The most high-profile law enforcement official in southeastern Massachusetts will need to appear before a federal judge in September after showing up late to court on Wednesday.

Judge William Young ordered Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson to appear for a civil contempt hearing because he showed up two hours late to testify in a criminal trial, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The sheriff did eventually testify.

"We were on our way. We got hit with traffic," said Bruce Assad, a Fall River attorney who represents the sheriff and his department and was traveling with Hodgson to the Moakley Courthouse in South Boston on Wednesday morning.

Hodgson was the only defense witness in the trial of Antonio Freitas, who was convicted by a jury Wednesday of one count of bulk cash smuggling and one count of structuring the export of U.S. currency, according to federal prosecutors. Freitas, the government said, deposited the cash in a Portuguese bank account belonging to Carlos Rafael, a corrupt fishing magnate dubbed the "Codfather."

Daniel Cronin, an attorney for Freitas, said a summons told Hodgson to appear at court at 9 a.m., but he informed the sheriff that he would most likely be called at 10 a.m.

"At 10:15 we went into the hallway and the sheriff wasn't there, and apparently the sheriff got stuck in traffic on the Southeast Expressway," Cronin told the News Service.

Northbound traffic on Interstate 93 can move like molasses on many weekday mornings, and Assad said they got jammed up by a crash between a car and a box truck in a tunnel.

"There's nothing you can do," Assad said. He said, "We tried to be there."

"In my opinion being stuck in traffic was explainable," Cronin said.

Cronin said that Hodgson testified that a promotion that Freitas received at the House of Correction was "not influenced by" a telephone call Hodgson received from Rafael.

In a filing Tuesday, federal prosecutors wrote that Hodgson "has nothing to do with the offenses alleged in the indictment." Assad said he wasn't informed that Hodgson would be called as a witness Wednesday until "late Tuesday."

Freitas was a Bristol County sheriff's deputy and a "long-time Task Force Officer with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. According to the office, Hodgson was ordered to appear before Young for a civil contempt hearing on Sept. 12.

--Andy Metzger, State House News Service

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