SALEM — Even an experienced police officer, staking out a neighborhood in search of a flasher, can experience shock and alarm when the suspect exposes himself to her, a state Appeals Court panel has found.
In a decision Friday, the court upheld the open and gross lewdness conviction of Johnathan Pasquarelli, 34, of Beverly, who was arrested in 2018 by Salem police following a stakeout on Bridge Street, just outside of downtown.
The department had received nearly a dozen complaints of a man in an old Chevrolet Monte Carlo exposing himself to women. Detectives were able to get images of the car from nearby businesses' surveillance cameras.
On the night of Feb. 27, 2018, Salem police Detective Charlene Sano was near the corner of Bridge and Pleasant streets, posing as an unsuspecting woman just talking on her cell phone, with fellow Detective Kevin St. Pierre watching from nearby in an unmarked car.
The suspect drove past Sano 25 times before eventually walking up to her. He said, "Excuse me," then pulled up his sweatshirt, revealing his genitals, and made a lewd comment similar to the ones reported by other women.
Sano, who was on the phone with St. Pierre, screamed, "He just did it, he just exposed himself."
Pasquarelli ran toward his car but was tackled by St. Pierre and arrested.
At his trial, St. Pierre testified that Sano's tone of voice was "fearful, shocked" and "surprised," according to court papers.
Sano also testified that she felt shocked and "extremely uneasy" when she saw Pasquarelli's genitals.
An intent to produce shock and alarm is one of the elements that prosecutors have to prove in an open and gross lewdness case. They also have to show that the reaction was "objectively reasonable."
Pasquarelli's attorney argued that Sano had "voluntarily placed herself in that position," and knew what she was likely to encounter.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, said it was the suspect's behavior and how a reasonable person would respond to it that matters.
The Appeals Court, in a decision written by Justice Diana Maldonado, took a similar view.
"We would not tell an officer responding to a report of an armed suspect that feelings of fear on being confronted with a gun are unreasonable," Maldonado wrote. "Nor would we dismiss the shock an officer may experience on arriving at a bloody murder scene. We likewise decline to conclude that as a matter of law an officer's shock or alarm when accosted by a suspect engaging in lewd behavior, even if anticipated, are objectively unreasonable."
With the defendant driving past her more than 25 times, late at night, then approaching and addressing her, before exposing his genitals, the court concluded that Sano's shock "was an objectively reasonable reaction."
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.