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Man who was convicted of blinding a Seaport bouncer in one eye in angry rampage will have to stay behind bars as he appeals his conviction, court rules

A Moroccan native who grew up in Revere will have to stay behind bars - serving a four-to-five-year sentence - as he appeals his conviction for smashing a glass into the face of a bouncer at a Seaport bar in 2018, because he is just too much of a flight risk to ensure he sticks around for another trial should he win his appeal, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals ruled today.

In a 2-1 decision, the court concluded that neither a Superior Court judge nor a single appeals-court justice had erred in determining that Khalid Kalila, who was born in Morocco and who made frequent visits there to see his father and brothers even as he maintained dual citizenship, would have even more of a reason to flee now than before his 2021 conviction.

According to the court summary of the case and 2018 testimony at a Boston Licensing Board hearing, Kalila grew enraged at Empire one night after a fight with another patron. As Kalila began yelling racial slurs at the other person, bar workers began to escort him and one of his brothers outside. At the door, Kalila began smashing a glass he still held into the face of a bouncer, who ultimately required 100 stitches and permanently lost the sight in one eye.

A Suffolk Superior Court jury convicted Kalila for mayhem, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery with dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury and civil rights violation with injury; a judge then sentenced him to three to four years in state prison, followed by another year in a Suffolk County house of correction.

Kalila appealed the conviction on the ground that the judge in the case refused to let his lawyer dismiss a prospective Black juror whose mother worked for the Boston Police internal-affairs division - and asked that his imprisonment be stayed while he appealed. Today's ruling is on his request that he be freed pending the resolution of his appeal.

Justices William Meade and Gregory Massing concluded that, even though he made all his pre-trial hearings and the trial itself, prosecutors had shown Kalila was a serious flight risk, a man of sufficient means to make $10,000 bail immediately, hire a private attorney and who, up through his trial, maintain a as a "high-level management position overseeing sixty maintenance employees and nine properties, including 2,500 residential apartments and a golf course."

And, they continued, he had both motive - the desire to avoid imprisonment - and sufficient ties to Morocco to return more permanently to that country, even as he agreed to give up both his American and Moroccan passports and wear a GPS device.

The trial judge reasoned that it would be quite possible for the defendant to replace his Moroccan passport without its renewal coming to the attention of the United States and Massachusetts authorities. The defendant's response that he would have to present his passport to the Transportation Security Administration before boarding a flight does not address the trial judge's concern, which was within the range of reasonableness.

The justices continued:

Even if we assume for the purposes of this appeal that the defendant is likely to succeed on his peremptory challenge claim, we discern no abuse of discretion in the single justice's acceptance of the trial judge's implicit rejection of the defendant's premise that his prospects of success reduced his risk of flight.

Even if Kalila won his appeal, they wrote, the outcome would be another trial on the original charges, he still would not be free - he would have to go on trial again.

The defendant's appellate issue is not one of the few claims, such as sufficiency of the evidence, that require the entry of a judgment of acquittal. The best outcome the defendant can hope for is a new trial before another finder of fact. The trial judge could reasonably conclude that, were the defendant released pending appeal, the defendant would present a risk of flight in order to avoid, and not merely postpone, punishment.

Justice James Milkey, however, dissented, saying Kalila is a prime example of a person who should be freed pending an appeal, both because of strong roots in the community that would keep him here - from working his way up from an entry-level building-management worker to a manager to marrying his middle-school sweetheart, with whom he has three children here - and the strength of his appeal.

As evidenced by the forty-five letters of support submitted by friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family members on his behalf for sentencing, the defendant is richly embedded in his community. The letters attested to his strong character and to various good deeds he regularly performed. As but one of many examples, two letters praised how during an emergency evacuation of an apartment building in the Prudential Center that followed the Boston Marathon bombing, the defendant carried a wheelchair-bound woman down seventeen flights of stairs.

He noted Kalila's employer said he could return to his job if he were freed while the appeal continued. After noting that Massachusetts rulings mean that a judge needs to balance a possible flight risk with other factors, he concludes that Kalila warrants being released while his appeal continues:

What is most salient about the trial judge's explanation of why the defendant poses an "extreme risk of flight" is what is missing from [the Superior Court judge's] analysis. In particular, nowhere in his oral findings at the motion hearing or his memorandum of decision is there any serious effort to engage the essential question this case presents: why would someone in the defendant's position abandon his Horatio Alger life story to become an international fugitive confined to permanent self-exile in a country he left when he was a child? As defense counsel succinctly put it at the motion hearing, "his life is here, not just in America[,] but in Massachusetts."

The judge's conclusion that there is a high probability that the defendant would flee if released becomes particularly puzzling when one takes into account the defendant's knowledge that his convictions likely will be vacated on appeal, as his counsel informed him with apparent accuracy. On top of this, no one needs to speculate about how the defendant would view the pros and cons of fleeing, because he faced essentially the same choice during the over three years that he was on pretrial release. In fact, assuming that the defendant will prevail in his pending appeal -- and, again, the Commonwealth has presented no reason why he will not -- he will return to pretrial status shortly.

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It's not like, "Oh maybe he's innocent." His appeal seems based on a flimsy argument, so I have no problem with the court keeping him in jail for his full sentence.

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I'd submit that if you have 45 neighbors and friends submitting letters about how good a person you are, and one guy whose face you ruined for no good reason, your 45 neighbors and friends are incorrect.

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but proven by his actions to be an arrogant asshole with an anger problem. Breaking a glass in someone's face is an outrageous act. The time he received is surprisingly low. The people who wrote letters for him should be ashamed.

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While this person may have had good attributes, he stole the sight in one eye from another human being over nonsense. Imagine losing your eye to some asshole smashing glass into it?
No sympathy here

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