After a tip from a fellow student, MIT campus cops found a rifle, pistol and a “large-capacity ammunition magazine” in 23-year-old Texan and MIT student Angel De La Cruz’s dorm room. They arrested Mr. De La Cruz and charged him with various weapons offenses. According to Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan . . .
De La Cruz “was not violent when encountered by MIT Police and there is no evidence at this time that any threats were made towards members of the MIT community.” And yet Cambridge District Court ordered Mr. De La Cruz to remain in custody for the next 90 days.
The judge is keeping Mr. De La Cruz incarcerated under Massachusetts’ “dangerousness hearing” process; as specified by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 276 Section 58A.
The judge clearly believed that “the prosecution proved, by clear and convincing evidence, that the only way to keep the community safe is to lockup the defendant.” The same prosecution that publicly pronounced “there is no evidence at this time that any threats were made towards members of the MIT community.”
As TTAG pointed out back in August 2010 when the law passed, dangerousness hearings make a mockery of Americans’ 8th Amendment protections, mandating that “excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” Our post contained this prescient observation by a legislator who opposed the provision:
Representative George N. Peterson Jr. voted for the bill when it left the House with provisions that were strictly related to the criminal records law. But he joined 21 other legislators in opposing the bill Saturday after its language had been changed.
“In essence, the bill said a mere presence of a firearm during a routine traffic stop rises to a dangerousness situation in which someone can be held,’’ Peterson said. “That’s just not right.’’
“Dangerousness hearings are supposed to be reserved for the worst of the worst,’’ he said. “This bill leaves a lot of open area for the potential abuse of civil rights.’’
And so it has come to pass: an American exercising his natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms is sitting in prison, facing a longer sentence and permanent loss of his gun rights. Not to mention the end of his academic career.
This is no small matter for Mr. De La Cruz or Massachusetts residents who keep and bear arms. As noonancriminaldefense.com points out, dangerousness hearing incarceration puts the defendant at a distinct disadvantage:
In addition to the physical dangers and mental and emotional distress, incarceration prior to trial seriously affects the defendant’s ability to help his attorney prepare his case for trial. The defendant plays one of the most important roles in building a defense.
The defendant and his attorney spend hours going over the events surrounding the alleged charged. The defendant is able to provide details, witness information and facts that only he knows. This information is crucial in building a defense.
Therefore it is important for the defendant to be free to meet with his attorney in his office or do other simple things like visit the crime scene. This cannot be done effectively if the defendant is locked up in jail.
If an MIT student can be locked-up for 90 days — without the possibility of bail — simply for possessing firearms illegally, anyone in Massachusetts found to possess a prohibited firearm or “high-capacity magazine” faces the same fate.
I reckon the Bay State now officially joins California, New Jersey and Hawaii as the place where gun rights go to die. To name a few.