SJC hears case for return of former Pelham police chief’s guns


Staff Writer 
Monday, December 20, 2021

BOSTON — Lawyers came before the state’s highest court on Wednesday to argue whether the state should be able to seize and destroy the 12 guns that Pelham’s former police chief was found guilty of storing improperly in 2017.

Edward Fleury was convicted of 12 counts of improperly storing a large-capacity weapon in a 2017 trial, though he was acquitted of the 10 other similar counts. Police had conducted a search of his home in 2014 to look for a handgun Fleury allegedly pointed at a friend outside the Belchertown VFW that year — charges of which he was acquitted in 2016.

The case now before the Supreme Judicial Court, however, is not relitigating those convictions. Instead, the two sides are arguing whether “certain firearms must be forfeited and destroyed after a prosecution for illegal storage of firearms where the defendant was convicted of some counts and acquitted of others,” according to a summary of the case on the court’s website.

The arguments on Wednesday largely focused on a technical, semantic debate over whether the word “kept” in the state’s statute on “seizure, custody and disposition of articles” means the same thing as “store,” and thus should apply to violations of a state law against improper storage of firearms.

During 30 minutes of oral arguments, Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Von Flatern and Fleury’s lawyer, Thomas Robinson, made complex cases about what those words mean and the legislative history of the laws in question.

Fleury was Pelham’s police chief from 1991 until 2009. He resigned after an 8-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed himself with a machine gun during a Westfield gun exhibition Fleury organized in 2008. Fleury was acquitted of manslaughter in connection with the boy’s death in 2011.

When police searched Fleury’s home in 2014 in connection with the Belchertown case, they discovered approximately 240 guns.