SALEM — A transgendered Level 3 sex offender who was threatening to swallow a razor blade she'd smuggled to court in her mouth was talked out of it by a Salem Superior Court judge yesterday.
Judge John Lu's ability to persuade Debbie Moccia to spit out the blade averted what could have been a lethal scenario, endangering not only herself but those around her.
Moccia, 55, also known as Paul Charbonneau and by two dozen other aliases, has told corrections officers that she has two incurable bloodborne diseases — a claim that has come up in court in prior cases, including charges brought last year that she flung her own blood at a Middleton Jail correctional officer. Officials have not been able to verify her claim publicly because of patient privacy laws.
But her situation also raises the question of how the criminal justice system can deal with transgendered inmates short of segregating them from the rest of the prison population.
In Moccia's case, probation is not an option, the judge said yesterday.
Moccia has a lengthy criminal history dating to the early 1970s, including convictions for rape, indecent assault and battery, stalking, threats, and numerous larceny charges. She's currently under indictment in an armed robbery and threats case in Lawrence, as well as on a charge of disrupting a prior court proceeding.
This is the second time she's managed to smuggle a blade into the courthouse in her mouth.
Before her latest trip to jail, Moccia was banned from a Lawrence soup kitchen for harassing children. Two years before that, she was jailed after chasing a 12-year-old boy and exposing herself.
Moccia was born a male and still has the anatomical characteristics of one but otherwise appears female.
This poses a problem for corrections officers, who cannot put her in the state prison for women in Framingham but who are forced to segregate her from the general population at Middleton Jail and at other all-male facilities where she has been held.
Moccia yesterday pleaded with Lu to send her to a state hospital, either Taunton or Tewksbury. But Moccia recently underwent an evaluation at Bridgewater State Hospital, and doctors there concluded that she is not mentally ill.
Because of that, Lu has no authority to send her to another state mental hospital, he told her.
As four court officers surrounded Moccia, Lu calmly but firmly told her that he was willing to listen to her but that first, she had to spit out the blade.
She complied, then told the judge that she does not want to be returned to jail but instead to a mental hospital. Moccia said she has suffered harassment and claimed that someone is tainting her food at the jail.
"I'm going to end up dead, your honor," she told the judge.
Moccia, who yesterday claimed to be 58, told the judge, "I'm pushing 60, and I'm accused of a bunch of charges I didn't do."
The blade, which appeared to be from a disposable razor or cartridge, was placed in a wastebasket in the courtroom, where it remained while court employees tried to figure out what to do with it.
The prosecutor in the case then plucked it from the basket, using a binder clip, put it in an envelope and gave it to the chief court officer.
Moccia, meanwhile, will be back in court Feb. 2. She remains held at Middleton Jail.