The man who allegedly attacked a Suffolk County deputy sheriff last summer, in an incident that led to a controversial crackdown on homeless people and substance abusers in the South End, is now behind bars again, facing gun and drug charges,according to court records and police.
At the time of his latest arrest on Jan. 3, Robert Lee White Sr. was free on $250 cash bail imposed in Suffolk Superior Court, where he was facing charges for allegedly attacking the deputy sheriff in August on Atkinson Street.
The attack, allegedly by White and several others, led Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins to call for a response to the homeless people and drug abusers frequenting the area near the Suffolk County House of Correction and the surrounding neighborhood, which has come to be known as the “Methadone Mile.”
Boston police, in a reaction that drew criticism from Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins and advocates for the homeless, conducted several sweeps in August in the area, arresting 16 people, the Globe has reported.
The Suffolk County corrections officer was driving to work on Aug. 1 in his car when he drove past “a large group of people on Atkinson Street. Mr. White yelled something and [the corrections officer] stopped," prosecutors said in a statement of the case filed by Rollins’s office in Suffolk Superior Court. “Mr. White approached the driver’s side of the car and struck [the corrections officer] through the open window.” The corrections officer stepped out of his vehicle and confronted White, according to prosecutors, asking him, "Did you just do that?”
The incident escalated, according to prosecutors. “Mr. White stepped closer to [the corrections officer] as a crowd of bystanders circled around them. Feeling trapped, [the corrections officer] engaged Mr. White as the two men struck each other. Numerous bystanders immediately jumped in."
White, according to prosecutors, was readily identified as an assailant based on his looks and surveillance videos. “Mr. White had a distinctive hairstyle and was quickly identified from surveillance video,” prosecutors wrote.
The corrections officer was hospitalized for treatment of his injuries, prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors allege a second man identified as Sean A. Stuart also attacked the corrections officer. Stuart is free on $500 cash bail after pleading not guilty to assault and battery and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, according to Suffolk Superior Court records.
White was initially charged in Roxbury Municipal Court with armed robbery and assault and battery in August, according to court records. Bail was originally set at $3,000 cash -- which White could not post -- but was reduced to $250 cash by a Roxbury Municipal Court judge after he had been jailed for about two months, records show.
The armed robbery charge was dropped by Rollins’s office “because our investigation revealed that the evidence did not support the original felony charges filed against Mr. White,”' Matthew Brelis,Rollins’s spokesman, wrote in an e-mail.
But prosecutors took a hard stance against White and chose to indict him on a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery, moving it to Superior Court. Rollins’s office, however, did not object when a Superior Court judge kept bail at $250 on Nov. 5, according to court records.
“No further request for bail from the CW [Commonwealth],'' Superior Court Judge Rebecca Figueroa wrote in setting the bail.
Brelis said “this office did not object to the lower bail because Mr. White was facing a misdemeanor charge. The initial bail was based on a felony charge." He noted that under state law, bail is ordered to ensure someone will attend court hearings, and that prosecutors have been instructed by the state’s highest court to use the dangerousness law as the means to have a defendant held before trial as a public safety risk.
White was out on bail when Boston police, armed with a search warrant, stopped him on Albany Street on Jan. 3 and searched him. In a posting on bpdnews.com, police alleged they recovered three cellphones, $501 in cash, 19 plastic bags of suspected fentanyl, 5 large plastic bags of suspected crack cocaine, 9 small bags of suspected cocaine, and 1 medium bag of marijuana.
During White’s arraignment in Roxbury Municipal Court on new charges of trafficking in cocaine, trafficking in illegal drugs, and possession with intent to distribute drugs, Rollins’s office asked that White be held without bail because he was newly arrested while awaiting trial, a request that Judge Catherine Ham granted.
The judge also ordered that White be kept away from the Suffolk County jail. Instead Ham sent him to the Norfolk County Jail while his cases are pending. He remains in custody.
Jonathan Curley, president of Local 419, the union representing corrections officers at the Suffolk sheriff’s department, declined comment on White’s latest arrest. He said the department’s policy bans corrections officers from publicly discussing cases where a detainee is legally in the custody of the department.
Police said they also executed a search warrant on White’s home on Norton Street where they allegedly recovered a 9mm Ruger pistol along with six rounds of ammunition. The gun was reported stolen from a Miami residence in September, police wrote. A gun possession charge is pending against White in Dorchester Municipal Court, records show.