According to police, the younger men, Nimblett and Barron, then attacked a disabled man who was on a late-night walk, demanding a cellphone he did not have and then throwing him through the windshield of a parked car. They fled; only Barron was later caught.
After police identified Desmond through the Elks Club sign-in sheet, she claimed not to know the men, then later claimed that she had only just met them. She gave the names of the younger men as “Mel” and “Bob.”
Later, during another interview with police in the presence of her boss, Ipswich District Court Clerk Magistrate Kathryn Morris Early, she denied making the false statements to the officer, leading Early to vouch for her, until she was shown additional evidence by police.
After charges were filed in December 2011, Early suspended Desmond without pay, following the Trial Court’s policy concerning employees charged with a crime.
While her acts were not directly related to her work, there was some question at the time of her admission in September about whether she would lose her pension because, as a sworn magistrate — one of the most powerful positions in any court — she is required to uphold the law at all times.
Clerk magistrates and assistant clerk magistrates have nearly all of the powers of a judge, except for sentencing, and are responsible for determining probable cause for criminal complaints, issuing arrest and search warrants and setting bail, among other duties.
John “Jackie” Bulger, a former clerk magistrate in Boston, lost his pension after a conviction for obstruction of justice and perjury in connection with the search for his then-fugitive brother James “Whitey” Bulger. The Supreme Judicial Court in that case held that Jackie Bulger’s crimes “struck at the heart of the clerk-magistrate role.”