A Quincy District Court Judge released a Weymouth Police dispatcher without requiring cash bail after her arraignment Thursday for two counts of Assault with a Dangerous Weapon. The charges stem from an incident that took place on November 22. According to the Patriot Ledger, the dispatcher, Kristen Hart, was home when she was alerted to young men breaking into cars at her apartment complex. Having a valid license to carry a firearm, she went outside armed with her semi-automatic pistol. There she confronted two young men aged 17 and 18. The men ran off and called the police claiming that Ms. Hart drew the weapon from a holster on her hip and pointed it at them.
The Weymouth Police responded to Hart's apartment and she allegedly admitted to pointing the gun at the young men. In addition, the Ledger article states that "[t]he officers also found an open alcoholic drink and Hart allegedly told them she had several glasses of wine earlier." The police charged her with assaulting the two men with a dangerous weapon, but did not arrest her. She apparently received a summons to appear in court.
The lapse of time between the incident and her arraignment suggests that she was afforded a hearing before a clerk magistrate prior to the issuance of the official complaint. At that stage, the police could have gone to bat for her, but may have been concerned with the appearance of favoritism. In fact, a Weymouth Police captain is quoted in the article as saying: "We investigated the case just like any other case and we treated it like any other case." Another impediment to resolution at a pre-arraignment hearing is the involvement of civilian "victims." If such witnesses are pressing the case, the complaint invariably will be issued.
The police confiscated Ms. Hart's gun and revoked her license to carry. So, not only is Ms. Hart in a position where she must defend herself against felony charges brought by Weymouth officers that she works with, she must defend her license to carry a firearm which was likely issued by the Chief of that same department. All because she took her licensed firearm into a situation which is arguably the exact situation that the firearm is meant for - protecting oneself and one's property. Of course, bringing it with you is one thing and aiming it at a person is another. So it will all come down to the proof at trial. And, as usual, a newspaper article leaves many questions unanswered.
If Ms. Hart did have a show cause hearing, did the two young men show up and testify? What is the likelihood of them appearing at trial to testify? Will they be reluctant to testify because they may incriminate themselves for their own criminal behavior? The case would fall apart without their testimony. The only evidence the prosecution would have without them would be Ms. Hart's own admission. I doubt that the prosecution would go forward on that evidence.
What exactly did Ms. Hart say to the officers? Did she really tell them that she "pointed" the gun at the men or did she just say that she showed it to them? What else did she say? I expect that she told them why she had the gun. Could it be that the men in the parking lot were in some way threatening to her? What took place during this confrontation? What did the two men say to Ms. Hart? What did she say to them? Did the men flee right away? Or did they only flee after they saw the gun? Were they not scared of being caught breaking into cars? Perhaps they boldly confronted her and were not afraid at all until they saw the gun. How big were they? Were there more than two? Did they have anything in their hands that could be used to break into cars and/or be used as weapons.
What time did this happen? We may assume it was dark outside. Ms. Hart said she drank some wine "earlier." How much earlier? Did she have some wine before bed, sleep for some time and then hear noises outside? The article paints a picture of a dangerous combination of heavy drinking and a loaded gun. It may not be like that at all. The article, after all, does not say that she was intoxicated. Having a licensed firearm is not a crime. Having a drink in your own home is not a crime. Hence, it is not inconceivable that a person may have a drink, or even a few, and then be faced with a situation where a firearm becomes necessary. I doubt if Ms. Hart was looking for trouble. I doubt if she knew exactly what she would find when she stepped out into the dark.
Whether she was appropriately defending herself with a firearm last November may be the ultimate issue at trial. I trust that she has armed herself with an experience criminal trial attorney for that eventuality.