Sheriff’s daughter allegedly interfered with shooting probe
NEW BEDFORD — As officers here tried to disperse a crowd early Saturday so rescuers could reach the victims from a shooting that injured seven people, police allege, Michelle L. Hodgson interfered and later yelled, “Do you know that my father’s the sheriff?”
Hodgson, the 29-year-old daughter of Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson, was taken into custody at 1:30 a.m. outside Jalice Cafe, where officers were investigating the shooting that wounded three women and four men, according to a police report written by Officer Ronald C. Guerin and filed in New Bedford District Court.
Guerin wrote that he got into a confrontation with Michelle Hodgson while he was trying to move women away from the shooting scene in front of the cafe on Acushnet Avenue.
Michelle Hodgson, he wrote, began yelling “Don’t you touch me!” demanded his badge number, and said “she would have my job,” after being placed under arrest.
She was charged with witness intimidation by interfering with a police officer and arraigned Tuesday in New Bedford District Court. A not-guilty plea was entered on Hodgson’s behalf, and she was released on her own recognizance. She left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.
Defense attorney Scott K. DeMello predicted Hodgson would be “completely exonerated.”
“I don’t know why she was arrested,” he said.
DeMello also said he believed it was unfair that Hodgson is the focus of media coverage because of her father, an elected official.
“This is about her. This is not about the sheriff,” he said.
Just before Hodgson’s arrest, another woman who was in the crowd allegedly kicked a blood-soaked boot belonging to one of the shooting victims, according to William Connolly, the special prosecutor handling the case.
Guerin wrote that he ordered the unnamed woman and her friends to leave the area and admonished them for kicking evidence. A woman responded that the victim’s boot “should not be on a sidewalk . . . that is where people walk,” Guerin said.
Officers did not get the name of the woman who kicked the boot, Connolly said. He emphasized that Hodgson is not accused of intimidating a civilian witness.
“The nature of the allegation revolves around the police investigation at the scene when they responded to the cafe,’’ said Connolly, a private attorney. Connolly was chosen for the case by prosecutors because the sheriff and Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter are “close professional and personal friends,’’ said Sutter spokesman Gregg Miliote.
The sheriff did not accompany his daughter to court, but said in a telephone interview that in his “professional opinion’’ New Bedford police were wrong to arrest her.
“I don’t want to get into particulars,” Thomas Hodgson said. “We will let the courts do that. But I will just say, based on the facts, I’m shocked that it happened.
“Based on the facts as I know them, this was not something that warranted the kind of situation that happened. And, frankly, it’s not something that was provoked at all by my daughter.’’
The sheriff also said Police Chief David A. Provencher of New Bedford contacted him Monday, telling him he did not know about his daughter’s arrest until then. The sheriff said he told Provencher to handle the case professionally, and that he did not ask for any favoritism.
The shooting took place after a fight erupted outside the bar at about 1 a.m., police said. The gunshot victims are expected to survive and officers recovered 10 shell casings from the scene, police said. No arrests have been made.
The sheriff said his daughter was inside the club when gunfire broke out, and it was afterward, as she was leaving the area, that the encounter with the officer happened. He said that earlier in the evening his daughter was out dancing with friends and that they ended their night at the Jalice, the first time his daughter had ever been there.