SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

January 17, 2014

Owner of bartending school admits groping student

BEVERLY — The owner of a bartending school was willing yesterday to admit that he reached into student’s shirt and groped her breasts last summer.

But Hugh McGowan wasn’t ready to admit that doing that was wrong, or that he was guilty of a crime, his attorney said yesterday. He was asking that the charge of indecent assault and battery be continued without a finding for a year, an outcome that would spare McGowan, 64, of Peabody, from having to register as a sex offender.

That troubled the victim, a young New Hampshire woman who told a judge she was even more concerned when she learned that McGowan had been accused of doing the same thing to another woman a little more than a decade ago.

It also troubled Salem District Court Judge Robert Brennan. He called the July 17 incident at the Bar Time school in Beverly “beyond the pale” and among the most egregious cases of indecent assault and battery he has ever encountered in his career.

”It was aggressive, it was sexual, and it was offensive,” said Brennan, who indicated that if McGowan wanted to avoid a trial, he would have to agree to a guilty finding and a year of supervised probation and register as a sex offender.

During a hearing yesterday morning in Salem District Court, McGowan’s attorney, Marc Salinas, pleaded with the judge to continue the case, saying that McGowan suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, the result of his service in the Marines more than 40 years ago.

But Brennan was adamant, citing not only the facts of the case but the extent of McGowan’s behavior. “This is to me the very definition of an indecent assault and battery,” he said.

The woman told police that she had stayed after class to work on flash cards, prosecutor Heidi Sylvanowicz said.

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