Judge denies defense motion to dismiss charges against ex-Pelham police chief

  • Former Pelham Police Chief Edward Fleury, left, awaits his arraignment at the Hampshire County Courthouse with his attorney Patrick Melnik in January 2015. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Former Pelham Police Chief Edward Fleury awaits his arraignment at the Hampshire County Courthouse in January 2015. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Former Pelham Police Chief Edward Fleury leaves the courtroom after his arraignment at the Hampshire County Courthouse in January 2015. Beside him is his attorney, Patrick Melnik. gazette file photo


Monday, September 18, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — A Hampshire Superior Court judge has denied a defense attorney’s motion to dismiss 13 firearms charges against former Pelham Police Chief Edward Fleury.

Fleury faces a total of 22 charges of improperly storing a firearm. A 23rd count was dismissed previously. Police found the guns when they executed a search warrant at Fleury’s home Sept. 11, 2014, when they were looking for a Glock handgun he allegedly pointed at his friend outside the Belchertown VFW Post in August 2014.

Authorities said they found more than 200 guns, “dozens” of which were unlocked or unsecured in Fleury’s home. Many were in plain view, in cabinets, on tables or in trash bags, according to court documents, and a loaded, unlocked revolver was found under a chair cushion.

Before the search was conducted, Fleury was called away from his house while his wife, a licensed gun owner, remained at the home.

Fleury served as Pelham police chief from 1991 to 2009, but resigned his post after an 8-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed himself with a machine gun during a Westfield firearms exhibition that Fleury organized in 2008. He was acquitted of manslaughter in connection with the boy’s death in 2011.

Fleury was also acquitted in October 2016 of charges of assault with a dangerous weapon and two counts of improper storage of a firearm.

Double jeopardy

Last week, Fleury’s attorney, Elizabeth Rodriguez-Ross, argued that 13 of the firearms charges should be dismissed on various legal grounds, including double jeopardy. She argued that, because a judge found Fleury not guilty on charges of improper storage of firearms in the October 2016 case involving weapons found in his attic, and a jury acquitted him of charges of improperly stored firearms in his master bedroom, the commonwealth is precluded from relitigating matters already determined.

Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Matthew Thomas opposed the motion, arguing that Fleury had asked for two separate trials on the charges when they were originally joined together. Thomas said that in the first trial prosecutors were prohibited from presenting evidence about the firearms.

“This is not an instance of the government refining its presentation through multiple prosecutions of a single act,” Thomas wrote in his response to the motion. “This second prosecution is an attempt by the court and the Commonwealth to honor the due process rights as requested by the defense.”

Judge Daniel Ford denied the defense’s motion Friday.

“I conclude that the issue of whether the guns in this case were improperly stored or secured, or whether these guns were under the control of the defendant or other authorized user at the time the police entered the premises, was not necessarily decided in the previous case,” Ford wrote.

“Moreover, there is no way of knowing whether the jury in the previous case based its verdict on the doctrine of entrapment, i.e., whether that issue was necessarily decided.”

The case is on the September trial list and may be heard this month.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.