BOSTON (CBS) — Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins filed an emergency petition Tuesday with the State’s highest court to return an accused murderer to jail. Forty-year-old William Utley was held on second-degree murder charges for the stabbing of Anthony Young in 2018.

Last week, a Suffolk Superior Court Judge released him on personal recognizance after his lawyers said his cancer treatment made him vulnerable to COVID-19. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled Friday that some prisoners, who meet certain conditions, can be released to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

“He was on a GPS monitor and released pre-trial for a firearms offense when he committed a murder and got his fifth operating under the influence charge,” Rollins said, “He is certainly not the type of individual we should be considering from release.”

This is one example of the new challenges facing prosecutors and law enforcement in the time of coronavirus with courts closed and trials on hold. “But we are still moving forward when people are arrested, when they have domestic violence issues for example, or want to get restraining orders,” Rollins said.

The wheels of justice are also moving slowly in Boston Federal Court where there are no trials, no grand juries convening, and arraignments are done via video conference. Prosecutors are similarly being asked to weigh whether defendants should be detained behind bars.

U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling said he does not believe this will create a backlog of cases for his office. “We’re doing some triage so, we’re prioritizing the cases that most directly impact the public safety.”

There is one area where there is no shortage of work for Lelling and his colleagues: the investigation of scams related to COVID-19.

“Solicitations to deliver money to online charities, advertising fake vaccines or counterfeit testing kits, that sort of thing. Fake investment opportunities,” Lelling said, “The sheer volume of leads after we set up this hotline and the justice department started having us do this work, surprised me and is frankly, a little depressing.”

Massachusetts residents who believe they are victims of fraud or other criminal activity related to the pandemic can contact the United States Attorney’s Office at USAMA.victimassistance@usdoj.gov or call 1-888-221-6023 and leave a message.

Louisa Moller

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