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Cheryl Adams

Other Massachusetts Guilty Plea Cases
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On February 8, 1989, a loss prevention worker at a Cumberland Farms convenience store in Essex County, Massachusetts, directed 26-year-old Cheryl Adams to leave her cash register and go into a back room of the store.

She was told to sit on a milk crate and then was accused of stealing from the register and allowing customers to leave without paying for some of their purchases.

Adams denied stealing or allowing anyone else to steal. Her interrogator knew that she was in divorce proceedings and said that she could lose custody of her son if she refused to sign a confession. After more than four hours of interrogation, Adams signed a confession admitting that she had stolen $11,985.

Based on the confession, Adams was charged with larceny of more than $250, a felony. She pled guilty in 1989 and was placed on probation and ordered to pay $5,500 in restitution to Cumberland Farms.

In June 1990, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a series of articles revealing that thousands of other Cumberland Farms employees in several states had been coerced to falsely confess to theft in circumstances that were remarkably similar to Adams’s case.

Two former Cumberland employees said the company had a longstanding policy of coercing confessions of theft from employees without corroborating evidence. The two employees also appeared on an episode of the television program “60 Minutes” and said that they had a quota of as many as 30 confessions per month, and that the interrogations were carried out at many of the more than 1,000 Cumberland stores in several states.

Attorney Stanley R. Cohen was appointed to represent Adams. Based on the disclosures, Cohen filed a motion to vacate Adams’s conviction. The motion was granted in December 1990. Cumberland Farms denied that Adams’s confession was false and Adams went to trial in Peabody District Court in Peabody, Massachusetts. On January 24, 1992, a jury acquitted Adams of larceny of more than $250, but convicted her of larceny under $250, which was a misdemeanor.

In August 1992, after Cohen argued that the verdict was not supported by the evidence, the trial judge vacated the conviction and dismissed the case. The prosecution appealed and on August 17, 1993, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts upheld the dismissal.

Cohen later filed a lawsuit on behalf of Adams and numerous other Cumberland employees who said they were similarly forced to false confess to theft and were fired.

In 1993, Cumberland Farms agreed to pay $5.5 million settle a class action lawsuit involving about 2,000 former employees. Adams was not part of that lawsuit. One of those who was part of that settlement was Mary Mengloi, another former Cumberland Farms employee who was wrongly accused and falsely convicted of theft in Florida before her conviction was vacated and dismissed in May 1993.

Cohen pursued Cumberland separately on behalf of Adams and about 50 other former Cumberland workers. For his efforts, he was held in contempt for disobeying judicial orders, fined tens of thousands of dollars, and jailed for several months. Cohen, an oral surgeon who went to law school at age 50 and became a lawyer, ultimately lost his home, his life savings, and his marriage in his quixotic quest. His law license was suspended for continuing to fight a legal battle that numerous judges ruled was improper.
 
Ultimately, Adams and a few other of Cohen’s clients got money from the Cumberland Farms settlement. Adams got $5,000 that she voluntarily gave to Cohen.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 10/28/2014
State:Massachusetts
County:Essex
Most Serious Crime:Theft
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1989
Convicted:1989
Exonerated:1993
Sentence:Probation
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Female
Age at the date of crime:26
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No