Articles Posted in Court Decisions

A former inspector for the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABC) pleaded guilty last week to extortion charges and received jail time for using his position of authority to extort money from an Everett business under his jurisdiction.

Arthur Hitchman, 41, of Melrose, pleaded guilty on Wednesday, Jan. 11th, in Middlesex Superior Court to charges of Attempted Extortion, Soliciting and Accepting a Corrupt Gift to Influence an Official Act, Solicitation to Commit the Receiving of Stolen Property, and Improper Storage of a Firearm (two counts).

Middlesex Superior Court Judge Kathe Tuttman sentenced the defendant to two and one half years in the House of Correction on the attempted extortion charge and two years probation from and after on the additional charges.

The SJC this week, in Commonwealth v. Parenteau, considered whether a District Court judge erred by admitting in evidence, pursuant to G.L. c. 90, § 22 (d), a certificate from the registry of motor vehicles (registry) attesting to the fact that a notice of license suspension or revocation was mailed to the defendant, Peter L. Parenteau, on May 2, 2007.

The Commonwealth did not present any testimony from a witness on behalf of the registry.

The SJC concluded that the admission of the certificate violated the defendant’s rights of confrontation and cross-examination under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and that such admission was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The SJC thus reversed the defendant’s conviction of operating a motor vehicle after his license had been revoked for operating while under the influence of intoxicating liquor and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Out-of-state wineries are hoping this finally will be the year that they can make direct shipments to local Massachusetts consumers, as reported by the Boston Herald.

A trade group for California vintners, who’ve been pushing for the state for nearly 20 years, is supporting proposed legislation again this year. The bill was the subject of a public hearing last week before the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Licensure.

State law enacted in 2006 limits direct-to-consumer shipments to wineries that produce less than 30,000 gallons per year and haven’t used a wholesaler for distribution in the last six months. It effectively prevents shipments of 98 percent of wine produced out of state, while allowing direct deliveries by all Bay State wineries.

Mass. Lawyers Weekly reports that a Boston nightclub could not be indemnified for a patron’s injuries because it failed to present evidence that the man showed visible signs of intoxication earlier in the evening at a Chinese restaurant, a Superior Court judge has ruled.

The plaintiff nightclub, Felt Enterprises, argued that because defendant Chau Chow II did not monitor how much alcohol it served the patron, the Chinatown restaurant was liable under the “mode of operations” test announced by the Supreme Judicial Court in its landmark 2007 Sheehan v. Roche Bros. decision.

Even though the plaintiff in Sheehan could not establish how long a piece of food had been on the floor before it caused a slip and fall, SJC Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland held, in an issue of first impression, that the store owner who created the foreseeably dangerous condition could still be held responsible.

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports that a Superior Court judge has issued a preliminary injunction staying the License Commission’s March 17 revocation of the Platinum Premier Gentlemen’s Club’s common victualer and all-alcoholic and entertainment licenses pending appeals.

The action by Superior Court Judge Janet Kenton-Walker allows the strip club at 241 Southbridge St. to continue to offer entertainment and serve food and drinks while it appeals the revocation of its all-alcohol license to the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission and the loss of the entertainment license to the Superior Court.

The Worcester License Commission revoked the licenses after finding the club responsible for several violations, including staying open after 2 a.m., possessing adulterated alcohol, hindering a police investigation and charging a single patron $22,825 in credit card receipts. The revocations were also based on a videotape that allegedly depicts a now-former employee beating and robbing a club patron inside the club.

The Boston Globe reports that a federal judge sentenced Chuck Turner to three years in prison for accepting a $1,000 bribe, chastising the former Boston city councilor for his inability to “confront the ugly reality of the federal crimes he committed.”

US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock laid blame for the harsh sentence squarely on Turner, saying he committed blatant perjury with his “surreal” and “ludicrous” testimony that he could not recall meeting a government witness who handed him a wad of cash related to liquor licensing.

“Someone like Mr. Turner who undertakes to speak truth to power must face the truth about himself,” Woodlock said from the bench as Turner broke into a wide smile. “If it had been just a $1,000 bribe unaccompanied by false statements to the FBI and without the ludicrously perjurious testimony, we’d be in a different place.”

The Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts’ top federal judge, Mark Wolf, has said that Boston City Council’s authority to oust Chuck Turner from office last month following the councilor’s conviction for accepting a bribe is legally uncertain, and Turner’s lawsuit to regain his seat might be turned over to the state courts.

Wolf ordered lawyers representing Turner and the city to submit their recommendations as to where the case should be decided by noon Friday.

Wolf is treading carefully because he said the question of whether the council has the legal authority to remove an incumbent has never before been decided in Massachusetts.

Haverhill Fire Chief Richard Borden has lost his attempt to close the Blue Finn Grille and force the owners to install an expensive fire sprinkler system. Restaurants like the Blue Finn Grille that seat fewer than 100 diners are not typically required to have sprinklers.

However, Borden contended that the building had sprinklers at some point in the past, when it was owned by someone else. The chief’s position was that those sprinklers were illegally disconnected and therefore must be put back regardless of the seating capacity of the restaurant on downtown Washington Street.

Lawrence Superior Court Judge Robert Cornetta has issued his ruling in the case. The judge said he visited the building Nov. 4 and found no evidence that there were ever sprinklers in it. His ruling says Borden claimed that some old sprinkler piping found in a building next door also serviced the Blue Finn Grille building.

Federal judge Douglas Woodlock has sentenced former state Senator Dianne Wilkerson to 3 1/2 years in prison for taking $23,500 in bribes in a scandal that rocked the Massachusetts State House and Boston City Hall.

The Boston Globe reported that Woodlock said he recognized Wilkerson’s service to the community but he called her “financially embarrassed and fiscally incontinent” and said she had imposed her own “Wilkerson tax” on the community by accepting the bribes.

He rejected her plea for a lesser sentence, saying a message needed to be sent that political corruption would not be tolerated. “It’s clear the sentencing imposed for criminal conduct here — and in other industrial states, frankly — hasn’t been sufficient,” he said.

A federal judge has delayed the sentencing of former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson for corruption charges. Wilkerson was scheduled to be sentenced this week, but both the prosecution and the defense asked U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock to consider additional information first.

Woodlock heard more testimony from Dorchester developer Azeed Mohammed, who claims Wilkerson solicited bribes. Mohammed told the judge he gave Wilkerson $5,000 over a four-year period.

Wilkerson was not charged over those alleged payments, and her lawyer has said she did not solicit the money.