Meanwhile, Vitale had claimed not to know either of the men, and told Newburyport officers he’d never been to the city before and had just come from the Elks Club, police said. Police later found all of their names, along with Desmond’s, on a sign-in sheet there.
Desmond initially claimed she didn’t know any of the men. Later, she acknowledged that she did know Vitale, with whom she had worked at the court, and suggested police had gotten her initial statement wrong.
Eventually, in a fourth interview with the Newburyport police inspector, she said she now recalled having met Nimblett, the son of a local attorney, and provided that lawyer’s name to officers.
Nimblett remains wanted on a warrant.
Salinas argued yesterday that Desmond, who is legally blind, genuinely could not identify the other men that night.
But beyond that, Salinas argued, “How can that statement be misleading?” Because police already had the names of the other people in the cab that night, “it was essentially of no consequence.”
Prosecutor Christina Pujals Ronan argued that Desmond’s “story changes with each conversation.”
“At first she says she doesn’t know who any of them are,” said the prosecutor. Then, confronted with the Elks sign-in sheet, she claims she’d just met Nimblett and Barron outside the club.
Desmond acted with the intent to mislead police, in an effort to prevent the culprits from being found and arrested, Ronan argued.
Desmond, who as an assistant clerk earned $84,870 a year, will next try to suppress the statements she made to the police during those interviews. A hearing on that motion, as well as a motion by Vitale, who seeks to suppress statements he gave to police as well, is set for Dec. 3.
If convicted, both could lose their jobs. But Desmond, as a sworn clerk-magistrate, could also face the loss of her pension, say lawyers, because even though the statements were made while she was not working, clerk-magistrates, like judges, are sworn to uphold the law.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.