BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — PEABODY — A Peabody police officer repeatedly molested and showed pornography to his stepdaughter over a four-year period starting when the girl was just 11, prosecutors are alleging.
Frederick Wojick’s lawyer, meanwhile, contends that the “salacious, sensationalized allegations” by the girl, now a teenager, are retaliation because he disapproved of her boyfriend.
Wojick, an 11-year member of the Peabody force, pleaded not guilty to six counts of indecent assault and battery on a child and a charge of disseminating obscene material to a minor during his arraignment yesterday in Peabody District Court.
While prosecutors had sought $10,000 cash bail, noting Wojick’s ties out of state, Judge Matthew Nestor released Wojick on his own recognizance, without requiring him to post bail.
Wojick has been placed on suspension as a result of his arrest, which took place Thursday evening, according to Peabody Police Chief Robert Champagne.
The allegations came to light in mid-November, said prosecutor Kate MacDougall, after Wojick contacted a colleague on the force and told him that “his family life was in disrepair.”
Wojick complained to the fellow officer that “he should have been more of a father than a friend” to the girl, now 17, MacDougall said.
When the officer questioned whether there were any accusations of inappropriate behavior, he allegedly told him that he’d “joked around” with the girl and sometimes slapped her backside, but denied anything more serious.
But his colleague, following the department’s protocol, reported the conversation to his superiors, who began an investigation, said MacDougall, who is head of the Essex family and sexual crimes unit.
The girl initially denied that Wojick had done anything more than make inappropriate comments about her appearance, but three days later, in a subsequent interview, disclosed that starting shortly after her mother married Wojick, he told her she was his “favorite.”
MacDougall said the girl told investigators that when she was 11 or 12, Wojick had her sit on his lap at a computer and showed her pornography, telling her that she could learn how to perform various sexual acts from watching.
She also said Wojick would offer to tuck her in when she began having trouble sleeping, then take the opportunity to climb on top of her in bed.
Wojick also touched her inappropriately, said MacDougall.
The officer made numerous inappropriate comments about the girl’s body, including remarking on her flexibility, the prosecutor said. Later, he would ask prying questions about her friends, wanting to know the details of their relationships, said the prosecutor.
MacDougall told the judge that while the defense may be suggesting that the girl lacks credibility because she did not disclose the incidents when first questioned, she told investigators that she was reluctant only because she did not want to make her mother unhappy or cause the end of her marriage.
MacDougall told the judge that Wojick is now on medication due to “anger issues.”
After the allegations first came to light, Wojick checked himself into Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport. He then moved in with a friend in Danvers, where he was staying when he was arrested.
But defense lawyer Thomas Drechsler argued that his decision to seek mental health treatment isn’t an indication of guilt, only his attempt to deal with a stressful situation.
“What could be more stressful than being falsely accused of such behavior?” Drechsler asked the judge.
Drechsler said his client is the victim of a vendetta by the girl because he had expressed his disapproval of the young man she is dating.
“It was only after he told her mother (about the boyfriend) that she makes the allegations,” said Drechsler.
“There are some serious issues of fact in this case,” said the lawyer. He also told the judge that Wojick had been cooperative, willingly going to the state police barracks for questioning, without an attorney.
He urged Nestor to release Wojick without bail, saying his ties to the community and his eagerness to defend himself against the charges show that he’s not a flight risk.
The judge agreed, but granted a request by the prosecutor to bar Wojick from contact with his wife or her daughter while the case is pending, noting that Wojick had been texting his wife while in custody Thursday night. Nestor also denied a request from Drechsler to allow Wojick to visit his parents in Florida.
The judge also warned Wojick and his family members to avoid posting on Facebook about the allegations, after police found disparaging comments about the girl on the social networking site.
Before joining the Peabody department in 2001, Wojick spent five years as an Essex officer and had worked as a campus officer at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, where he implemented bicycle patrols on the campus, according to a Gloucester Daily Times story on his hiring in Essex in 1996.
Wojick was sworn in as a full-time officer in Peabody in 2001.
He has also been a Pop Warner football coach in Peabody, said his lawyer.
In 2003, he opened a business on the side, the Empire Gym, on Foster Street; that gym is now closed.
Wojick is due back in court Jan. 10.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.