Attorney Crouch has handled many complex cases before federal and state courts of appeal in Massachusetts. He has successfully argued several criminal and civil cases before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, resulting in the reversal of his clients’ convictions and judgments against them. In 2017, the Committee for Public Counsel Services awarded Attorney Crouch the Edward J. Duggan Award For Outstanding Service. The Duggan Award is given to a private attorney who best represents zealous advocacy — the central principle governing the representation of indigents in Massachusetts. As a result of his appellate successes, Super Lawyers Magazine and Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly have selected Attorney Crouch as a rising star and up and coming lawyer. He is a member of the criminal appellate, civil commitment, and Sex Offender Registry, and district court panels of the Committee of Public Counsel Services. He was also appointed by the First Circuit Court of Appeals to be a member of the Criminal Justice Act panel, where he receives appointments in federal appellate criminal matters. Attorney Crouch has spoken to groups of attorneys around the Commonwealth on issues related to criminal law and sex offender classification and frequently consults with and advises other attorneys representing individuals in these areas.
The following are a selection of Attorney Crouch’s recent criminal law and sex offender registry cases.
Doe No. 326573 v. Sex Offender Registry Board, 477 Mass. 361 (2017)
In Doe No. 326573, the Supreme Judicial Court issued a crucial decision protecting the rights of sex offenders to seek reduction in their classification levels. Attorney Crouch represented the plaintiff in Doe No. 326573 and secured a key victory for due process and the rights of Massachusetts Level 2 sex offenders.
The court had previously stopped the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) “from publishing on the Internet the registry information of any individual who was finally classified as a level two sex offender on or before July 12, 2013, unless the individual is subsequently reclassified a level two or level three sex offender.” In Doe No. 326573, the SORB contended that, when it unsuccessfully seeks after July 12, 2013, to reclassify a level two sex offender as a level three sex offender, the individual is reclassified a level two sex offender it may therefore publish the individual’s registry information on the Internet.
Attorney Crouch argued and the court agreed that a sex offender is “reclassified” only where a hearing officer allows SORB’s motion to increase his or her classification based on new information indicating an increased risk of sexual recidivism, not where the hearing officer denies the SORB’s motion for reclassification and retains the earlier level two classification. The court wrote:
In essence, SORB’s argument is that, when it moves to reclassify a level two offender who was classified on or before July 12, 2013, it is “heads, we win, tails, you (the offender) lose.” If SORB prevails on its motion to reclassify the offender from level two to level three based on its new information, it may publish the offender’s registry information on its Web site on the Internet. If it fails to prevail on its motion, the offender will be reclassified a level two offender, and it may publish the offender’s registry information on its Web site on the Internet. We decline to adopt such a rule. The denial of SORB’s motion to reclassify level two offenders who were finally classified on or before July 12, 2013, cannot transform them “into something akin to level ‘two and one-half’ offenders.” Such a result would not respect our conclusion in Moe that retroactive application of the 2013 amendments requiring Internet publication of registry information for these level two offenders “would be unreasonable and inequitable, and therefore unconstitutional as a violation of due process.” Nor does it respect the gravity of Internet publication of an offender’s registry information, which magnifies the “risk of serious adverse consequences to that offender, including the risk that the sex offender will suffer discrimination in employment and housing, and will otherwise suffer from the stigma of being identified as a sex offender, which sometimes means the additional risk of being harassed or assaulted.”
At oral argument in the case, the SORB also agreed to stop its long-standing practice of putting Level 2 offenders who were classified before July 12, 2013, on the internet if their reclassification motions were denied. This was a key issue for many Massachusetts Level 2 sex offenders who were worried about negative consequences following a reclassification request. In its decision, the court struck down the SORB’s practice:
We also decline to adopt SORB’s argument that, where a level two offender who was classified on or before July 12, 2013, moves to be reclassified as a level one offender, the denial of his or her motion means that the offender has been subsequently reclassified a level two offender and his or her registry information may now be published on the SORB Web site. Under the regulations in effect when Doe No. 15890 moved to reduce his classification, his failure to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his classification should be reduced based on new information does not transform his level two classification into “something akin” to a level two and one-half classification. It means simply that his motion for reclassification is denied. If it meant more, level two offenders who were classified on or before July 12, 2013, would be deterred from ever seeking to move to reduce their classification level, because the denial of that motion would result in publication of their registry information on the SORB Web site on the Internet.
Commonwealth v. Hollins, 86 Mass. App. Ct. 1117 (2014) (vacating defendant’s conviction for failing to register as a sex offender).
In Hollins, the defendant was classified by the Sex Offender Registry Board as a level three sex offender. Defendant subsequently registered with the police department on different dates. On appeal, the court argued that the judge’s stated explanation for her guilty finding reflects that she erroneously engrafted an additional requirement onto the registration law, i.e., that the registrant must be an authorized tenant at the location identified as his residence. The court found this reason to be erroneous as well as a secondary rationale stated by the judge. The court vacated the defendant’s conviction.
John Doe No. 205614 v. Sex Offender Registry Board, 466 Mass. 594 (2013) (reversing and remanding case for new classification proceeedings due to legal and factual errors).
The Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Doe No. 205614 is a critical case in the development of sex offender classification in Massachusetts. In its ruling, the SJC agreed with the female petitioner that the Board’s hearing examiner abused his discretion by denying her request for funds for an expert witness who could testify on the subject of how infrequently female sex offenders commit new crimes when compared with men. Attorney Crouch wrote an amicus brief on behalf of the Committee for Public Counsel Services and the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers arguing that female offenders comprise a very small percentage of the sex offender population, that they reoffend at very low rates, and that the Board’s classification factors do not account for female offenders and the low risks they pose as a group. The court agreed and concluded that it was arbitrary and capricious for the Board to classify Doe’s risk of re-offense and degree of dangerousness without considering the substantial evidence presented at the hearing concerning the effect of gender on recidivism.
Commonwealth v. Loring, 463 Mass. 1012 (2012) (reversing defendant’s conviction for failing to register as a sex offender).
In Loring, the defendant was classified by the Sex Offender Registry Board as a level two sex offender. Defendant subsequently registered with the police department. When the defendant failed to register again a few months later during the month of his birth, he was charged with a single count of failing to register as a sex offender in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, 178F 1/2. Defendant pleaded guilty to the offense and Attorney Crouch later filed a motion to withdraw the guilty plea on his client’s behalf. His motion was denied by the trial court. Attorney Crouch appealed the case and the Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) although the defendant admitted during the plea hearing that he did not register in his birth month, the statute did not require him to do so; and (2) being under no obligation to register in his birth month, the defendant could not be convicted of the offense of failure to register.
Commonwealth v. Ryan, 79 Mass.App.Ct. 179 (2011) (larceny over $250 charge reversed, judgment affirmed in part).
United States v. Castro-Davis, 612 F.3d 53 (2010) (remanded for resentencing, judgment affirmed in part).
Commonwealth v. Kasibante, 77 Mass.App.Ct. 1121 (2010) (reversing defendant’s convictions for assault with intent to rape, witness intimidation, assault and battery, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, aggravated assault, violation of an abuse prevention order, and threats to commit a crime).
In Kasibante, the defendant was found guilty after a jury trial of multiple counts and was acquitted of rape, stalking, and separate counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and threats to commit a crime. On appeal, the defendant raised a number of claims, including that the trial court improperly allowed the Commonwealth’s motion to impeach its own witness, where she was called for the sole purpose of impeachment with her prior inconsistent statements and offered no other substantive testimony. In reversing the defendant’s convictions, the Appeals Court agreed with Attorney Crouch that the evidence of the defendant’s could not “be characterized as overwhelming.” In light of the credibility contest at issue in the case, the court could not conclude that the erroneously admitted evidence had no material effect on the result and the convictions stand reversed.
Commonwealth v. Pitts, 76 Mass.App.Ct. 1118 (2010) (reversing the defendant’s convictions for attempted rape of a child and attempted indecent assault and battery of a child under fourteen on grounds of insufficiency of evidence).
In Pitts, the defendant was charged with attempted rape of a child and attempted indecent assault and battery of a child under fourteen during an Internet sting operation. In reversing the defendant’s convictions, the Appeals Court agreed that the defendant’s arrival at a predetermined location was insufficient to show that that he intended and prepared for the rape of a child or that undertook an overt act that put him so near — in time or ability — to the completion of the crime as to be guilty of attempt.
John Doe, Sex Offender Registry Board No. 151564 vs. Sex Offender Registry Board, 456 Mass. 612 (2010) (in finding that petitioner was required to register, Supreme Judicial Court reversed and remanded case for new classification proceeedings due to legal and factual errors).
The matter of John Doe No. 151564 is an important case in the classification of sex offenders in Massachusetts. Convicted of a single count of unlawful sexual contact in the state of Maine, the petitioner sought review of his classification process and a motion to dismiss the case as the Board lacked jurisdiction to require him to register as a sex offender. In determining that the Board had jurisdiction to require him to register as a sex offender, the Supreme Judicial Court laid out new standards for determining whether a petitioner’s out of state convictions qualify as sex offenses in Massachusetts. Doe No. 151564 stands for the proposition that the Board may not use the underlying facts of a petitioner’s out of state convictions in determining whether it has jurisdiction to require him to register as a sex offender in Massachusetts.
The Supreme Judicial Court also concluded that the Board made several errors in the conduct of the petitioner’s classification hearing. In a benefit to petitioner’s across Massachusetts, the Court determined that the board erred in reaching a classification determination in this case without having considered the effect of Doe’s age on his dangerousness and likelihood to reoffend. Doe was sixty-one at the time of the hearing and he presented evidence of numerous scientific and statistical studies, published during the last decade, that conclude that age is an important factor in determining the risk of recidivism and that such risk diminishes significantly as an offender ages. The Court also determined that the Board had committed other errors and remanded the matter for additional classification proceedings.
Commonwealth v. Kulesa, 455 Mass. 447 (2009) (reversing defendant’s convictions where police officers exceeded their authority in searching the defendant and his vehicle absent probable cause to believe he had committed a crime).
In Kulesa, the defendant was charged with one indictment charging criminal harassment and eight indictments charging violations of an abuse prevention order. After representing himself at a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of the charges. As required by G. L. c. 278, § 11A(2), he then was arraigned and tried on the subsequent offender portion of the criminal harassment indictment. During the subsequent offender portion of the trial, the defendant requested the assistance of counsel, which the trial court denied. In reversing the defendant’s subsequent offender conviction, the Supreme Judicial Court concluded that the language of G. L. c. 278, § 11A, providing that a trial on a subsequent offender portion of an indictment be “subject to all the provisions of law governing criminal trials,” necessarily includes a right to counsel. Because the defendant requested, but was not afforded, the right to counsel in the subsequent offender proceeding, the Supreme Judicial Court concluded that his conviction of the subsequent offender portion of the criminal harassment indictment could not stand and it was vacated.
Commonwealth v. Rosado, 450 Mass. 657 (2008) (reversing the defendant’s conviction for failing to register as a sex offender on grounds of insufficiency of evidence and because homeless defendant complied with all registration requirements).
In Rosado, the defendant was found guilty after a jury-waived trial of violating the registration provision for sex offenders. See G. L. c. 6, § 178H (a). On appeal the defendant, who was homeless, raised a number of claims including that the judge erred in denying his motion for a required finding of not guilty because there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction. The Supreme Judicial Court transferred the case from the Appeals Court on its own motion. As the SJC concluded that the defendant complied with his statutory obligation to register pursuant to G. L. c. 6, § 178F 1/2, and the instructions promulgated by the Sex Offender Registry Board, the Court reversed the defendant’s conviction. The Court further ordered the SORB to revise its registration form to better protect the rights and interest of homeless sex offenders. Judgment reversed and the conviction set aside.
Commonwealth v. Knowles, 451 Mass. 91 (2008) (reversing defendant’s convictions where police officers exceeded their authority in searching the defendant and his vehicle absent probable cause to believe he had committed a crime).
In Knowles, a police officer on patrol received a dispatch about a man swinging a baseball bat. The officer observed defendant at the specified location, he fit the description, and he was leaning into a car trunk. The officer observed defendant throw something into the trunk. Defendant complied with the officer’s command to approach, and an inspection of the trunk revealed various drugs. The defendant was arrested and charged with multiple drug offenses, and he sought suppression of the drugs. After the trial court denied suppression, he was convicted of multiple drug charges at trial and on review, the Appeals Court affirmed the convictions and the denial of suppression. The Supreme Judicial Court allowed the defendant’s application for appellate review. After initially upholding the defendant’s convictions after a 3-3 split of the justices, Attorney Crouch petitioned for a rehearing, which was allowed. After the rehearing, a unanimous Supreme Judicial Court held that there was an insufficient basis to support the seizure as an investigative stop, under the community caretaking function, for emergencies, out of concern for the officer’s safety, or under the plain view doctrine. The Court held that the defendant’s rights under the Fourth Amendment and article Fourteen were violated suppression should have been granted. Judgment reversed and the convictions set aside.
Commonwealth v. Williams, 65 Mass.App.Ct. 9 (2006) (reversing the defendant’s convictions for assault and battery after determining that the trial court violated his rights under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution).
Two police officers responded to a 911 call reporting a fight between a male and a female in an apartment. As the officers entered the first floor hallway, defendant approached them and stated that “nothing was going on” and that he had broken a glass door. Defendant had blood on his clothing and a bump on his head. He also had cuts and scratches (some of which were bleeding) on his head, arms, and face. The officers talked to defendant for a few minutes and then one of them went upstairs to talk to the victim. After defendant was placed into the custody of other police officers, the two officers returned to the victim and had her repeat her version of the events. When the victim failed to appear at trial, the trial court allowed the officers to testify about her statements to them. The Appeals Court determined that the focus of the officers’ questions was the investigation of the crime, not the securing of necessary emergency medical care. As the victim’s statements were elicited by police interrogation, they were per se testimonial. Consequently, without the opportunity for cross-examination, the defendant’s right to confrontation under the Sixth Amendment was violated. Judgment reversed and convictions set aside.
His recent reported cases include:
•Commonwealth v. Grundman, 90 Mass.App.Ct. 403 (2017)
•Commonwealth v. Perez, 89 Mass.App.Ct. 51 (2016)
•Commonwealth v. Dorisca , 88 Mass.App.Ct. 776 (2015)
•Commonwealth v. Dreslinski , 465 Mass. 372 (2013)
•Commonwealth v. Loring , 463 Mass. 1012 (2012)
•Commonwealth v. Figueroa , 464 Mass. 365 (2012)
•Commonwealth v. Taskey , 78 Mass.App.Ct. 787 (2011)
•John Doe No. 151564 v. Sex Offender Registry Board , 457 Mass. 612 (2010)
•Commonwealth v. Mineau, 77 Mass.App.Ct. 1123 (2010) (reversed in part, affirmed in part)
•Commonwealth v. Kasibante, 77 Mass.App.Ct. 1121 (2010)
•Commonwealth v. Pitts, 76 Mass.App.Ct. 1118 (2010)
•Commonwealth v. Kulesa, 455 Mass. 447 (2009)
•Commonwealth v. Rosado, 450 Mass. 657 (2008)
•Commonwealth v. Knowles, 451 Mass. 91 (2008)
•Commonwealth v. Bostock, 450 Mass. 616 (2008)
•Commonwealth v. Becker, 71 Mass. App. Ct. 81 (2007)
•Commonwealth v. Ronald R., 450 Mass. 262 (2007)
•Commonwealth v. King, 69 Mass. App. Ct. 113 (2007)
•Commonwealth v. Denaro, 68 Mass. App. Ct. 1105 (2006)
•Commonwealth v. Williams, 65 Mass.App.Ct. 9 (2005)
Please contact Attorney Crouch at (617) 441-5111 or email him at acrouch[at]andrewcrouch.com to set up a free, initial consultation. To request further information please contact us.