BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — PEABODY — “I didn’t want to be the evil stepfather,” Peabody police officer Frederick Wojick told jurors yesterday. “I wanted to be their friend.”
Over and over, he answered “absolutely not” when asked by his attorney if he had engaged in the various acts his former stepdaughter had described to a Lawrence Superior Court jury on Tuesday.
“I know what they’re trying to do to me,” he said, hoping to convince jurors that the young woman came up with sexual abuse allegations in retaliation for his failure to stop the arrest and prosecution of her boyfriend on a drunken-driving charge months earlier. “They’re trying to attack me.”
But Wojick was forced to acknowledge that neither the young woman nor her mother contacted police to make any allegations.
Rather, the investigation began after Wojick contacted a fellow officer, Sgt. David Bonfanti, following an argument with the teen, during which she told him, “I don’t like how you’ve been touching me.” Bonfanti reported the conversation to his superiors, who then contacted the teen and her mother.
It was more than a week later, after initially denying that she had been abused, that the young woman, then 17, disclosed to Wojick’s fellow Peabody officers that he had been touching her inappropriately since the age of 11 and had shown her and a friend pornography.
Under cross-examination by prosecutor Kate MacDougall, Wojick admitted that at the time the young woman made the comment to him, during an argument, she did not know that her boyfriend had just been found guilty.
Wojick, 49, spent about an hour and a half on the witness stand yesterday. Closing arguments are scheduled for this morning.
Under questioning by his attorney, Thomas Drechsler, Wojick described how he met the young woman’s mother when she approached him at a traffic stop near her home and started flirting. Two years later, she showed up at his gym, and “she started flirting,” he said.
“I folded,” he testified, acknowledging that he was married at the time but pursued an affair with the woman, whom he later married.
He insisted that he loved all of the woman’s children. The alleged victim “was just like my daughter, a little girl, so I just, I took to her,” said Wojick. “The other one was older.”
Wojick’s ex-wife has testified that Wojick would frequently refer to the older girl as an “ice box (expletive).”
Wojick said yesterday that if he showed more interest in the younger girl’s social life, it was only out of concern. “She was a book-smart girl, not street smart,” he said of the accuser, an honor student now in college. “The older one, she could take care of herself.”
He denied telling her he wanted to be her first. Instead, he told jurors, he warned her about boys who would want to take advantage of her. He disapproved of the first boy she dated. “He was a drunk,” he said of the 15-year-old boy.
When he recounted how the young woman once called for a ride home after the boy got drunk on a date, he recalled saying, “I told you, he’s no good,” then turned toward the jury and said, “I’m the bad guy.”
Wojick also did not like the next boy she dated, he said, describing the night of his arrest and admitting he yelled, “I’m gonna hit you so bad” at the young man.
“I told them, ‘Take him, take his ass out of here. He could have killed her.” But he insisted that he played no role in the decision to arrest him.
On the day Wojick was interviewed by state police about the allegations, however, he claimed responsibility for the arrest, according to a transcript of that interview, which the prosecutor waved at him.
“I had him arrested,” Wojick told the state police investigators, something that he would then claim as a motive for what he contends are false accusations.
“It was a figure of speech,” Wojick said yesterday.
When the young woman came home from school on the day her boyfriend was convicted, she still didn’t know about the court’s decision.
Wojick did but pretended not to, asking her if she knew the outcome.
“I wanted to see what she knew,” Wojick said.
During questioning by his lawyer, Wojick recounted the conversation that followed, saying the young woman told him she hated the officer who arrested her boyfriend and she hated police.
But he mentioned neither of those purported statements to state police, MacDougall pointed out during her cross-examination.
Earlier in the day, jurors heard from Peabody Patrolman James Harkins, who acknowledged that when he arrested the boyfriend, he failed to include in his police report any reference to Wojick, the owner of the van the teen was driving, the young woman or the 750 milliliter bottle of vodka found in the van.
Drechsler also called Wojick’s mother, his sister and his first ex-wife as character witnesses.
But the strategy may have backfired when MacDougall confronted the sister with an angry and vulgar email she had sent to the young woman after Wojick’s arrest and then questioned the ex-wife about reports that she’d repeatedly shown up at the supermarket where the young woman has a part-time job and followed her around the store.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.