, Salem, MA

April 27, 2013

Police: Marine snubs judge's order

Facebook photo of AK-47 lands suspect in custody


---- — DANVERS — A Marine sergeant charged with going on a destructive rampage in his Route 1 apartment and assaulting his father in January has been put in custody, after officials say he flouted a judge’s order to surrender all of his firearms to police while the charges were pending.

Police and a probation officer supervising Matthew Fairbanks have turned over photos taken from Fairbanks’ Facebook page that show him holding an AK-47 rifle, laughing with his hand on his belly, with a caption that says, “So then the judge says to me, he says, you will surrender all your firearms.”

That gun was found this week by Peabody police, being held by friends of Fairbanks who are not licensed to have that type of weapon.

And that, argued prosecutor Alex Grimes during a hearing late Thursday and another hearing yesterday, is a violation of the terms of Fairbanks’ release while his case, which includes charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and improper storage of a firearm, is pending.

After Fairbanks’ arrest, police found what Grimes described as a “cache” of weapons in Fairbanks’ vehicle. While Fairbanks had a license to possess those weapons at the time, it has been suspended since the arrest.

Grimes said besides failing to turn over all of his guns to police, Fairbanks also missed six appointments with a probation officer who is supervising him, and left the state without permission.

Prosecutors are asking that Fairbanks now be held without bail until trial.

Fairbanks’ attorney, Michael Walsh, yesterday accused officials of “luring” his client into court so that they could arrest him.

In an affidavit, he says Fairbanks was told he had to come into court to take a random drug test and to get permission from a judge to travel out of state. Instead, he says, Fairbanks found himself in handcuffs in the courtroom.

“The Commonwealth lured him in under a pretext to arrest him,” argued Walsh, who went on to accuse prosecutors of also deliberately depriving Fairbanks of the lawyer of his choice.

Fairbanks, who has hired Walsh to represent him, was temporarily represented by a Salem attorney who was in court on Thursday handling court-appointed cases because Walsh was not present in court at the time. Walsh, in his affidavit, described the attorney as a “mustachioed” man whose name he did not know.

That lawyer, Mark Barry, argued that there’s no evidence as to when the Facebook photo was actually taken, and said the caption is a statement of opposition to gun control, not a reference to his pending case. He argued that Fairbanks is protected by the First Amendment.

Walsh, a 23-year-old who graduated from college at 18, and who is believed to be the youngest person currently practicing law in Massachusetts, according to a Boston Globe article about him last year, marched into court this morning demanding a “petition for a writ of habeus corpus” and accusing officials of tricking his client into being arrested in the courtroom on Thursday.

Walsh yesterday told the judge that his client believed that giving the AK-47 to his friend for safekeeping was the equivalent of obeying the judge’s order to turn over all of his guns to police.

He also argued to Judge Sabita Singh that the final hearing on whether Fairbanks will remain in custody, originally scheduled for next Friday, was too long a time, and demanded that Fairbanks be released immediately unless a hearing could be scheduled sooner.

The judge offered to move the hearing to an earlier date, and it was rescheduled for Tuesday.

But she rejected Walsh’s argument that his client was being unlawfully detained, saying that he did have an initial hearing on Thursday where she found probable cause to hold him pending a full hearing next week.

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