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Commonwealth v. Gernrich (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-011-17)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA, 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us   SJC-12078   COMMONWEALTH  vs.  BRIAN E. GERNRICH.       Worcester.     September 8, 2016. – January 12, 2017.   Present:  Gants, C.J., Botsford, Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy, & Budd, JJ.     Practice, Criminal, False report.  Police Officer.  Sheriff.  Statute, Construction.       Complaint received and sworn to in the Clinton Division of the District Court Department on June 4, 2014.   The case was heard by Christopher P. LoConto, J.   The Supreme Judicial Court granted an application for direct appellate review.     Darla J. Mondou for the defendant. Michelle R. King, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.     HINES, J.  Following a jury-waived trial in the Clinton Division of the District Court, the defendant, Brian E. Gernrich, was convicted of making a false report of a crime to a police officer in violation of G. L. c. 269, § 13A.  The complaint charged that the defendant, an inmate, falsely reported a sexual assault to a deputy sheriff employed at the facility.  The defendant appealed, claiming that a deputy sheriff is not a police officer within the meaning of the statute and, as a consequence, the evidence was insufficient to sustain the conviction.  We granted his application for direct appellate review.  The issue as presented here requires us to determine whether, as the Commonwealth argues, the term “police officers” used in G. L. c. 269, § 13A, includes the broad class of law enforcement officers authorized to perform certain police duties.  We conclude, for the reasons explained below, that a deputy sheriff is not a “police officer” within the meaning of G. L. c. 269, § 13A; the statute includes within its reach only those law enforcement officers with the full authority to serve as police officers under G. L. c. 41, § 98.  Therefore, we reverse the defendant’s conviction. Background.  The material facts are undisputed.  In May, 2014, the defendant was an inmate at the Worcester County house of correction (jail).  A correction officer entered the defendant’s cell to conduct an inspection.  After inspecting the cell, the officer told the defendant that material covering the air vent would have to be removed.  The defendant then walked out of the cell, exclaiming, “Well why are you touching [my] dick?” After his interaction with the correction officer, the defendant telephoned the Prison Rape Elimination Act[1] (PREA) hotline[2] and reported that the correction officer, who earlier had inspected his cell, sexually […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - January 12, 2017 at 9:21 pm

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