Bristol County DA wields statute to go after gun crime

Frank Mulligan

Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter said he was “going to be like Darth Vader when it comes to gun violence” during his successful campaign last year to unseat 16-year incumbent Paul Walsh.

But he hasn’t used a mystical “force” when prosecuting gun-related crime since he took office in January.

He’s used the “dangerousness hearing,” a statute enacted in 1994 during the Weld administration that allows the court to hold a defendant without bail for 90 days if he or she is deemed a danger to the community.

In the past it has been applied to domestic violence cases, shootings, and assault and battery cases where a dangerous weapon was used.

It’s been Sutter’s argument that defendants coming into court charged with gun crimes and felonies qualify as dangers to the community under the statute.

And so far, the courts in Bristol County have agreed with his office in 39 of 50 cases.

He represented his office in its 50th dangerousness hearing against a defendant charged with an illegal gun crime and a felony in Taunton District Court last Friday.