SALEM — After 36 days in jail, a Peabody police sergeant facing domestic abuse charges was released and ordered to stay off Facebook during a hearing Friday in Salem District Court.
"There is to be no social media use whatsoever," said Salem District Court Judge Randy Chapman, who imposed strict conditions on Sgt. Brendan O'Brien's release from Norfolk County Correctional Center in Dedham.
Among those conditions: Confinement at O'Brien's parents' house on Styles Drive in Peabody except to go to court or therapy, wearing a GPS bracelet, and using an alcohol monitoring device.
"It's to and from, and I hope it's your parents who will transport you to and from meetings," Chapman said.
O'Brien, 42, wound up in jail when a judge found he had violated a no-contact order by liking a Facebook post by the victim, days after O'Brien was released at a hearing on Sept. 9.
O'Brien faces charges of strangulation and assault and battery on a household member, stemming from an Aug. 14 incident in which police said O'Brien and his girlfriend got into an argument over texts from another woman on O'Brien's phone.
She told police that after she threw his phone in anger, O'Brien, who was off-duty, grabbed her by the throat and threw her to the floor. She told police that when she told him she was leaving and tried to give him her key, he tried to strangle her again. He then told her he was "not going down for her," the victim told police. O'Brien called the station and asked for an ambulance, telling a dispatcher the victim was trying to kill herself with pills.
O'Brien was not arrested at the scene and later asked to be taken to a hospital. Subsequently, an assistant clerk magistrate on call declined to issue an arrest warrant for O'Brien. He was placed on administrative leave that day.
After a criminal complaint was issued, O'Brien appeared for arraignment on Sept. 9.
He had been released on a number of conditions, including abiding by a restraining order. He was also the subject of a civil domestic restraining order obtained by the victim.
But the 14-year Peabody police veteran wound up having his bail revoked and was ordered held for 90 days without bail after admitting to police he had changed his name on Facebook to "Brian Smith" and liked a post by the victim using that identity.
In September, Chapman said this behavior required "a very swift response."
O'Brien's attorney, Kenneth Anderson, subsequently filed a motion to reconsider the bail revocation.
"I would ask you again to consider releasing him to the custody of his mother or parents," Anderson asked the judge Friday.
Anderson said his client denies intentionally violating the restraining order, though the action was "sailing too close to the wind." He said O'Brien has tested negative for drugs and alcohol, and started a mental health program for first responders at McLean Hospital shortly after the incident.
O'Brien's mother, Jean, told Chapman she would be willing to take in her son.
Anderson told the judge that his client has two sons, ages 10 and 7, the younger of which has a birthday coming up.
Assistant District Attorney Haleigh Reisman argued to keep the bail revocation in place, noting the seriousness of the charges and that the victim had gone to police and reported two prior domestic abuse incidents that were not part of the original charges.
She noted that she does not have a treatment plan in hand for O'Brien, and that the police officer had violated the restraining order just days after the dangerousness hearing. Not only did he "like" the victim's post, he changed his name to do so, she said.
Chapman noted that save for an operating under the influence case in 2001, O'Brien's record was clean and he had been gainfully employed. He also noted O'Brien had been released on specific conditions on Sept. 9, and not long after, he violated those terms.
However, O'Brien's lack of a criminal history and family support led Chapman to grant the motion to reconsider his bail revocation.
"No Facebook," emphasized Chapman.
O'Brien is due back in court Nov. 6.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.