Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Worcester
Heard: September 8, 2016.
received and sworn to in the Clinton Division of the District
Court Department on June 4, 2014.
case was heard by Christopher P. LoConto, J. The Supreme
Judicial Court granted an application for direct appellate
J. Mondou for the defendant.
Michelle R. King, Assistant District Attorney, for the
Present: Gants, C.J., Botsford, Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy,
& Budd, JJ.
a jury-waived trial in the Clinton Division of the District
Court, the defendant, Brian E. Gernrich, was convicted of
making a false report of a crime to a police officer in
violation of G. L. c. 269, § 13A. The complaint charged
that the defendant, an inmate, falsely reported a sexual
assault to a deputy sheriff employed at the facility. The
defendant appealed, claiming that a deputy sheriff is not a
police officer within the meaning of the statute and, as a
consequence, the evidence was insufficient to sustain the
conviction. We granted his application for direct appellate
review. The issue as presented here requires us to determine
whether, as the Commonwealth argues, the term "police
officers" used in G. L. c. 269, § 13A, includes the
broad class of law enforcement officers authorized to perform
certain police duties. We conclude, for the reasons explained
below, that a deputy sheriff is not a "police
officer" within the meaning of G. L. c. 269, § 13A;
the statute includes within its reach only those law
enforcement officers with the full authority to serve as
police officers under G. L. c. 41, § 98. Therefore, we
reverse the defendant's conviction.
material facts are undisputed. In May, 2014, the defendant
was an inmate at the Worcester County house of correction
(jail). A correction officer entered the defendant's cell
to conduct an inspection. After inspecting the cell, the
officer told the defendant that material covering the air
vent would have to be removed. The defendant then walked out
of the cell, exclaiming, "Well why are you touching [my]
his interaction with the correction officer, the defendant
telephoned the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)
hotline and reported that the correction officer,
who earlier had inspected his cell, sexually assaulted him.
See 42 U.S.C. §§ 15601 et seq. (2012). According to
the report, the correction officer called the defendant into
the cell and then touched the defendant's penis. In
accordance with the PREA protocol, the defendant's report
was forwarded to Captain David S. Anderson, the commanding
officer on duty at the time of the defendant's report.
Captain Anderson interviewed the defendant, who repeated his
allegation that the correction officer had touched the
this interview, Captain Anderson sent an electronic mail
(e-mail) message summarizing the defendant's report to
officials in the Worcester County sheriff's department.
Eric Scott, a Worcester County deputy sheriff designated as a
PREA certified investigator, received the e-mail message and
commenced an investigation. As part of the investigation,
Deputy Scott interviewed the defendant, the defendant's
cellmate, and the accused correction officer. Deputy Scott
also viewed a surveillance video recording of the incident.
After concluding his investigation, Deputy Scott determined
that the defendant's allegation was unfounded. The matter
was referred to the Worcester County district attorney's
office, and the defendant was charged with a violation of G.
L. c. 269, § 13A, based on the report to Deputy Scott.
trial, the defendant argued that a deputy sheriff is not a
police officer within the meaning of G. L. c. 269, §
13A.The judge, citing "the trend [in the
case law] . . . treat[ing] [d]eputy [s]heriffs as police