, Salem, MA

December 18, 2013

Sex offender wants change of venue in judge threat case


---- — SALEM — A Level 3 sex offender charged with threatening to kill a judge asked yesterday to have the case moved out of Essex County, during a sometimes contentious hearing in which the defendant also referred to a prosecutor with a vulgarity.

Debbie Moccia, 58, who was formerly known as Paul Charbonneau, was indicted in July after prosecutors say she threatened to find and kill Lawrence District Court presiding Judge Lynn Rooney after the judge indicated that she would impose a jail sentence in a case pending against Moccia on June 6.

Moccia, who has a record dating back to the early 1970s that includes sex offenses with children, is facing a charge of witness intimidation.

Last month, a Salem Superior Court judge discussed with Moccia’s attorney Victoria Kelleher and prosecutor Melissa Woodard a possible plea in the case in which Moccia would spend four to six years in prison, a suggestion Moccia blasted yesterday.

“I’m not gonna do four to six years for this woman,” said Moccia, apparently referring to the prosecutor, “because at the time of my offense I was mentally ill.”

“I threatened to kill her,” Moccia said in court. “I was in a bad situation.”

“The judge and Miss Woodard would like to see me do six years,” Moccia said. “You can do six years,” she continued, looking at the prosecutor. “I won’t.”

When the prosecutor looked away and smiled, Moccia complained, “She can laugh at me all she wants, the [expletive].”

Moccia wants the case moved out of Essex County and is also asking that the case not be tried in Middlesex County.

Her attorney argued in a court filing that because of Judge Rooney’s position, as well as that of her husband, Salem District Court presiding Judge Robert Brennan, and her father-in-law, former Lawrence District Court Judge Thomas Brennan, she cannot get a fair trial in this county. She also referred to Rooney’s former position as a high-ranking Middlesex County prosecutor in her motion.

A hearing on the motion was scheduled for Jan. 17.

Much of yesterday’s hearing also dealt with Moccia’s request to represent herself, a request Judge John Lu recommended against, given Moccia’s limited educational background.

Moccia said she was making the request because she remains held at Middleton Jail despite having undergone gender-reassignment surgery, because MCI Framingham, the only available facility for women awaiting trial, would not accept her. She said that while she is at Middleton, she is not receiving medications for physical and mental illnesses, as well as hormones she was prescribed as part of her gender reassignment.

But by the end of the hearing, Moccia had withdrawn her request.

Lu is the same judge who, in 2011, talked Moccia out of a threat to swallow a razor blade she had smuggled into court. Moccia pleaded with the judge to send her to a hospital rather than back to Middleton, saying that if he did not comply with her demand, she would swallow the blade. Instead, she spit it out into a wastebasket.

Moccia’s record includes convictions for indecent assault and battery in 1986 and 2003 and, more recently, open and gross lewdness in 2007 after she chased a 12-year-old boy while exposing herself in Lawrence.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.