SALEM — A Danversport man yesterday blamed marital troubles, not an interest in children, for his decision to masturbate inside his car parked across from a Salem playground last summer.
Edward Sanborn, 48, of 46 Riverside St., Danvers, admitted that had prosecutors presented the case to a jury, there would be sufficient evidence to convict him of open and gross lewdness. The case was continued without a finding for a year, meaning that if Sanborn stays out of further trouble and obeys a series of conditions imposed by a judge, the charge will be dismissed.
During a hearing yesterday in Salem District Court, prosecutors urged Judge Robert Brennan to impose a guilty finding on Sanborn and sentence him to serve at least 90 days in jail, amid concerns about the presence of children when Sanborn was spotted on the afternoon of Aug. 11.
Assistant District Attorney Heidi Sylvanowicz called the facts “extremely alarming.”
“This isn’t someone masturbating in a parking lot behind a store,” said Sylvanowicz, who expressed concern that Sanborn might be suffering from some underlying mental health issues that led to the behavior.
But Sanborn’s lawyer, Paul Moraski, urged Brennan to continue the case without a finding for a year, saying his client wasn’t looking at children in the Collins Cove playground but at “adult videos” on his cellphone, while he gratified himself.
Moraski told the judge that the father of “three beautiful girls” had been having marital problems at the time, and, “not having any privacy in the house, not a moment to himself, makes a stupid mistake.”
Moraski said Sanborn didn’t notice the two children playing on tire swings across the street, nor did he notice the Connors Road woman who could see him from her deck that afternoon.
That woman told police she looked down and saw a man inside a red Mini Cooper, his pants undone and his hand on his groin, Sylvanowicz told the judge.
The woman’s husband ran outside and tried to confront the driver, later identified as Sanborn, but as the man pounded on Sanborn’s window, Sanborn drove away, said the prosecutor. Sanborn was later arrested at his home.
Moraski also told Brennan that Sanborn, an IT director for a business in Burlington, would lose his job if found guilty, since the company does criminal record checks every six months.
“His life is over,” Moraski said of a potential guilty finding.
Moraski also told the judge that Sanborn has been in counseling and “Things got a lot better in his marriage as a result of this.”
Brennan, the judge, said Sanborn’s lack of any prior criminal record or similar complaints suggested to him that the defense’s rationale for the incident was more likely than the theory offered by prosecutors.
“He clearly picked an inappropriate place,” said Brennan.
The judge ordered that Sanborn spend a year on supervised probation, with conditions that include a psychological evaluation and, if recommended, treatment.
Brennan also agreed to lift a restriction that had barred Sanborn from going near any public park or playground while the case was pending.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.