SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 7, 2014

Openings in trial of cop expected this morning

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — PEABODY — In a strange coincidence, a potential juror in the trial of a Peabody police officer accused of molesting a relative was excused from serving yesterday after telling the judge about his long-standing resentment of police.

The jury pool member said the belief dates back to his arrest in 1983 on a drunken-driving charge. He told Lawrence Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins that he has long believed that the Georgetown police officer who arrested him should have given him a break because he was a friend of the officer’s son.

And that, it turns out, is also a central issue in Frederick Wojick’s defense as he goes on trial in Lawrence Superior Court on nine counts of indecent assault and battery and two counts of disseminating obscene material to a minor.

Wojick and his attorney, Thomas Drechsler, contend that the accusations, by a relative of Wojick’s estranged wife, were made in retaliation over Wojick’s refusal to intervene when the accuser’s boyfriend was charged with drunken driving last year. Wojick had instead expressed disapproval of the relationship, his attorney has said.

Wojick, 49, was arrested in November 2011 after a colleague went to his superiors with concerns about statements Wojcik had made to him about his troubled family life, and an investigation eventually led to the disclosures by the relative, a teenager.

Opening statements in the case are expected this morning, followed by testimony from the teenager and, potentially, other witnesses.

Drechsler and prosecutor Kate MacDougall told the judge the case is expected to take about a week.

Both sides are seeking to limit the evidence that can be used during the trial, according to court filings.

The defense wants to bar the prosecutor and witnesses from referring to Wojick’s hospitalization for mental health treatment around the time of the disclosures, as well as evidence taken from computers.

The prosecutor is asking the judge to block questions about the teen’s sexual history. Such questions are typically off-limits under the state’s “rape shield” law, a law that seeks to prevent defense attorneys from attempting to elicit irrelevant testimony that could prejudice jurors against an accuser in a sexual assault case.

The prosecutor is also seeking to bar introduction of evidence of “prior bad acts” by either the accuser or witnesses in the case, including the drunken-driving arrest of the accuser’s boyfriend, unless Drechsler can prove that they are relevant.

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