Case against building official transferred
Lenny Jason case to Falmouth
A case in which the building inspector for Edgartown and Chilmark is accused of assaulting a Dukes County District Court employee has been transferred to Falmouth District Court. The order of transfer, signed by Chief Justice of the District Court Lynda M. Connolly, was filed Tuesday in the Edgartown court and is effective immediately.
Lenny Jason, the respected but sometimes prickly building inspector, was charged with one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon stemming from a March 23 incident at the courthouse. Mr. Jason had an encounter with Sharon Rzemien, the court screener overseeing the metal detector, which resulted in an assault charge filed by the Edgartown Police.
District Court clerk magistrate Liza Williamson recused herself from the scheduled clerk's hearing and requested the transfer, due to the potential conflict of interest the case presented. Ms. Williamson is Ms. Rzemien's supervisor.
Mr. Jason was scheduled for arraignment on March 26, but after requests from both the defendant and the Edgartown Police, the matter was postponed pending a clerk's hearing, which was held on April 23. First assistant clerk magistrate James Sheerin of New Bedford presided at the hearing.
Boston lawyer Richard Renehan, a partner in the law firm of Goulston and Storrs, is representing Mr. Jason. "The most charitable way I can describe this case is to suggest that perhaps there was a misunderstanding," Mr. Renehan said Tuesday. "To think that Lenny Jason committed an assault on someone going through a metal detector makes no sense at all."
A close reading of the report and conversations with knowledgeable observers suggest that the event involved a clash of personalities. The criminal docket, consisting of a series of official court documents and incident report narratives submitted by the Edgartown Police, does not indicate any violence or direct contact between Mr. Jason and Ms. Rzemien.
The incident took place on March 22, at the entrance to the Edgartown Courthouse, and Edgartown Police issued a complaint the following day. Edgartown Sergeant Kenneth Johnson assembled two incident report narratives, one with Mr. Jason's recitation of the facts, and the other from Ms. Rzemien. They are both dated March 23.
Sergeant Johnson wrote that on March 23, he met with Mr. Jason and his lawyer at the time, Charles Morano, at the Edgartown Town Hall, when Mr. Jason described the incident.
Mr. Jason said on the morning of the incident he needed to meet with someone in the courthouse on official business related to his position with the town. Mr. Jason said when he walked through the metal detector at the entrance to the courthouse he took a pocketknife out of his pocket and placed it in the basket.
"As he was walking into the courthouse he took out a pocket knife. He then walks through the metal detector," the narrative reads. "The woman at the door told him to step behind the white line and empty his pockets of any metal. Mr. Jason stated that he did as he was told."
Mr. Jason said Ms. Rzemien told him she would write a receipt for the knife and asked his last name. He repeated his last name three times. "Mr. Jason stated that he may have raised his voice the third time," the narrative reads.
Mr. Jason said after he finished his business at the courthouse, he returned to the front door to retrieve the pocketknife, at which time he noticed there were doorstops in place beneath the door leading up to the courthouse. He said that they should not be there, and then left the building.
Ms. Rzemien's account is similar, but she claims Mr. Jason walked through the metal detector with the knife in his hand in a pointed fashion. "Ms. Rzemien stated that she took two steps backward and held out her hand. This subject got within a foot of her and then dropped the knife into her hand," the narrative reads.
In her statement, Ms. Rzemien said when Mr. Jason returned to retrieve his belongings, he started kicking out the doorstops in the door leading up to the courtroom. She also said Mr. Jason made a comment to her about how the metal detector was unnecessary.
"Ms. Rzemien stated that during this incident she was in fear for her safety," the narrative reads. "She felt that his behavior was clearly aggressive. She further stated that even though the knife was small, she was unable to determine if the knife was closed or if it might be a switchblade."