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Jury in suspended police chief's assault trial to resume deliberations Wednesday

Posted by Tom Coakley  June 25, 2013 05:30 PM

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By Jaclyn Reiss, Globe Correspondent

A Concord District Court jury deliberated for over an hour Tuesday without returning a verdict in the trial of suspended Waltham police Chief Thomas LaCroix, who is charged with assaulting his wife Andrea and her friend on June 12 last year at the couple's Maynard home.

The eight men and one woman on the jury will return Wednesday to continue weighing evidence from the four-day trial in deciding Thomas LaCroix’s fate.

LaCroix has been on paid leave since his arrest by Maynard police on June 14 last year. He has pleaded not guilty and is free but is wearing an ankle monitoring bracelet to be sure he stays away from witnesses in the case.

During the trial Andrea LaCroix testified that her husband has never assaulted her.

"My husband has never laid a hand on me. Ever.'' she said.

LaCroix said she injured herself in June last year when she fell while attacking her husband during a long and bitter argument.

But several of Andrea’s friends told a different story.

Shannon Policano testified that she saw Thomas LaCroix slam his wife’s head on a kitchen counter on June 12 last year. Policano said then Thomas LaCroix came after her, causing her to trip backward down some stairs. She also testified that Andrea had told her June 12 before the confrontation in the kitchen that LaCroix had beaten her.

Also, two employees at TJX headquarters in Framingham, where Andrea works as an audit manager, testified she told them, in separate conversations, the day after alleged attacks that “Tom beat the [expletive] out of me.” One of the witnesses said she noticed Andrea’s swollen lip and bruises.

But in closing arguments Tuesday, defense lawyer Thomas Drechsler said Policano made "gross exaggerations" in the charges -- citing text messages to her friends and sister about the attack -- and he questioned her credibility.

"[Shannon's friend] texted her, 'Isn't this town drama awesome?'... Instead of saying, 'No, this is a serious situation,' she said, 'I know right,'" Drechsler said.

He also chastised the government prosecutors for meddling in a married couple's private affairs.

"The only two people that were there during the argument was Andrea and her husband," he said.

Dreschler also pointed to surveillance videos from the night of and day after the alleged incident, showing that Andrea was walking normally and not with a limp, as Policano and others testified. And he pointed to medical records that showed doctors wrote Andrea's lip was not swollen, as Policano said, and she did not have bruises on her arms and legs, as a work friend Claire Coen testified she did.

However, prosecutor Suzanne Kontz questioned the credibility of Andrea's testimony, noting that LaCroix's wife stated from the beginning she was worried about her husband's job, and noted that she was a benefactor of his pension.

"She has an absolute motive for the testimony she told you," Kontz said.

Kontz said that the testimony from Andrea's friends and coworkers showed "no inconsistencies."

But the prosecutor sought to poke holes in Andrea's story, saying Andrea overcompensated in covering up for her husband, testifying that she attacked him three times, and that she couldn't recall him badgering her with cell and work phone calls on June 13.

Kontz said that several TJX employees, however, testified that Andrea's constantly ringing cell phone was notable and distracting, and that she grew upset each time it rang.

Kontz also said Andrea tried too hard to explain her answers on the stand, and defended Policano's texting, noting that Drechsler did not read aloud texts right after the alleged incident where Policano recounted the attack, and how Policano texted her sister "I don't think you understand... It's pretty serious."

Kontz also said that one of the surveillance videos Drechsler mentioned clearly showed Andrea having trouble sitting down and standing up, and said the doctor who examined Andrea only charted spending 2 minutes with her - versus the one hour and 10 minutes the nurse did. The nurse, Angela Jean, testified Monday that she charted the cause of Andrea's injuries as being "pulled and thrown."

During her cross-examination of Andrea, Kontz also read aloud from a letter the chief's wife sent to Policano mid-August last year pleading her not to speak to authorities.

Andrea wrote in the letter that the chief, who was then separated from his wife and ordered to live with his mother under house arrest, offered to buy out Andrea's half of their Maynard home. She ended the letter with "I am no longer in fear of Tom," which Drechsler, on re-direct, said Andrea meant fear of her husband breaking more things around the house.

Because LaCroix has been on paid administrative leave he has continued to collect his $146,305 annual salary. Last year, he collected $182,358 in salary and other benefits, including a $16,814 longevity bonus he received after he was arrested, according to city payroll records.

Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy previously told the Globe that the suspended chief could lose his job if he is found guilty on the criminal charges, as well as if the city finds that his conduct was in violation of Police Department rules.

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com.

Follow her on Twitter: @JaclynReiss

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