Several media outlets are reporting that a man and a woman are being held without bail after allegedly attacking an MBTA worker in the Downtown Crossing Orange Line Station. According to the Boston Globe, the worker was closing the station at around 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning when he encountered 50-year-old Robert Snyder and 28-year-old Shayla Witts. As the employee attempted to escort them from the station, Snyder and Witts began punching him.
It was reportedly a vicious attack, as the police observed a 30-foot blood trail at the scene along with hair extensions that had been ripped from the victim’s head. Snyder had blood stains on his body and clothes. Because Snyder and Witts both allegedly hurled racial epithets during the attack, they are charged with violating a Massachusetts law that prohibits committing an assault and battery with the intent to intimidate the victim because of his or her race. They were also charged with aggravated assault and battery on a public employee and disorderly conduct. They pleaded not guilty to all charges.
At their arraignment, the defendants were each held on cash bail on their new cases, but held without bail for allegedly violating their probation sentences. The assistant district attorney said Snyder has 12 convictions for assault and Witts has an open case charging her with prostitution. Following his arrest, Snyder reportedly admitted to the police that he punched the victim a few times. Witts allegedly told the police that Snyder attacked the victim in retaliation for being asked to leave the station at the end of the night. As Transit Police were arresting Witts, Snyder allegedly fled the scene and was arrested two hours later.
The potential penalties faced by the defendants will depend upon how seriously the victim was injured. If he suffered a “bodily injury” – which is defined as a fracture, a burn, a subdural hematoma, an internal organ injury, or any injury that results from repeated harm to any bodily function or organ, including the skin – the defendants could be indicted and face a state prison sentence of up to five years. If the victim did not suffer a bodily injury, the maximum penalty is two and a half years in the House of Correction.
Given that the defendants are reportedly on probation, this new case will likely trigger violation hearings. While the burden of proof at trial is beyond a reasonable doubt, the burden of proof at a probation hearing is preponderance of the evidence. Therefore, if a probation officer can prove to the judge that it is more likely than not that the defendants violated the terms of their probation (by committing this new crime), a judge will have the authority to sentence them on the underlying crimes for which they are on probation.
This case is yet another reminder that people who are under arrest should never make statements to the police. By admitting their involvement to the officers, the defendants will probably now have a hard time claiming they acted in self-defense. It is never a good idea for anyone to speak to the police without first consulting with a criminal defense attorney.