The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today refused to stay the prison sentence of a man who had been convicted of filing a fraudulent application to have his deceased aunt compensated for nonexistent injuries suffered during the Boston Marathon bombing. The name of the case is Commonwealth v. Mattier.
A Suffolk Superior Court jury convicted the defendant of identity fraud, attempted larceny, and conspiracy to commit larceny in June of 2014. The One Fund is a charitable organization set up to aid those injured during the bombings that interrupted the Boston Marathon on Patriots’ Day in 2013. Dzhokar Tsarnaev and his brother planned and carried out the bombings that left three of the spectators dead and injured hundreds more. Tsarnaev was convicted and is currently on federal death row awaiting execution while his brother was killed in a shootout with police in the days following the marathon. In this case, the defendant and his half-brother were accused of filing a claim on behalf of their aunt, who had been dead for 13 years at the time of the bombing. The brothers allegedly claimed their aunt was a double amputee and forged a letter to that effect from a doctor at the Boston Medical Center. They sought more than $2 million from Fund and the defendant was arrested when a state police trooper, posing as a One Fund employee, handed him a check purporting to be intended for his aunt. Following his arrest, the defendant insisted he was not a criminal and said he was going to start his own charitable foundation.
The defendant was sentenced to serve three years in state prison followed by three years of probation. He appealed his convictions and asked to remain free while his appeal was litigated. The trial judge denied his motion to stay his sentence and a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court upheld the denial of the stay. Today’s opinion addressed whether the defendant’s motion for a stay was properly denied. The Court ruled that the defendant was not entitled to a stay of his sentence because he had not proven it is reasonably possible that he will succeed on the merits of his upcoming appeal. The defendant claims there was insufficient evidence related to the identity fraud charge. Therefore, according to the defendant, he was unlawfully arrested and the evidence that was seized as a result of his arrest should have been suppressed. The defendant further suggests that his convictions should be reversed as a result of the introduction of the improperly-obtained evidence. The Court ruled that even if the evidence of identity fraud was insufficient, there was probable cause to arrest the defendant for attempted larceny. Therefore, it was proper to arrest and search him, which led to the discovery of the incriminating evidence. Since there is not a reasonable possibility that the defendant will prevail on his direct appeal, his prison sentence will not be delayed. Although the Court went out of its way to state it was not prejudging the merits of the direct appeal, the defense team can’t feel good about the chances of winning the appeal given today’s developments.