Charges dismissed against UMass student in alleged threat case

Thursday, August 10, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — The case against a Newbury man who allegedly made threats to commit a shooting at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus has been dismissed by a Hampshire Superior Court judge.

Judge Richard Carey dismissed the charges against Geoffrey Small, 23, in Hampshire Superior Court on July 31. Small was charged with two counts of threatening to commit a shooting.

The charges stemmed from an incident in January when a roommate allegedly overheard Small on the phone yelling that the University of Massachusetts Amherst needed to be “shot up” as well as a similar incident in the fall. Small was a senior studying chemical engineering.

In his decision, Carey ruled the statements were that of a college student venting frustration and that it did not constitute a threat as they were not statements of what Small intended to do.

“His ill chosen, obviously outrageous, commentary reflects what he thinks ‘needs to be’ or ‘wants to be’ done, not what he intends to do,” Carey wrote. “It may be a subtle distinction, but such distinctions matter when they spell the difference between liberty and imprisonment.”

Small’s attorney, Michael Gillis, said his client was glad to be exonerated.

“Two judges in two different courts agreed that the words were ill chosen but not criminal,” Gillis said in an email. “Unfortunately, the family had to endure a lot because the prosecution did not see what the court saw twice. The family is greatly relieved that a just result was achieved and that Mr. Small can continue on with his life.”

The case was previously dismissed in Eastern Hampshire District Court on May 10 by Judge Patricia Poehler.

Small was indicted by a superior court grand jury on May 9.

In the decision to dismiss, Poehler wrote the statement of facts presented as evidence was “misleading and inconsistent” with additional police reports.

Poehler also ruled that the facts presented failed to meet the element of the charge that “requires a threat ‘to use or have present’ a weapon.”

“This fact would have been obvious to the Clerk-Magistrate if he had been given an accurate statement of the incident,” Poehler wrote. “Because there is insufficient probable cause to support the crime charged, the complaint must be dismissed.”