SETTING IT STRAIGHT: Whether a Facebook user from Massachusetts can be criminally charged for writing “Put Wings on Pigs” on his personal page won’t be determined by police but by a court official.
Charles Dirosa wasn’t arrested, nor are there criminal charges pending, Chicopee police said earlier this week.
“This matter is referred to the Clerk Magistrate of the Chicopee District Court. It is a PROBABLE CAUSE HEARING,” the department wrote on its Facebook page. “Which means a clerk will review the facts and determine if in fact this incident should have a criminal complaint issued.”
Massachusetts is one of only a few states that have clerk magistrates who help manage the courts in a position that’s a hybrid of judge and support staff. It’s a way of freeing up judges for more important cases.
Clerk magistrates set hearing dates and manage trial schedules while also ruling on traffic offenses, accepting pleas and settling wills, property sales and child custody disputes. They also hold show-cause hearings to determine whether probable cause exists for criminal cases to continue.
In a show-cause hearing, both sides present their preliminary arguments and a judge — in this case, the clerk magistrate — decides whether there’s enough evidence to continue with a case.
Offenses that police in Massachusetts ordinarily send to clerk magistrates for probable-cause decisions include assaults, drug possession and traffic violations. They are then either dismissed or sent to a district attorney for prosecution and trial.
“After the events of the past few days, the PD took this threat very seriously,” Chicopee police wrote on the department’s Facebook page after followers alerted them to Dirosa’s post.
Based on the department’s application, the clerk magistrate will determine whether he should be charged with threatening to commit a crime.
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