Man With Camera Thwarts Mass. Legislature’s Secrecy Law, Exposing Attempted Murder Charges

(WHAV News file photograph.)

If it wasn’t for a Haverhill neighbor’s home video last Friday, the public never would have known about a person being run down by a truck, two people being stabbed and assault with intent to murder charges being filed.

Nothing appeared on Haverhill Police arrest or incident logs because of State House-ordered secrecy relating to certain criminal acts. In fact, hundreds of police calls are blacked out each week with the public never knowing the true level of community violence because of Beacon Hill’s 2014 changes to criminal laws.

In Friday’s case, court papers finally revealed 40-year-old Freddie A. Cordero Jr., of 1454 Broadway, was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon—a 2006 Ford Explorer, assault and battery, assault with intent to murder and reckless driving when he allegedly tried to run down his cousin, 43-year-old old David Lopez, at the Broadway address.

Lopez, of 78 Lafayette Square, was likewise charged with two counts of assault to murder, two counts of assault and battery, driving while under the influence, two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon—a knife—and driving an uninsured and unregistered vehicle. Besides allegedly attacking Cordero, Lopez was charged with stabbing a 21-year-old cousin who lives at a third address.

A police report filed with the court notes Lopez went to Cordero’s home, but was turned away because Cordero was not home. He waited in his Ford Explorer When Cordero arrived, witnesses report seeing Lopez display a knife and Cordero later reported he was stabbed in the face. During the confrontation, the 21-year-old was also stabbed and Cordero took control of Lopez’s truck and allegedly struck Lopez with it. Police interviewed the youngest victim at Holy Family Hospital, Methuen, where he was treated for a “long laceration” on his abdomen, “small” cut on his chest and “small abrasion” on his face. Lopez was taken to Lawrence General Hospital.

Haverhill Deputy Police Chief Stephen J. Doherty Jr. acknowledged to WHAV the department is “statutorily prohibited from discussing it.”

“The exclusion also may dampen public awareness about violence in the community, prevent the public from learning about violence perpetuated by public officials or other persons holding positions of trust, and mask other criminal charges that may accompany domestic violence arrests, such as drug and firearms possession,” wrote Boston attorney Jeffrey J. Pyle in his 2015 article, “The Unwarranted Secrecy of Criminal Justice Information in Massachusetts” in the Boston Bar Journal.

The lack of alleged violator’s names from logs substantially burns through dwindling news media resources because names are the only way to follow cases through the courts, which are not burdened by the legislature’s action. News outlets are forced to camp out in courtrooms to grasp at tidbits at the expense of other community reporting. Some court decisions are made outside of public view.

The decision to omit Friday’s violence from police logs also suggests a broad, and perhaps unprecedented, definition of “domestic violence.” That is, counting two cousins who do not live together as a “domestic” matter. For that matter, how distant a “family member” is still applicable. The law forces police to make narrow legal interpretations on the fly, far outside of their training.

In Haverhill District Court Monday, Cordero was released on $25,000 bail and ordered to return March 24. Lopez was held without bail and faces a dangerousness hearing Thursday.

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