The Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers resumed the disciplinary hearing for Cape and Islands assistant district attorney Laura Marshard in Boston on Wednesday morning. Ms. Marshard is under scrutiny for alleged misconduct in three criminal trials on Martha’s Vineyard.
Day six began as day five ended on May 11, with Elizabeth Mulvey, attorney for Ms. Marshard, asking the board to dismiss two counts in the three-count complaint — that Ms. Marshard met with a defendant without proper legal representation, and that she had knowingly allowed false testimony to a grand jury in a 2013 drug-trafficking investigation.
“There is absolutely no evidence the allegations are true,” she said.
Chairman James Breslauer declined to take action until bar counsel could respond.
During questioning of Dukes County Clerk Magistrate Liza Williamson, Ms. Mulvey attempted to establish, as she asserted in her opening argument, that a longstanding personal grudge Ms. Williamson holds against Ms. Marshard played a significant role in the accusations of misconduct. She cited that they had both applied for the magistrate’s position when both were attorneys in the Suffolk County prosecutor’s office.
Ms. Mulvey questioned Ms. Williamson the entire morning about count two of the three-count complaint — that Ms. Marshard met with Edgartown resident David Sylvia, witness and possible defendant in a trial stemming from a fight at a party, without his attorney present. According to the complaint, Ms. Marshard “directed an Edgartown police detective [to] locate Sylvia and bring Sylvia to the courthouse library.” Ms. Marshard then met with Mr. Sylvia without his attorney present. Ms. Marshard later agreed she had met with Mr. Sylvia, but only to reassure him he would not be in trouble for his testimony.
Under questioning from Ms. Mulvey, Ms. Williamson said she discovered Ms. Marshard speaking with Mr. Sylvia in the law library of the courthouse, while his court-appointed attorney, Tim Moriarty, was sitting in the hallway outside.
“I opened the door, saw him in there speaking with Laura. She said, ‘I’m speaking with my witness. I need time with him,’” she said.
Ms. Williamson said that Ms. Marshard told her Judge Williams had given her permission to speak with Mr. Sylvia.
“I found it unlikely that the judge had given her permission to speak with Mr. Sylvia, and I felt it was my responsibility to speak to the judge,” Ms Williamson said.
Ms. Williamson said she was concerned that Mr. Moriarty, who was a newly appointed public defender, was sitting in the hallway outside the law library while his client spoke to Ms. Marshard. “He was sitting on the bench while the A.D.A. was speaking with a fragile, childlike, uneducated individual,” she said.
Ms. Williamson said she told Judge Williams about the situation, and asked if he had given authorization to Ms. Marshard to speak with Mr. Sylvia.
She said the judge “rolled his eyes,” and said, “Of course I didn’t give permission to speak with him.”
Under further questioning, Ms. Williamson said she had longstanding concerns with Ms. Marshard’s professionalism and knowledge of criminal procedure and the Victims’ Bill of Rights.
“There were many times when there were angry victims [of crimes] in my office that were upset they were not able to give a victim impact statement,” she said. “It was concerning to me that the majority of cases that were victim cases had been disposed of by the D.A.’s office.”
Ms. Williamson also said she had concerns that Ms. Marshard was careless in her handling of sensitive information, including testimony in child sexual assault and rape cases. She said other court officers had expressed similar concerns. She recounted an incident in April 2013 when she was reorganizing the law library with Judge Nickerson, and they found an open file cabinet drawer containing highly sensitive information; all of them were Ms. Marshard’s cases. Ms. Williamson said she spoke to the representative from the D.A.’s office in the courthouse about the matter, and wrote a letter to Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe. “I assumed they had been properly secured,” she said.
However, Ms. Williamson testified that a year later, her assistant went to a public supply closet for paper towels, and found those same files.
Ms. Williamson said she asked Bar Counsel Stacey Best not to call her as a witness in the hearing, after seeing her mother and stepfather on the witness list. In opening arguments, Ms. Mulvey alleged the complaints of prosecutorial conduct against Ms. Marshard were in part due to animus between Ms. Marshard and Ms. Williamson because Ms. Marshard prosecuted a domestic violence case involving Ms. Williamson’s mother and stepfather.
Ms. Williamson said she was not the complaining party against Ms. Marshard.
In cross-examination, Ms. Mulvey questioned why Ms. Williamson did not go directly to Ms. Marshard with her complaints about handling of confidential documents.
“I thought it had been resolved,” she said.
Ms. Mulvey also gave details on the extremely limited space in the antiquated courthouse, to the point where the D.A.’s office in the building is a converted vestibule of a women’s bathroom “about the size of two phone booths.”
First Assistant District Attorney Michael Trudeau testified that he has a high degree of confidence in Ms. Marshard’s ability as a prosecutor, in her ethics, and in her professional conduct.
“My one criticism is that she overprepares,” he said. “She has tremendous knowledge of her cases.”
He confirmed that in the David Sylvia case, no complaints were made to the D.A.’s office by Tim Moriarty or Judge Williams.
Mr. Trudeau said that the D.A.’s office rotates attorneys to different offices, “to develop well-rounded prosecutors,” and that Ms. Marshard’s assignment to Falmouth five years ago was not for disciplinary reasons. However, he added, “the situation in Edgartown was not a good one. We want our people in a positive work environment.”
The proceedings will continue on Tuesday, June 13.