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January 9, 2014

Social media plays role in abuse case

PEABODY — They were song lyrics that struck a chord, or sometimes complaints about “drama” with friends, or messages about how much she was in love with her first serious boyfriend.

A generation ago, a teenage girl might have scribbled those things in a diary or confided in a girlfriend. But like so many of her peers, the Peabody teenager chose to express herself on social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

And that, argued the lawyer representing the young woman’s former stepfather, made those thoughts and feelings fair game in his efforts to discredit her account of being molested by the Peabody police officer over a six-year period.

Frederick Wojick’s attorney, holding a binder full of pages printed from social media websites, spent more than two hours yesterday reading Tweets and showing jurors photos of the young woman, some of them with Wojick.

“You weren’t that traumatized that you ceased Tweeting,” defense attorney Thomas Drechsler told the young woman after reading a series of messages about how much she loved her boyfriend.

Wojick, 49, is charged with nine counts of indecent assault and battery on the young woman, incidents she says started when she was 11 years old and he put her on his lap while watching pornography on a computer. He is also charged with showing her and one of her friends pornographic images.

Drechsler had wanted to go even further, arguing outside the jury’s presence that the girl had waived any expectation of privacy when she posted details about her relationship with her boyfriend online. The prosecutor argued successfully, however, that questioning the woman about some of those details would violate the state’s rape shield law, which limits the use of past sexual activity to discredit a victim.

Instead, Drechsler emphasized the number of posts in which the girl referred to her boyfriend and spoke of her love for him, characterizing her as “obsessed” with the young man, something that would bolster his contention that she would be willing to retaliate against Wojick on his behalf.

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