SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

January 17, 2013

Fraud charges against student dismissed

State law doesn't mention debit cards

SALEM — When Levon Harewood tried to use a Salem State University “Clipper Card” to purchase milk and a candy bar at a campus store last September, the clerk discovered that the card had been reported as lost.

Campus police said Harewood uttered an expletive and then stormed off with the items, leading them to charge Harewood, 21, with shoplifting and two counts of credit card fraud after the Sept. 26 incident.

But yesterday, those fraud charges were dismissed, after Harewood’s lawyer convinced a judge that the card, which belonged to another student, was actually a debit card, not a credit card, and that the law under which Harewood was charged doesn’t say anything about debit cards.

Heather Ramsey pointed to the definition section of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 266, Section 37B, which specifically defines a credit card as “any instrument or device” that allows the user to obtain something “on credit.”

But the Clipper Card is prepaid, loaded with an amount of money that then enables students to use it in dining halls and to purchase other items on campus.

“There’s a hole in the law,” Ramsey told Judge Robert Brennan, who scrambled for a lawbook and then read the statute himself.

Prosecutors argued that the statute also refers to obtaining items “by other means” and suggested that covers debit cards.

But the judge was not convinced.

“The card in issue is a debit card,” Brennan wrote in his ruling. He said a debit transaction is “fundamentally different” than purchasing something on credit.

Prosecutors indicated that they are reviewing the decision and may appeal.

In the meantime, Harewood, who still attends classes at the school but who has been barred from the dorms while the case is pending, is still facing the shoplifting charge.

Ramsey told the judge that her client denies that allegation, saying he thought he had permission to use the card and that the clerk was just “messing with him” when she told him the card wasn’t working. The expletive, she said, was a joke. They’ll get to make that argument to a jury on Feb. 12 when what’s left of the case goes to trial.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News

AP Video
Johnson: Six Arrests, No Tear Gas in Ferguson Raw: Rescue, Relief Efforts at Japan Landslide Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream Raw: Woman Escorted From Ferguson Protests California Drought Stings Honeybees, Beekeepers Officer Who Pointed Gun at Protesters Suspended Holder Hopes to Bring Calm to Ferguson Today in History August 21 Holder Pledges Top Investigators for Ferguson US Mission to Rescue Hostages in Syria Failed Manfred, Torre and MLB Take Ice Bucket Challenge Bank of America Reaches Record $17B Settlement Holder Reassures Ferguson Community With Visit GlobalPost CEO Remembers Foley As a Brave Man Seth Meyers Rolls Out Emmy Red Carpet Obama: World Is Appalled by Murder of Journalist Israel, Militants Trade Fire After Talks Fail Pres. George W. Bush Takes Ice Bucket Challenge Pierce Brosnan's Call to Join the Expendables Changes Coming to No-Fly List
Comments Tracker