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LaCroix resigns Waltham police chief's post after getting probation in domestic assault case

Posted by Tom Coakley  July 10, 2013 12:25 PM

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After being sentenced Wednesday to 18 months probation for assaulting his wife last year, Thomas LaCroix resigned as police chief of Waltham.

Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy said she was notified of LaCroix's resignation from the police department Wednesday afternoon.

LaCroix had been on unpaid leave since he was convicted by a Concord District Court jury last month of assaulting his wife twice in their Maynard home on June 12 last year.

Judge J. Elizabeth Cremens sentenced LaCroix earlier in the day Wednesday. The judge ordered LaCroix to undergo an evaluation to determine if he needs to take a course designed to rehabilitate batterers. He will face another evaluation on whether he will be allowed to drink alcohol during the probation period.

LaCroix was also ordered to stay away from certain witnesses in the case, including Shannon Policano, who testified that she saw LaCroix assault his wife, Andrea, in their garage, and Claire Coen, a coworker of Andrea LaCroix's who said Andrea showed her bruises and told her she was beaten.

LaCroix was convicted of two assault and battery counts last month even though his wife testified that LaCroix has never assaulted her.

LaCroix had been on paid administrative leave for over a year until the jury convicted him June 26 of two assault and battery counts. He was then taken off the city payroll but continued on unpaid leave.

LaCroix, 50, worked for the Waltham Police Department for 26 years. He was appointed chief in 2007. The department has been run by Acting Chief Keith MacPherson during LaCroix’s absence.

The sentencing Wednesday came after prosecutor Suzanne Kontz pushed for a two-year probation period during which LaCroix would not be able to consume alcohol and would also have to complete a court-assigned batterer's course, which Kontz said would take a minimum of 18 months.

Kontz described the abuse in the case as "continuous" and said in domestic violence cases, the perpetrator has a hold or certain power over the victim.

"This case is not Andrea LaCroix versus Thomas LaCroix, but the Commonwealth versus Thomas LaCroix," Kontz said. "Sometimes the Commonwealth has to step in to help those who cannot or will not help themselves."

However, defense attorney Thomas Drechsler accused the court of trying to bring down harsher punishments based on felony charges that LaCroix was acquitted of, asking instead for a one-year probation ending on June 14, 2014.

He also tried to convince the court not to prohibit LaCroix from consuming alcohol, citing compliance from his client during the year-long pre-trial conditions, which included house arrest, a curfew, and wearing a GPS bracelet.

Outside the courtroom after sentencing, Drechsler said he considered the outcome as "positive" and said he filed paperwork for an appeal.

The jury convicted LaCroix on charges that he assaulted his wife twice - once when he picked her up and threw her in the couple’s garage and another time that left her with a bloody, swollen lip.

He was acquitted of charges that he assaulted his wife by slamming her head on a kitchen countertop, that he attacked Policano, and that he threatened to kill both if they went to police.

Andrea LaCroix testified for the defense that her husband never assaulted her.

However, Policano testified that she saw LaCroix assault his wife in the garage. She, Coen and another of Andrea LaCroix’s coworkers said Andrea had told them that her husband had assaulted her. They also said they saw injuries on Andrea.

According to city payroll records, LaCroix collected $182,358 in salary and other benefits last year, including a $16,814 longevity bonus he received after he was arrested.

In total, LaCroix has collected about $200,000 since he was arrested on June 14 last year and placed on administrative leave, according to payroll records.

A statement from Waltham-based REACH Beyond Domestic Violence on LaCroix's sentencing said although many domestic abuse cases never make it to court, they emphasized the importance of this particular high-profile trial.

"The sentencing [of domestic abuse cases] is often not what it would have been had the assault taken place on a stranger in a public place rather than on an intimate partner behind closed doors," the statement said. "We wonder if the situation were different, would the consequences be harsher both in terms of sentencing and public opinion?"

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com . Follow her on Twitter: @JaclynReiss

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