SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 11, 2014

Cop case in jury's hands

Deliberations to continue Monday in abuse trial

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — PEABODY — The attorney for a suspended Peabody police officer accused of molesting his former stepdaughter argued to jurors yesterday that the young woman’s account lacks credibility.

A prosecutor, meanwhile, urged jurors to use their “gut” and their common sense when they consider the evidence against Frederick Wojick, 49.

Wojick, an 11-year veteran of the Peabody department, who had also worked for the University of Massachusetts campus police in Lowell and in the town of Essex, is facing nine counts of indecent assault and battery and two counts of disseminating obscene material to a minor.

A Lawrence Superior Court jury began considering his fate yesterday morning. They deliberated for nearly four hours. Then, in an unusual move, the jury reported to the judge that it had reached verdicts on nine of the 11 counts but needed more time to consider the remaining charges.

As a result, Judge Douglas Wilkins had the envelope containing the verdicts handed back to the jury forewoman, saying he would not ask them to announce the verdicts until they had reached decisions on all of the counts. It is not known which counts the jury had decided or how it found. Jurors will return on Monday.

Wojick is accused of repeatedly touching the girl inappropriately, of having her touch him, and of seating her, and on one occasion a second girl, on his lap while viewing pornography. The girl told police the abuse started when she was about 11.

“The government is asking you to ruin him based on the allegations of a young lady whose flaws of credibility are glaring and wide open,” said defense lawyer Thomas Drechsler in his closing argument yesterday.

“The Commonwealth isn’t asking you to ruin anybody,” countered prosecutor Kate MacDougall. “The Commonwealth is asking you to honor the oath you took as jurors, to find the truth.”

It’s a case that comes down to whether the jury believes the young woman, an honor student hoping to become an attorney someday, or Wojick, a veteran law enforcement officer with no prior criminal record.

The defense in the case contends that the young woman, now a college freshman, concocted allegations of sexual abuse by Wojick in retaliation for his role in charging and prosecuting her boyfriend for drunken driving.

“The timing of these allegations cannot be starker,” argued Drechsler. “She doesn’t say anything until after her beloved is convicted.”

Drechsler suggested that the girl was simply obsessed with her boyfriend, and would have done anything for him, including setting up her now-former stepfather. He read her tweets again to jurors.

“‘When you love someone, you don’t think straight,’” Drechsler read. “I didn’t make that up. She said it.”

But MacDougall suggested that it was a jealous Wojick who was the one obsessed with the boyfriend.

“Who was fixated on that trial?” she asked jurors. “Was it (the young woman), who went to school that day? She didn’t go to court for the trial. You have no evidence that she knew the outcome of that trial when she arrived home that day. Who got a call from the courthouse from ‘his guy’ James Harkins?”

Drechsler also used the tweets and other social media posts showing photos of a smiling young woman, sometimes with Wojick, to suggest that she was not acting like someone traumatized by sexual abuse.

“Do you honestly think that if my client was molesting (the young woman) she would position herself so closely to my client?” Drechsler asked the jury. He suggested that she would have been standing to one side or another.

MacDougall, meanwhile, said that victims react differently to abuse.

She went on to point to Wojick’s reaction. “All she said was, ‘I don’t like the way you’re touching me.’ Fred Wojick goes off the rails.” He “frantically” called, texted and then had someone get a message to Sgt. David Bonfanti, his friend and colleague.

“Why is Fred Wojick bringing this to the attention of police?” the prosecutor asked jurors. “Because Fred Wojick knows what she is capable of telling them.”

But she didn’t tell police, at least not at first.

While the defense contends that the allegations were a scheme to retaliate against the officer, MacDougall pointed out that the young woman at first denied that he’d done anything more than act like a creep.

It was only after police asked to speak with her a second time, more than a week later, outside the presence of her mother, that she disclosed the allegations.

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