Attorney Timothy Flaherty. Photo by Chitose Suzuki
Thursday, May 28, 2015
By: Bob McGovern
Timothy Flaherty may have cut some corners, and he might have made a tactical error if he indeed offered an alleged victim money in order to help his client.
But that's not necessarily a federal crime.
With Flaherty - a local defense attorney and the son of former House Speaker Charlie Flaherty - facing serious federal charges, other lawyers are scratching their heads.
Criminal defense attorneys offer settlements to accusers every day. With certain offenses, they can offer an accord and satisfaction - a standard procedure where money is offered to make a victim whole outside criminal court.
It takes the case out of the grinding criminal process if the parties agree. Charges are typically dismissed. The victim goes home with a check, and the accused walks away without a blemish on his record.
Now, lawyers want to know where the line is, and whether it's a federal crime to execute an everyday tactical maneuver.
"I've done this countless times. He may have chosen his words poorly, but this is a good, honest lawyer," said Terrence Kennedy, a criminal defense attorney and current member of the Governor's Council who is not involved in the case. "I am outraged by the indictment. I'm outraged by the way it was handled. Criminal defense is a minefield, and any of us can get blown up."
The indictment states, "Defendant Flaherty provided the victim with an envelope containing $2,500 cash and instructed the victim, among other things, that if anyone 'from the court,' contacted the victim, 'just (expletive) ignore it because they will never bother you.'"
If the allegations are true, he may have violated certain ethical rules. But that's a far cry from federal witness tampering - a charge that carries with it a maximum 20-year sentence. That's enough to intimidate criminal defense attorneys who are trying to keep a case out of court.
"This is a frightening indictment for defense lawyers who practice in district courts," said David Yannetti, a criminal defense attorney not involved in the case.
Flaherty has no record of public discipline in his 25-year career. Lawyers who know him said they were shocked by the news.
Some were also concerned about that state of accord and satisfaction in district court - a standard procedure that is now mired in confusion.
"Not only will this send some confusing signals to defense attorneys, it could also have a chilling effect," said Brad Bailey, a former federal prosecutor not involved in the case. "Defense attorneys are going to be looking for guidance. They're going to want to know where federal prosecutors are drawing the line."
Original article available in full at Boston Herald.
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