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Mass. lawmaker hopes to change wiretapping law after alleged domestic violence victim charged

As a Massachusetts state lawmaker outlined his reasons for updating the state wiretapping law to allow victims of domestic violence to record their abusers, the case that is helping drive the proposed changes was before a judge in Plymouth Tuesday.


Alex Fopiano was in court today as his lawyer asked the judge to dismiss the criminal charges against him. He is accused of attempting to suffocate his wife, Shauna Fopiano, with a pillow.

Alex Fopiano was in court Tuesday, asking a judge to dismiss the domestic violence charges against him.

But in court Tuesday, his attorney, Peter Horstmann, argued that Shauna pursued the charges only out of retaliation.

Horstmann said Shauna didn't report the crime until after she herself was charged, noting there is no evidence of her doing so when she sought a restraining order from Marlborough police.

"This is Ms. Fopiano saying, in the throes of the #MeToo movement, that she went into the Marlborough Police Department, told them that her husband had, you know, tried to suffocate her with a pillow, and they didn't do anything and they didn't do a report, they tried to talk her out of it. Your Honor, that's beyond belief," he said.

But the prosecutor disputed that, saying Shauna pursued the charges on her own because authorities weren't more responsive.

"She found a situation where the system was not doing what she expected it to do, that she had to take matters into her own hands, and that's when she filed her own complaint," said Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Brandon DeAvilla. DeAvilla is a special prosecutor in the case, which is being heard in Plymouth County.

The judge took the request to dismiss under advisement.

But it's charges against Shauna that's driving a lawmaker on Beacon Hill to take action. She was criminally charged with eight counts of illegal wiretapping for making secret recordings of her husband, her alleged abuser. In a deal approved earlier this month, the charges will be dismissed in six months as long as she commits no other crimes.

"I was shocked that this is something that could still actually happen to somebody in Massachusetts," said state Sen. Patrick O'Connor, R-Weymouth.

The state's wiretapping law makes it a criminal offense to record someone without their permission. O'Connor said it should be updated to include an exemption to give victims of domestic violence the chance to record their abusers.

"As they're trying to get out of an abusive relationship, as they're trying to move from a victim to a survivor, to have this be then put up as a barrier to them to come forward, as a barrier for them to fully heal from the pain that they're feeling, is something that the state should definitely change," he said.

O'Connor is hoping to file an amendment to a bill before the end of this session, which is just weeks away.

"At least let's start the conversation. Let's have a commission. Look at this. Let's do something to make sure that what happened to Shauna doesn't happen again," he said.

State Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, wants the state’s wiretapping law changed to allow domestic violence victims to secretly record their abusers.

The case has also drawn the attention of a candidate for the district attorney's seat in Plymouth County. Rahsaan Hall, a Democrat who is looking to unseat incumbent Republican Timothy Cruz, criticized the decision to prosecute Shauna Fopiano.

"This case should not have been prosecuted," Hall said in a Twitter post.

A spokesperson for Cruz has said it would be inappropriate to comment on the case.


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