PEABODY, Mass. -- A Lawrence Superior Court jury yesterday acquitted a suspended Peabody police officer of charges that he molested his former stepdaughter and showed her and another child pornography.
Frederick Wojick, 49, was found not guilty of nine counts of indecent assault and battery and two counts of disseminating obscene material to a minor, following about five hours of deliberation.
The allegations came to light in 2012 after Wojick confided in a colleague that the young woman had told her family she no longer felt comfortable living in the same home. That led Peabody police to conduct a fuller investigation.
Initially, the woman, now a college freshman, denied that Wojick had touched her, saying only that he'd said inappropriate things and frequently walked in on her while she was changing.
But the following week, after she agreed to a second interview, she told investigators that starting soon after Wojick began dating her mother, when she was about 11, he would engage in inappropriate behavior, including inappropriate touching and sitting her on his lap while viewing adult pornography.
A second teen testified during the trial that Wojick had also shown her pornography, and a third girl recounted conversations about sex during late-night trips to McDonalds's.
Wojick took the stand and, when asked by his attorney about each specific allegation and whether it had occurred, replied, "Absolutely not."
He went on to testify that the allegations were the result of a vendetta by the young woman, who was unhappy that he'd failed to intervene in her boyfriend's arrest. He told jurors he believed that the young woman and her family were trying to "attack" him.
Defense attorney Tom Drechsler, who had relied heavily on the young woman's social media posts in an effort to discredit her, suggested to jurors in his closing argument that she was obsessed with the boyfriend.
Drechsler said Wojick was "relieved" by the verdict.
"We're ecstatic about the outcome," Drechsler said. "It's been a long, difficult case."
The district attorney's office declined to comment on the jury's verdict.
There was heavy security in the courtroom for the verdict, which was read just before 10:30 a.m. In addition to five court officers, a number of state troopers and detectives from the district attorney's office, Peabody officers, and a group of Lawrence police officers fanned out through the courtroom and in the hallway.
Judge Douglas Wilkins warned the spectators -- members of Wojick's family on one side of the courtroom and members of the young woman's family on the other -- not to react to the verdict.
As the forewoman read the verdicts, the young woman put her hand on her mouth, then appeared to hold back tears. Across the courtroom, Wojick's family embraced each other.
Drechsler said Wojick, who was suspended from the department without pay following the indictment, will now seek to collect that back pay, more than a year's worth.
It remains unclear whether he will be reinstated. "We're hopeful that because this incident had nothing to do with his duties, that will happen," Drechsler said.
Interim police Chief Robert St. Pierre said that while the verdict does require that Wojick's pay be restored, his job status has not been determined and he will remain on leave.
"I respect the jury system; the jury has spoken," St. Pierre said. "It is my intention, however, to conduct an administrative review of the charges."
Copyright 2014 - The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service