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Commonwealth v. Bolton

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Worcester

November 16, 2017

COMMONWEALTH
v.
SCOTT JOSEPH BOLTON.

          Heard: October 18, 2017.

         Indictment found and returned in the Superior Court Department on November 18, 2011.

         Motions for relief from unlawful restraint and for a new trial, filed on March 24, 2016, were considered by James R. Lemire, J.

          Michael J. Hickson for the defendant.

          Donna-Marie Haran, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Present: Massing, Kinder, & Ditkoff, JJ.

          MASSING, J.

         In 1980 the Legislature decreed that the town of Bellingham, which is located within Norfolk County, "shall be considered to be within the jurisdiction of Worcester county" "[f]or the purpose of all civil and criminal matters." St. 1980, c. 550, § 3. After pleading guilty in Worcester County Superior Court to an indictment issued by a Worcester County grand jury for an unarmed robbery that he committed in Bellingham, the defendant, Scott Joseph Bolton, filed a motion for relief from unlawful restraint seeking to vacate the conviction and dismiss the indictment on the grounds that the district attorney for the middle district[1] lacked authority to prosecute, and that the Worcester County grand jury lacked jurisdiction to return indictments with respect to, crimes alleged to have occurred in Bellingham. The judge who had accepted the guilty plea having denied his motion, the defendant appeals.[2] Concluding that the Legislature validly transferred jurisdiction over crimes committed in Bellingham to Worcester County, and that the defendant's indictment and prosecution in Worcester County by the district attorney for the middle district did not violate his constitutional rights, we affirm.

         1. Jurisdiction of criminal matters related to Bellingham.

         A Worcester County grand jury issued a five-count indictment charging the defendant with unarmed robbery as a habitual offender and four misdemeanor violations of the automobile laws. The robbery took place in a Bellingham bank; the defendant was the getaway driver. Accepting an agreed-upon recommendation, a Superior Court judge sitting in Worcester County sentenced the defendant to a term of six to eight years with respect to the unarmed robbery charge, the Commonwealth agreed to dismiss the habitual offender component of the indictment, and the remaining guilty pleas were placed on file. The defendant contends, as he did in his motion for release from unlawful restraint, Mass.R.Crim.P. 30(a), as appearing in 435 Mass. 1501 (2001), that his guilty plea to the armed robbery indictment should be dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.[3]

         a. Legislative history.

         Although the town of Bellingham is in Norfolk County, it borders Worcester County, and in 1980 the Legislature placed it within the jurisdiction of Worcester County for criminal and civil matters. In "An Act Adding the Town of Bellingham to the Jurisdiction of the Third District Court of Southern Worcester, " the Legislature amended G. L. c. 218, § 1, to remove Bellingham from the jurisdiction of the District Court of western Norfolk (sitting in Wrentham), and to place it within the jurisdiction of the third District Court of southern Worcester (sitting in Milford). See G. L. c. 218, § 1, as amended by St. 1980, c. 550, §§ 1-2. The Legislature further mandated, "For the purpose of all civil and criminal matters related thereto, the town of Bellingham shall be considered to be within the jurisdiction of Worcester county." St. 1980, c. 550, § 3 (emphasis supplied).

         About one year before transferring Bellingham to the jurisdiction of Worcester County, the Legislature similarly transferred jurisdiction over the town of Athol, in Worcester County bordering on Franklin County. In "An Act Adding the Town of Athol to the Jurisdiction of the District Court of Eastern Franklin, " the Legislature amended G. L. c. 218, § 1, to move Athol from the first District Court of northern Worcester (sitting in Gardner), to the District Court of eastern Franklin (sitting in Orange). See G. L. c. 218, § 1, as amended by St. 1979, c. 343, §§ 1-2. The Legislature further mandated that Athol be considered within the jurisdiction of Franklin County "[f]or the purpose of all civil and criminal matters." St. 1979, c. 343, § 3.

         With respect to Athol, however, the Legislature made two additional changes that it did not repeat with respect to Bellingham. First, "[f]or the administration of the criminal law, " it specifically included "Franklin county, including the town of Athol, and Hampshire county, " within the northwestern district. G. L. c. 12, § 13, as amended by St. 1980, c. 231, § 1. Second, the Legislature included the voters of Athol ...


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