In March of 2019, JF, a 47 year old single father of two disabled children living in AZ contacted Attorney Robert Lewin of Andover, MA. JF had eight warrants outstanding – all in Malden District Court. The warrants dated back to 2008 and 2009. As a result of the warrants JF’s right to drive had been suspended by the Massachusetts RMV. That suspension had been entered into the National Driver Register and as a result JF had not been able to renew his AZ license since 2010. JF asked Attorney Lewin to look into the warrants and advise him. Attorney Lewin went to Malden Court and was able to get all the papers from the eight cases. In four of the cases, JF had plead guilty back in 2008 and had 3 suspended sentences hanging over his head: there was a 1 year suspended sentence, a 6 month suspended sentence, and a 3 month suspended sentence. All of the cases were convictions for violating an abuse prevention order. In addition, JF had 4 additional cases – all for violation of an abuse prevention order – on which he had never been arraigned. [JF’s former wife had obtained an abuse prevention order against JF and JF violated the order 8 times.].
JF was in trouble. He had left the state in violation of his probation; he had failed to report to probation; he did not enroll in or complete the batterers program as ordered; and he continued to violate the abuse prevention order after being placed on probation. His probation officer was still working as a probation officer in 2019; she remembered the case, and she wanted his probation to be revoked and the 1 year suspended sentence to be put into effect. She wanted him to do a year in jail.
The District Attorney’s Office wanted a piece of his skin as well; on the cases on which he had not yet been arraigned they wanted him to do an additional 9 months.
JF has two very disabled children. They demand constant care. JF and the mother of the children share the care of the children equally. They each have the children with them 3 1/2 days per week.
Attorney Lewin had JF make videos of the children (one child suffers from non-verbal autism and the other suffers from seizures). The videos were dramatic in that they clearly showed the responsibility that JF had to care for these children. Attorney Lewin also was able to obtain the medical records from the AZ State Department of Developmental Disabilities. These records detailed the types of care that the children required and the work that JF was doing to care for the children.
In 2019 JF was not willing to take the risk of coming to MA. In 2019 Attorney Lewin began what would become a year long campaign to (1) get the probation department to drop its request to have JF put in jail for a year and (2) get the DA’s Office to drop its request for JF to go to jail on the four untried cases.
In the early summer of 2020 Attorney Lewin prepared a Motion for JF to appear virtually in court for the purpose of cancelling the warrants. This was a long shot. This goes under the heading of “the worst the Judge can say is no”. On August 6, 2020 Attorney Lewin and JF appeared virtually via ZOOM in Malden Court. Attorney Lewin simply asked the Judge to cancel the warrants, arraign JF on the 4 cases on which he had never been arraigned, and continue all the cases to a new date. The Judge asked Attorney Lewin, suppose I want to send him to jail or order him held, I can’t do that if he is in AZ. Attorney Lewin responded “I am confident you will not want to do that Judge when you hear all the facts”. The Judge relented and cancelled all 8 outstanding warrants. The cases were continued to September 14, 2020. Prior to September 14, 2020 Attorney Lewin submitted a flash drive the the Court. On the flash drive were all the medical records verifying the severe disabilities of the two children as well as the videos of the two children. On September 14, 2020 the parties once again appeared virtually before the Court. A different judge appeared on the bench. Attorney Lewin explained the situation in detail to the Judge and informed the Judge that Attorney Lewin had filed the flash drive and that it was imperative that the Judge read the medical records and view the videos before making any decision. Meanwhile the DA’s Office had had contact with JF’s former wife (the victim in all the cases). She made it clear that 11 years had gone by and she had had no contact from her former husband and she wanted nothing to do with the cases at this point in time. (Talk about getting lucky.) Attorney Lewin pressed the DA’s office to drop the four cases on which he had not been tried and they agreed!! On September 14, 2020 at the request of the District Attorney the four untried cases were all dismissed. That left the four probation cases. The Judge said he needed time to read the medical reports and view the videos. The four probation cases were continued to September 29, 2020 for a final probation revocation hearing.
In the days leading up to September 29, 2020 Attorney Lewin called the probation officer numerous times. Attorney Lewin then called the Chief Probation Officer and told her that her department’s recommendation that JF do a year in jail in light of his responsibilities to his children was inhumane. Attorney Lewin pointed out that JF had been in no trouble with the law in the intervening 10 years. The Probation Office finally gave in; they said they would tell the Judge that they were going to ask for the year in jail but that they were leaving it up to the Judge.
On September 29, 2020 JF and Attorney Lewin appeared virtually in Court. The Judge came on the bench and stated that he had read the medical records and seen the videos. The Judge asked probation what they were looking for; probation said they were leaving it up to the Judge. The Judge turned to Attorney Lewin. Attorney Lewin stated that JF owed the Court $260 in court assessments; Attorney Lewin recommended that upon the payment by JF of the $260 that his probation be terminated and that JF be discharged from any further obligation to the Court on these cases. The Judge accepted Attorney Lewin’s recommendation; JF paid the $260 electronically by credit card, and the four probation violation cases were all closed. It was a great victory for JF.
Four untried cases dismissed. Four probation cases terminated. No jail.
Several things carried the day in JF’s cases.
- First and foremost we asked for the impossible and we got it. You have to ask; the worst they can say is no.
- Second, the cases were extremely well prepared. Attorney Lewin had JF make “day in the life” videos of the two children to demonstrate how disabled they really are and how inhumane it would be to take their father and send him to jail for things that happened 11-12 years earlier. In this regard giving the Judge the complete medical records for the children confirmed what could be seen in the videos.
- Relentless advocacy. Attorney Lewin sometimes calls this the “nudge defense”. Attorney Lewin repeatedly called the DA and the Probation Department to get them to really take a look at the cases. Attorney Lewin demanded that they exercise their humanity.
When Attorney Lewin had dinner with his wife on the night of September 29, 2020 he said to his wife “This is why I love what I do. It feels so good to get the right result for a client who is in an almost hopeless situation. Good lawyering always feels good.”