Nine charged with drug or gun dealing at Mildred Hailey Apartments in JP

Boston Police report nine people were charged after a two-year investigation by Boston and federal investigators into drug and gun crimes by member of the Heath Street Gang at the Mildred Hailey Apartments, formerly known as Bromley-Heath.

The development, one of the largest owned by the Boston Housing Authority, has been severely impacted by the prevalence of drug trafficking, shootings and other crimes, much of which is instigated by gangs. According to the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, over a 10-month period in 2017, there were 36 incidents of shots fired, eight non-fatal shootings, one homicide, 20 drug-related arrests and 25 robberies in and around the development. According to court documents, the investigation and arrests aim to reduce violence and improve the quality of life for residents by removing individuals who traffic drugs and who are actively involved in violence and gang disputes.

Alleged Heath Street Gang members Cerone "JP" Davis, 25, Joe "Profit" Simmons, 30, and Jarrod "Rizz" Simmons, 21, were charged with distribution of controlled substances within 1,000 feet of a public housing facility, police say.

Alleged gang members Dominique "Heff" Finch, 27, James Finch, 32, Javonte "Biggie" Robinson, 21, and Kevin "Works" Smith, 27, were charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine base and distribution of cocaine base within 1000 feet of a public housing facility. James Finch remains at large, police say.

Franklin "Frankie So So Smooth" Safo-Agyare, 25, of Worcester, is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Kendrick "K-Roc" Tate, 25, of Chelsea, was charged with distribution of cocaine base and being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Tate is currently serving a three-and-a-half-to-four-year sentence for unrelated state drug and firearm convictions.

Affidavit by ATF agent on the case (13.1M PDF).

New US Attorney in Boston: Maybe I'll go after some pot dealers and maybe I won't

Well, that didn't take long. Andrew Lelling, our new US Attorney, issued a statement today saying he might just take Jeff Sessions up on his offer to arrest people in the nascent legal (under state law, anyway) marijuana trade:

I understand that there are people and groups looking for additional guidance from this office about its approach to enforcing federal laws criminalizing marijuana cultivation and trafficking. I cannot, however, provide assurances that certain categories of participants in the state-level marijuana trade will be immune from federal prosecution.

Lelling said federal law still makes marijuana illegal and now that the Sessions has revoked an Obama-administration edict declaring state-authorized marijuana sales basically OK, he can't just sit idly by and let the laws of the realm be ignored. Still, he added, resources are limited and he'll be taking the matter up on a case by case basis:

As a law enforcement officer in the Executive Branch, it is my sworn responsibility to enforce that law, guided by the Principles of Federal Prosecution. To do that, however, I must proceed on a case-by-case basis, assessing each matter according to those principles and deciding whether to use limited federal resources to pursue it.

Deciding, in advance, to immunize a certain category of actors from federal prosecution would be to effectively amend the laws Congress has already passed, and that I will not do. The kind of categorical relief sought by those engaged in state-level marijuana legalization efforts can only come from the legislative process.

Cities and towns have the right to keep residents from landing helicopters next to their homes, court rules

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today the town of Rockport can keep a resident who'd rather fly than drive from building and using a helipad on his property.

The court ruled that zoning codes in Massachusetts trump a state law that seems to say residents can operate whirlibirds to and from their homes without local authority in some cases and that that does not interfere with state or federal laws promoting aviation, because those are aimed at flying in general, not the location of specific landing areas. Towns, the court said, have the right to determine how land within their borders is used.

Ron Roma, who regularly flies his helicopter to "his various family homes, business engagements, and other activities," got a certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration in 2013 to use his 1.6-acre oceanfront property as "a licensed private use heliport" when he wasn't storing the craft and flying it out of Beverly Airport.

The next year, Roma landed his helicopter on his property. Not long after, the town building inspector heard about that and issued an order that he knock it off, because "a heliport is not allowed, either as a principal use of the property or an accessory use, in any zoning district in the Town."

Roma then took off to the town zoning board, which rejected his request for zoning relief. But he found fairer skies in Land Court, where a judge agreed with him that state aeronautics law, dating to 1946, seemed to require state approval of any aircraft-related zoning codes and Rockport had not obtained such approval - mainly because under the town zoning code, anything not explicitly allowed in the code is forbidden, and the code does not make specific mention of private aircraft.

But the state's highest court noted that the law was related mainly to the construction of municipal airports and the needs of "civil aviation," not a person's right to build a landing area on their residentially zoned land. And then there's the whole issue of the sanctity of zoning in Massachusetts:

Where land use regulation has long been recognized by the Legislature to be a prerogative of local government, we will not infer that the enactment of the aeronautics code reflects a clear legislative intent to preempt all local zoning bylaws that might affect noncommercial private restricted landing areas based on the risk of frustrating the legislative purpose of fostering private flying.

Nor are we persuaded that the Legislature, by granting the division "general supervision and control over aeronautics," G. L. c. 90, § 39, intended to preempt all local land use regulation that might affect the use of land for private heliports. If local zoning authorities must depend on division approval to protect their residents from the types of harm or nuisances that might arise from the establishment of a noncommercial private restricted landing area, cities and towns will be unable to ensure that their residents will be adequately protected from these harms and nuisances. If the Legislature wishes to preempt local zoning regarding noncommercial private restricted landing areas, it must provide a clearer indication of such intent.