.
Connection to Whitey Bulger
Stephen Rakes attended Whitey Bulger’s trial on the same day as his meeting with William Camuti. Rakes is just one of the many victims of Bulger’s extortion schemes. Allegedly, Rakes hoped to be on the witness stand in the Bulger trial, but he was dropped from the witness list shortly before the trial. Surveillance videos at the courthouse show Rakes wearing the same clothes he was found in by authorities the next day. Yet, authorities have not linked Rakes’ death to the murder trial. Prosecutors state that Camuti acted alone, not on behalf of Whitey Bulger, in order to settle some debts with Rakes.
Camuti Tried to Take His Own Life
As police investigation progressed, William Camuti seemed to break under the pressure. On July 20th, before his indictment, Camuti cut his wrists in his Sudbury apartment. While Camuti’s lawyer Stanley Norkunas called the incident a “psychiatric episode,” Camuti was clearly impacted by the repercussions of his admission.
William Camuti’s Punishment Under Massachusetts Law
Massachusetts Law Chapter 265, Section 28 states that “whoever mingles poison with food, drink or medicine with intent to kill or injure another person” is liable to life in prison or any term of years.” This punishment, coupled with Camuti’s admission of intent, is thus left to the discretion of the court. Massachusetts Law Chapter 265 Section 2 punishes first degree murder (deliberate and premeditated) with life in prison. Coupled with the poisoning charge, Camuti’s murder charge will most likely result in life in prison for the Sudbury resident.
Massachusetts crime lab chemist Annie Dookhan pleaded guilty to 27 charges, like tampering with evidence, perjury, obstruction of justice, and falsely claiming to hold a master’s degree. The woman deliberately affected the lives of over 40,000 defendants who were wrongly released, or convicted based on her inaccurate test results.
Annie Dookhan’s job as a crime lab chemist entailed the testing of drug evidence submitted by law enforcement agencies at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory in Jamaica Plain. Authorities began an investigation of Dookhan’s lab practices after they were “tipped off” by her colleagues as to the reliability of her results. They soon learned that Dookhan engaged in a regular practice of visually identifying drug samples instead of chemically testing the contents of the evidentiary vials.
Dookhan only tested a small fraction of the samples, and then recorded all the samples in the batch as “positive” for drugs. The woman’s practice, also known as “dry-labbing,” enabled her to cut corners by saving time and “completing” a larger amount of cases. Reportedly, Annie Dookhan tampered with evidence because she sought to advance her career with her increased productivity. Nevertheless, since her arrest in August 2012 an estimated 40,000 defendants could be affected by Dookhan’s testing.
Annie Dookhan’s False Expert Testimony
Aside from her faulty drug tests, Annie Dookhan has also tampered with her own accreditations in a court of law. Called in to testify as an expert in a criminal trial for cocaine charges, Dookhan claimed that she held a Master’s Degree in Chemistry for the University of Massachusetts. The jury considered her testimony as reliable expertise, and thus overturned the criminal defendant’s conviction in the case. As a result of Dookhan’s false claims in court, the guilty defendant was released, he continued a chain of illegal activity, and even killed a Brockton, Massachusetts resident.
Long-term Effects of Dookhan’s Fraudulent Actions
Annie Dookhan deliberately affected tens of thousands of lives by dry-labbing. For every piece of evidence she did not test, yet marked as a drug sample, a person was wrongly convicted and might still be serving time. According to Attorney General Martha Coakley, Annie Dookhan’s actions “harmed the integrity of the system and put the public’s safety at risk.” While Dookhan’s attorney urged that his client never intended to “throw the entire Massachusetts criminal justice system into a tailspin,” but this is a hard contention to consider. Dookhan wanted to advance her career, and she ignored all the innocent lives that were forced under the criminal system, as well as the millions of dollars which the state will have to spend to rectify her mistakes. The future is unclear for Massachusetts drug testing labs, wherein more and more incidents of shoddy oversight have plagued their reliability.
Twenty-nine year old Blanca Contreras, a Guatemalan native, has been charged with vehicular homicide in the November 23, 2011 death of Scottie Coxall. Coxall, a Waltham, Massachusetts resident, was walking across the intersection of School and Church streets, when an SUV struck him and fled the scene. Coxall died at Massachusetts General Hospital a week later.
Contreras was arrested at her home the evening of the accident. Although authorities believed that Contreras was the driver of the SUV that struck and killed Scottie Coxall, she is claiming mistaken identity. Her boyfriend, William Vasquez, claimed that he was actually driving the SUV at the time of the collision.
Was Contreras really at fault?
Her trial has been postponed several times due to motions to dismiss and motions in limine by both parties. In support of the mistaken identity defense, the sworn statement of a witness, William Pineda, was submitted to the Court saying that a male individual was driving the SUV at the time of the hit-and-run. Considering the witness statement and the confession of Contrera’s boyfriend that he was the person driving, her attorney filed a motion to dismiss the case.
However, the Assistant District Attorney prosecuting this case, Ceara Mahoney, is not buying the confession. For one reason, Vasquez did not make his “confession” until March 21, 2012, nearly four months after Contreras was arrested. The Assistant District Attorney had this to say in her response to the defense motion:
The statement made by William Vasquez was after the defendant had been incarcerated and ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) had issued a detainer of the defendants pending removal procedures. Vasquez had ample time to make such statement during the three separate conversations he had with the police on the night of the incident.
Prosecutors previously charged Vasquez, with lying to police in making his confession, but later dropped the charges. The trial was scheduled to begin on October 24, 2013, but was again postponed. A new trial date has not been set.
Mistaken Identity Defense
The elements that must be proven by the state when prosecuting someone for vehicular homicide, in Massachusetts are pretty straightforward. The Assistant District Attorney must show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant was driving recklessly or negligently, which directly caused the death of another. Implicit in this requirement of proof is establishing the identity of the defendant committing the crime. Massachusetts’ jury instruction, explaining the identification requirement, states, in part, as follows:
One of the most important issues in this case is the identification of the defendant as the perpetrator of the crime. The Commonwealth has the burden of proving the identity of the perpetrator beyond a reasonable doubt. It is not essential that any witnesses themselves be free from doubt as to the correctness of their identification of the defendant. However, you, the jury, must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of the accuracy of the identification of the defendant before you may convict him (her).
As identity is a necessary element of any crime, “mistaken identity” is obviously a viable defense to any crime. Asserting this defense means the person is claiming to be innocent and a declaring that any eyewitness to the incident was mistaken in believing they saw the defendant, when instead they saw someone else. This defense can question both the memory of the witness and the perception of the witness.
At this point, in the Blanca Contreras case, the question of whether the mistaken identity defense will be successful is still up in the air. Until it is resolved, the question remains: was Vasquez actually driving or did he try to take the blame for his girlfriend?
Eduardo Montanez, 43, and his wife, Paula, 34, of CT, were arraigned in court after being accused of punishing their child with an electric shock collar meant for dogs.
The police were tipped off by an employee at the child’s public school after she notified the Department of Children and Families regarding suspected child abuse.
Both Eduardo Montanez and his wife are being held on charges including third degree assault, risk of injury to a child and cruelty. Many parents fail to realize and neglect the fact that their method of teaching their child a lesson may constitute a criminal offense because it involves the use of physical harm and corporal punishment.
When raising children, parents are likely to scold or punish a child in order to teach them a lesson or to deter them from developing a bad habit. However, parents must use discretion and be careful on how they try to raise the child. Every year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States . Unfortunately, the United States has among the worst records globally – where a report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.
Child Abuse is considered a criminal offense in every state. To help deter cases of child abuse, many states have protocols and procedures for identifying and reporting child abuse. “Abuse” is defined as:
The willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, including verbal or mental abuse, or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain or mental anguish or assault and battery to another person.
In Massachusetts, anyone who commits an indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14 shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 10 years, or by imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 21/2 years. Moreover, a parent doesn’t have to injure a child to be reported – as long “as the substantial risk of harm” is there.
Massachusetts lawmakers are aware of harmful effects of child abuse and how they can impact all of society. Officials of the state have passed laws that go as far as banning corporal punishment in public schools. No teacher or any other employee or agent of the school committee may maintain discipline upon school property through the infliction of corporal punishment upon any pupil.
In the Montanez case, the parents used corporal punishment on their child. The use of an electrocuting dog collar demonstrates the parents’ willful knowledge of the harm they are inflicting on their child. If the case were tried in Massachusetts, they would be found guilty because they put their child in the line of direct harm.
The bottom line: abuse is not the answer. While the Montanezs’ intent behind the alleged abuse is unclear, it is a wake up call for all parents to realize and consider how they are addressing their children. Scolding yourself children can easily become abusive and unlawful if you take it too far.
This story may sound like a case of extreme child abuse, and it would be if the parents were Americans. However, this example of ”Iraqi Culture” is said to be commonplace in the Muslim culture, and was defended by the victim herself. Yet, even though their religious beliefs may condone their behavior, in the United States, their assault on their daughter is still considered domestic violence and punishable by law.
The story of Ayia Altameemi hits the news
On February 7, 2012, nineteen-year-old Ayia Altameemi skipped night school to hang out with a boy from her high school. Her instructor reported to her parents that she had not shown up for class. When the girl returned home that evening, her father, Mohammed Altameemi, hit her and then cut her with a kitchen knife, leaving a one inch gash on her throat. Ayia got away from him and locked herself in her room. The girl’s 18-year-old sister, Tabarak Altameemi, along with her other sisters and her mother, kicked in the door and began assaulting Ayia.
Ayia’s mother, Yusra Farhan, beat her with a shoe, tied her to the bed. Aiya, who has epilepsy, began to have a seizure while her mouth was taped shut and her hands and feet were tied to the bed. She was taken to the hospital, where her mother, was arrested for two counts of aggravated assault and resisting arrest after struggling with the police officers. Two days later, this story was in the news.
More charges against other family members were brought
As more and more facts regarding the incident were revealed, including the father’s assault with the knife and the sister’s role in helping to tie up and assault Ayia, more and more charges were added. Farhan was charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest. Altameemi was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and simple assault. Tabarak was charged with aggravated assault and unlawful imprisonment.
It was also discovered that Farhan had allegedly burned Ayia’s face and chest with a hot spoon back in November 2011, while her sisters held her down. This “punishment” was brought on by Ayia’s refusal to cooperate with an arranged marriage to a 38-year-old man. Tabarak Altameemi is also accused of breaking a glass over Ayia’s head almost a year before. These facts clearly suggest a continuing pattern of domestic violence against this teenage girl.
The family’s justification for this pattern of abuse
Despite these appalling facts, the family, including the victim, insist that no one has done anything wrong. Ayia Altameemi stated, “we are Muslim. Our culture says no talking to boys, no boyfriend. That’s why she’s hitting me.” The sister charged with assaulting Ayia agrees and supports her mother’s actions, “We haven’t done anything wrong and she’s not guilty. We’re proud of this. We’re proud of this.”
According to the matriarch of the family, it is a sin for women in their culture to speak to men unless they are married to them. Farhan told the judge at one of the hearings, “I swear I didn’t hurt her, only slightly, just like any parent would do to their children.” Farhan, who had only lived in America for three years at that time, claims she did not know that American mothers were not allowed to hit their children.
Family pleads guilty and receives probation
On November 6, 2012, the three members of this Iraqi family were sentenced to two years probation, and ordered to adhere to domestic violence terms in Arizona, which include counseling. They pleaded guilty in October 2012 to lesser charges as part of a plea agreement. They were initially prohibited from having any contact with the victim. However, at the October hearing, the girl, now 20-years-old, insisted that she wanted to return to her family. The court left it to the probation officer to decide.
Unfortunately, this is not the only reported incident of domestic violence involving Iraqi immigrants. In April 2011, Faleh Hassan Almaleki was sentenced to 34 and a half years in prison for killing his daughter in what he described as an “honour killing.” According to reports, he struck and killed his 20-year-old daughter with his car because he believed she was becoming too “Westernized.”
This holiday season, if you are offered a deal that looks to good to be true, and then it probably is.
As many of us are out and about rushing to get gifts for our loved ones, be careful not to become a victim of fraud. By the time Scott Jacobson realized he had been ripped off, it was too late. Don’t let the same thing happen to you.
Jacobson was at a Dundalk gas station when a man approached him selling what looked like a brand new iPads for $200. The man offered Mr. Jacobson a new iPad, but when Mr. Jacobson told him he had no money, the man quickly lowered his price to $100 dollars. Later that day, when Mr. Jacobson opened the iPad, it was a marble tile. Mr. Jacobson remarks that he realized that the iPad may have been a fake, however, he was eager to check off another item off his Christmas list.
Mr. Jacobson was hoping to save a buck, but instead lost $200 dollars. Experts at the Better Business Bureau say they haven’t heard much about on-the-street scams like this but say they are just another thing for consumers to look out for this holiday season. Now more than ever, it is easy for anyone to steal images off the Internet and trick people into buying fake objects.
In Massachusetts, the Attorney General’s Office assists consumers who have been victims of fraud, deception, and unfair business practices. Many people and businesses are unaware of the rights and responsibilities that arise from the Massachusetts Consumer Protection law, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93A. The statute provides protection for consumers from “unfair or deceptive practices” by businesses or other parties. Like most legal questions, “unfair” and “deceptive” are broadly defined to ensure that it protects the most consumers. Fraud, deception and unfair methods of competition also violate Chapter 93A. The statute protects any individual who is injured, however, the rules differ for individuals and businesses.
(1) file a detailed 30-day many letter,
(2) That you are a consumer plaintiff (an individual who engages in commerce for personal purposes)
(3) The defendant’s action were unfair or deceptive, and that
(4) These actions resulted in a “loss of money or property, real or personal” to that consumer.”
Tips to protect you this holiday season:
Use credit cards to make purchases. In case you are scammed, a credit card can provide an extra layer of security and possibly help you trace back your money.
Use your judgment. If you are approached by a stranger to purchase an item outside of the store, and the price is significantly marked down, chances are it’s a fake.
If you cannot make it to the stores – try to shop on websites you trust, especially for big-ticket items. Buying directly from big name brands online will provide you a warranty in itself in case something goes wrong.
Make sure to only purchase items from an authorized dealer and that there is a return policy. A return policy can be a good indicator that a seller is willing to stand by the products they sell.
Be a savvy spender this holiday season, but remain alert. While it is always nice to save money, consider where you plan to make your purchases to help ensure that you do not become a victim of fraud.
The trial for Hell’s Angels’ triple murder charges continues. Police indicted gang members Adam Lee Hall, 36, of Peru, Caius Veiovis, 32, of Pittsfield, and David Chalue, 46, of North Adams for the murder and dismemberment of three men in 2011. Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder moved the proceedings from Berkshire County to Springfield.
David Chalue, Caius Veiovis, and Adam Lee Hall were indicted in October for the murder and kidnapping of David Glasser andtwo other city workers in August 2011, and burying their bodies in rural Becket. The Berkshire community is aghast because news sources are continuously petering in details about the suspects and their attitudes about the charges. It is not enough that the Hell’s Angels ascribe to devil worshipping; they might actually act on their philosophy.
Why Is This Case So Popular With the Media?
The Hell’s Angels are naturally sensationalist, and the suspects in this case further evidence that. News sources like Mass Live and Global Post focused on the macabre details of the murders, as well as on suspect Caius Veiovis’ demonic appearance. Veiovis sports numerous facial tattoos, including “666” on his forehead, a forked tongue, as well as horn implants and tusks protruding from his nostrils.
Given the nature of the charges, Judge Kinder asserted that “it would be difficult, if not impossible, to select an impartial jury in Berkshire County.” Essentially, Judge Kinder is blaming the extensive media coverage for the potential bias on the jury in Berkshire County. Judge Kinder reminds of the necessity for an impartial jury regardless of the charges against the defendants. Even clients who willfully attempt to resemble the devil merit the due process mandated by law. Hampden County residents will represent the new jury pool given the change in venue. Accordingly, they will be able to make a decision based only on the evidence presented in court. The change in venue, and thus a more impartial jury, could actually benefit the Defense team’s strategy in the trial.
What Does the Defense Think?
Adam Lee Hall’s attorney reminded the judge that he wanted his client’s trial held in a jurisdiction where the jury pool is less affected “by the pretrial publicity.” Especially since DNA testing has yet to produce a forensic link between the three defendants and the deceased, the Defense is urging impartiality. According to District Attorney David A. Capeless, the prosecution needs more time for DNA testing. From the point of view of the jury, the lack of timely DNA testing could actually hurt the prosecution’s case against the Hell’s Angels.
If Found Guilty, How Will the Angels be punished?
The jury will not have an easy time with this one. This case has already spent two years in litigation, so the jury will not reach its verdict quickly. However, the jury does not get to determine the punishment- the judge does. If evidence shows that the three suspects had the intent to murder and maim the victims, they could be sentenced for up to ten years in state prison, or a $1,000 fine and up to two and a half years in jail. If the prosecution can show that they kidnapped the victims, Hall, Veiovis and Chalue could accrue an additional ten years each in state prison, or $1,000 fines and two-year jail time. Even though the Massachusetts Code provides for the death penalty for criminals who committed murder with malice aforethought, the three suspects will probably be spared. Nevertheless, they may face life in prison.
This case is still developing- the Hell’s Angels still have time to pray for a heavenly sentence.
Who doesn’t get upset when a police officer pulls you over when you are already running late? Nothing can be more frustrating than getting stopped for going only five miles over the speed limit. How many times have you wanted to tell the police officer just where he can put his ticket? Most of us do well to remain calm, either out of fear or respect. But what happens if you lose your cool? Can you really get arrested? One Massachusetts resident found out the hard way.
Watch what you say to the police
About three years ago in Lowell, Massachusetts, Officer Brian M. Kinney was called to investigate a report of an unwanted individual on private property. When he arrived at the house, he found Vesna Nuon, a Cambodian father of two, who was being belligerent and refusing to return to the house of the friend he was visiting. Nuon appeared to have been drinking. When Officer Kinney approached, Nuon shouted, “you’re a coward, hiding behind your badge.”
Here the stories diverge. Officer Kinney said that Nuon was being aggressive and rude from the very beginning, yelling at the officer and waving his arms angrily. Nuon told Kinney, “nobody wants you here.” Nuon’s position was that “[he] wouldn’t be rude to an officer who is responding to a crisis, a crime.” He claims that Officer Kinney was doing neither. When the officer asked Nuon for identification, he complied and went inside his friend’s house to get it. When the officer followed him into the house, Nuon objected, reminding him that he could not come into the house without a warrant. The next thing Nuon knew, he was under arrest and in handcuffs.
Was Nuon’s arrest justified?
Officer Kinney states that he arrested Nuon because he “reeked” of alcohol and was exhibiting “irrational behavior.” According to the officer, “[Nuon] was screaming and yelling at me over nothing. I was just looking at him, at first, thinking, I don’t know what this man’s problem is.’’ To the contrary, Nuon said he only had two beers that evening and was certainly not drunk.
Nuon was arrested for disorderly conduct and spent several hours in the city jail. The charges were ultimately dismissed but Nuon filed a complaint in federal court challenging the arrest and alleging that Kinney did not have probable cause. The federal judge hearing his case agreed with Nuon, and Officer Kinney was found liable for false arrest. In 2011, the lawsuit was settled for $50,000.
Disorderly conduct charges can cross the line when a police officer is insulted.
Surprisingly, Nuon’s case is not as uncommon as you may think. On March 24, 2011, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a Kentucky man, Kevin O. Kennedy, had been arrested without probable cause and charged with disorderly conduct simply because he called an officer a “fat slob.” In March 2009, a federal judge ruled against a Pittsburgh police officer who issued a citation to David Hackbart, 34, for giving him the middle finger.
Then of course, there was the newsworthy case of Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr., who was arrested in July 2009 for screaming at a Cambridge police officer from inside his own home. The police were initially called out to the residence to investigate a possible break-in, as Gates was having trouble unlocking the door to his home. If these are all cases in which the courts determined the officers had crossed the line, where is the line actually drawn?
Disorderly conduct versus free speech.
As a former Newark Police Department captain, Jon Shane, has said, “[t]he issue is where you draw the line between free speech and disorderly conduct. That is a perpetual debate in law enforcement circles.’’ Under Massachusetts law, disorderly conduct means “publicly fighting, threatening, engaging in “violent or tumultuous behavior,’’ or creating a hazardous or physically dangerous condition. In the case of Nuon, the court determined that, even viewing the incident from the officer’s point of view, it was clear Nuon’s conduct did not meet this threshold. As such, Officer Kinney did not have probable cause to arrest him. As the court explained in its 20-page decision, “[e]xpressive conduct, even of a coarse and vulgar nature, cannot be punished as a disorderly offense.”
So, how can this abuse of arrest powers be curbed?
Sarah Wunsch, staff attorney with the Massachusetts ACLU, said the decision in the Nuon case is a reminder to police officers that, even when dealing with someone who is belligerent or irritated, that person is still protected by the Constitution. Wunsch said of police officers in general, “They don’t have an easy job. They do have to put up with people who are yelling at them and disapproving of what they’re doing. But they’re supposed to be trained to deal with that. . . . They’re supposed to remain calm.”
In light of Nuon’s case, Lowell city officials are looking at training options to better ensure that officers are not overstepping their authority by making arrests improperly based on insult or emotion. Otherwise, more and more municipalities and law enforcement organizations will be faced with lawsuits for violations of civil and constitutional rights.