MIDDLETON — As Brian A. Sweeney Jr. sat in a courthouse holding area in Salem Tuesday morning and listened to the allegations against him, details of events just hours earlier, his attorney said he was "shocked" and "dumbfounded."
It had started at the bar at Middleton's DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Monday evening, where Sweeney, 37, of Danvers, had been chatting up a 56-year-old Pennsylvania woman — and drinking. The woman, who didn't know Sweeney, would later tell police she knew he'd had had too much to drink when he put his feet on the bar.
Then, he pulled his pants down showing her his genitals, she told officers, her account backed up by an employee at the bar, who also confirmed that Sweeney wasn't wearing any underwear. Both of them said they were shocked.
By the time officers arrived, shortly after 8 p.m., employees had moved Sweeney to a chair near the lobby, where he was growing increasingly belligerent, police said. Sweeney denied exposing himself, according to a police report. They noted that he smelled of alcohol.
He was arrested and put into a police cruiser, where he alternately banged his head on the door and pressed his face against a Plexiglas divider.
At the Middleton police station "he had a very bad attitude" and became confrontational, police said in their report.
Officers were concerned because of an entry on his record involving a prior charge of assault and battery on a police officer, they noted in a report. The immediately moved him to a cell, saying "it was apparent that he wanted to fight at any time."
But once in the cell, he took his anger out on a door, pounding on it, and then on a sprinkler head, police say.
Sweeney allegedly pulled the sprinkler head out of the ceiling, causing the cell, the first floor, and part of the basement to flood. That, in turn, caused the phones to "short out," prosecutor Michael Varone told a judge, leaving the station without phone service for approximately two hours.
Police Chief James Digianvittorio said he spent the day Tuesday wet-vacuuming water from the station's basement.
The flooding caused "significant" damage to the building's electrical system, the chief said.
"(We) had electricians here this morning and replaced all the breakers in the panel, had the sprinkler company in to re-charge the system and replace the valve that was damaged," said Digianvittorio.
He said the total cost of the damage will be determined once he receives the bills for Tuesday's work.
The department's 911 calls go to a regional dispatch center and wouldn't have been affected by the outage.
Sweeney is now facing charges of open and gross lewdness and wanton destruction of property valued at $1,200 or more. Pleas of not guilty were entered in the case during his arraignment Tuesday in Salem District Court.
Varone asked Judge Carol-Ann Fraser to set bail at $1,000, pointing to Sweeney's two-page record, which includes two drunken driving convictions, prior convictions for larceny, fraud and grand theft in Florida, and a history of missed court dates.
Heather Ramsey, who represented Sweeney during his arraignment Tuesday, pointed out that her client has stayed out of trouble since 2011 and hadn't missed a court date since 2008.
Ramsey said Sweeney has spent nearly all of his life in Danvers, where he lives in the same two-family house as his parents, at 36 Poplar St., and works steadily as a licensed electrician.
Fraser set bail at $300, an amount Sweeney was expected to post, but ordered him to stay away from all DoubleTree hotels, the woman, the bar employee and any other witnesses in the case, while the case is pending.
She also ordered him not to drink, a condition that will be enforced by random alcohol tests.
A pre-trial conference is scheduled for Jan. 10.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.