SALEM — A veteran Salem police lieutenant has been charged with sexually assaulting a family friend at his home last month.
Lt. Matthew Desmond, 41, who has been on the force for 15 years and a lieutenant for the past nine, is now on paid administrative leave, said Salem police Capt. Brian Gilligan, the department’s internal affairs officer.
Desmond, who turned himself in after learning of the warrant issued by Salem police, bowed his head as a not-guilty plea to a single count of rape was entered on his behalf yesterday during his arraignment in Salem District Court.
Prosecutor Kate MacDougall said in court that the incident occurred on June 20 at Desmond’s Salem home, where the woman was watching Desmond’s children and her own child, who were all using the pool.
The woman and her husband have been friends with Desmond and his wife for at least five years and frequented each others’ homes, according to a police report.
The woman told Salem police Capt. Thomas Griffin that at some point Desmond arrived home and encountered her in the living room, where he brushed up against her breasts and then reached under her dress, putting his hand between her legs.
The woman said Desmond made sexually explicit remarks, telling her, “Stop being a tease,” as he touched her and then penetrated her with a finger, the basis of the rape charge. The woman said she pushed him off her and yelled, “Get the (expletive) away from me,” as he pleaded, “Come on, come on.”
The woman said Desmond then appeared to become panicked, repeatedly telling her, “Don’t say anything.”
The woman did not immediately report the allegation, later telling police that she delayed because she was concerned about the effect on Desmond’s wife. The woman did tell a friend what had happened the following day.
Following the woman’s interview with police, Chief Paul Tucker placed Desmond on leave, taking his badge and service weapon. During that process, Desmond allegedly made an unsolicited comment to the effect, “I do want to say one thing: She came over my house and threatened my wife that if she takes me back, she’s going to the police,” according to Griffin’s report.
Defense lawyer Thomas Drechsler cited a statement by a friend of Desmond, who allegedly told him two months earlier that the woman had “come on to him.”
Drechsler said any contact between the two on June 20 was consensual.
Drechsler called the allegations “extremely questionable” and said Desmond “is absolutely, positively denying this allegation.”
In court, he questioned the delay in reporting the alleged incident.
He also challenged the need for bail for Desmond, a lifelong Salem resident with three children. “His whole career is at stake,” the lawyer said.
Judge Allen Swan granted the prosecutor’s request to set bail for Desmond at $5,000, with a condition that he have no contact with the woman while the case is pending. He was expected to post that bail shortly after the court proceeding.
“The Salem Police Department takes any allegation against a member of the department very seriously,” Tucker said in a statement.
A probable-cause hearing is scheduled for Aug. 15.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, or firstname.lastname@example.org..