Criminal defense attorney Alex Moskovsky (left) acted on Elijah Oliver’s behalf during a Haverhill District Court arraignment September 21. (WHAV News photograph)
Arraigned on unlicensed firearms charges Friday, Haverhill’s Elijah Oliver appointed a new attorney who cast doubt that the handgun found in a police cruiser belonged to his client. Instead, attorney Alex Moskovsky pointed fingers at the three officers that carried out, what was called, a “brief” pat-frisk of Oliver when he was arrested as his 257 Lowell Ave., home Thursday morning.
As WHAV previously reported, 19-year-old Oliver was handcuffed amid the pat-frisk that resulted in found marijuana—but not the Smith & Wesson 9mm loaded with seven bullets.
Acknowledging that the pat-frisk was likely done hastily given the circumstances, Oliver’s attorney placed blame on the three officers—including a State Police trooper—on scene.
“It’s one thing if there was no pat-frisk, but if three separate officers are doing that, I’d think there’d be a little light bulb that would go off to suggest that something went wrong,” the attorney argued. “There may not be probable cause as to whether my client had that gun. How do we know the gun wasn’t there before?”
In a police report obtained by WHAV, Patrolman Penny Portalla said the firerarm had to have come from Oliver. According to Portalla, who drove the cruiser, Oliver’s hands were cuffed behind his back, but he was observed during the drive to the police station possibly trying to free his hands. He then leaned against the door where the gun was later found.
At the police station, when Oliver was being taken from the car, Portalla quietly noticed the gun. For officer safety, Patrolman David Mekalian secured Oliver’s feet in leg shackles before Portalla announced the gun discovery.
During the booking process, Oliver—who police said was a known gang member with ties to drive-by shooting victim Nike Colon—told Haverhill Detective Sean M. Scharneck he was “in fear” and willing to do whatever it takes to protect himself and his family.
On Friday, Judge Stephen Abany ordered Oliver held without bail until a Sept. 27 dangerousness hearing. Oliver’s other outstanding cases, including the Lawrence-related case whose warrant triggered his arrest, and a 2017 charge of alleged assault and battery, are also expected to be addressed next week, according to Assistant District Attorney Tom Sholds.