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June 5, 2013

Trial begins for Salem officer accused of rape

SALEM — Opening statements will take place this morning in the trial of a veteran Salem police officer accused of sexually assaulting a family friend in his Salem home last June.

Matthew Desmond, 42, has been suspended without pay from his position as a lieutenant as a result of the charges: rape and indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or older.

Desmond, through his attorney, has pleaded not guilty and denies the allegations, saying that any contact between the two was consensual.

Jury selection got underway yesterday morning in Salem Superior Court, where Judge Timothy Feeley is presiding over what is expected to be a four-day trial.

The allegations surfaced last July, after the woman went to police to report that during a visit to Desmond’s home on June 20, he brushed his hand over her chest, then reached between her legs. The woman told police that she was sitting on a sofa with a child, and with two other children playing nearby, when Desmond approached her.

The woman had been watching Desmond’s children and her own child as they used Desmond’s pool, she told police. Desmond and his wife had been friends with the woman and her husband.

The issue of whether to tell potential jurors about the fact that Desmond and the woman knew each other before the alleged incident was one of several that Feeley took up yesterday with prosecutor Kate MacDougall and defense lawyer Thomas Drechsler, prior to the arrival of the jury pool.

MacDougall expressed concern that potential jurors might hold differing views of a rape case depending on whether the accused knew the alleged victim. Drechsler said he did not disagree with that concern, and the jury pool was told that the two knew each other.

Another issue was who will be allowed in the courtroom during the trial.

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