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Appeals Court Lawyer 'Traffics' in Term Papers

In Massachusetts, as in 16 other states, it is against the law to sell a term paper. That was news to Damian Bonazzolli, a senior staff attorney for the Massachusetts Appeals Court. Bonazzolli advertised himself on Craigslist as available to write term papers for a fee, promising to deliver a "quality grade."

In the current issue of the magazine CommonWealth, writer Colman M. Herman reports on the "shadowy underworld" of term paper trafficking.

Posing as a student over a three-month period from July to September, I emailed a request for a 20-page, double-spaced term paper written about physician-assisted suicide to 66 individuals and companies advertising on the Boston site of Craigslist. Sixty-two responses came back, quoting prices ranging from $90 to $1,200.

One of those who responded was Bonazzolli, who asked for $300. Along with his response, he included his resume, which showed his employment as an attorney for the Appeals Court.

In a subsequent e-mail exchange between Bonazzolli and writer Herman, the lawyer said it would not be illegal for him to write the paper. "I am aware of no state or federal statute that prohibits such a practice. This is not the equivalent of, say, lying on a federal employment or tax form," he told Herman.

In fact, Massachusetts does have a law against this. The law makes it a criminal misdemeanor to sell a term paper or research knowing that it "will be submitted or used by some other person for academic credit and represented as the original work of such person." Violators face a fine of up to $100 and imprisonment of up to six months. Bonazolli told Herman he was unaware of the law.

Bonazolli was the only lawyer Herman's story mentions, but he was not the only professional. Others who Herman found advertising their writing services on Craigslist included a physician practicing at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, a Boston-area woman with a doctorate in clinical psychology, and a woman with a master's degree in public health who works for a nonprofit organization in Liberia helping poor women start businesses.

How common is academic plagiarism? Herman put that question to Darby Dickerson, dean of Stetson University College of Law and author of a 2007 Villanova Law Review article on the topic. His reply: "Cheating and plagiarism are as common on college campuses as dirty laundry and beer."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on November 4, 2009 at 02:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)


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