SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 9, 2014

Social media plays role in abuse case

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — 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.

Drechsler suggested to jurors on Tuesday that the allegations were prompted by Wojick’s insistence that the boyfriend be prosecuted for drunken driving.

But over and over, the young woman, now a college freshman, calmly acknowledged each Tweet and photo. She was a teenager with her first serious boyfriend, she explained.

Drechsler showed jurors videos of Wojick’s Roman-themed wedding, in which the young woman was seen dancing and giving a toast to the new couple. She later explained, under questioning by prosecutor Kate MacDougall, that she was happy for her mother.

Drechsler showed her an envelope on which she had written “I love Frederick Wojick.” She admitted that the writing was hers.

But under further questioning by MacDougall, she said that it was written years ago, in childish-looking printing. The bill inside the envelope was from 2008, when the girl was 12 or 13, MacDougall pointed out. And it wasn’t the young woman who had saved it for so many years, she said; it was Wojick.

When the woman initially told Peabody police Sgt. Robert Mahoney that she had not been sexually abused, it was because Mahoney was friends with both Wojick and her mother, and she was embarrassed, she said. About a week later, after speaking with her own father, she spoke again to Mahoney and this time disclosed the abuse, she said.

On Tuesday, she testified that she had confided in her boyfriend about the abuse months earlier, long before she would have had any motive to come up with false allegations.

Drechsler suggested that the young woman had lied to police when she initially responded to a question about whether her boyfriend knew about the abuse by telling them no. “Right now, he knows I have to take care of some family issues,” she told the trooper. Yesterday, she said that she had misunderstood the question.

“Oh,” Drechsler said in an exaggerated tone. “You misunderstood the question?”

“I was very distraught, sir. You weren’t there,” said the young woman, for the first time losing her composure. “I thought they were asking me if (my boyfriend) knew (Wojick) was being charged.”

Drechsler suggested that she and the boyfriend only later came up with a claim that she’d confided in him earlier. “You weren’t sure if (your boyfriend) was going to go along with that,” Drechsler said.

She was adamant. “I misunderstood the question, sir.”

“You got caught in a lie,” Drechsler insisted.

“That’s not correct,” said the young woman, who was in tears. “It’s not a lie, sir.”

Later, MacDougall asked about the state of her relationship with the boyfriend. He broke up with her last year, she said.

“He broke my heart, yes,” she told the prosecutor.

“You didn’t then retract your allegations against Frederick Wojick, did you?” asked the prosecutor.

“No,” the young woman answered.

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