Judge sets bail for lawyer charged in rape

Gary Zerola

SALEM — A Suffolk Superior Court judge has set bail for Salem lawyer Gary Zerola, paving the way for his potential release from custody while he awaits trial on rape charges in two separate cases. 

It was unclear if and when Zerola will come up with the additional $125,000 bail imposed by Judge Janet Sanders on Thursday afternoon, following a hearing where Zerola's lawyer said his client was all but broke, down to around $1,200 in his checking account. 

Zerola, said defense lawyer Joseph Kroswki, is "what sometimes we refer to as 'bachelor rich'" — the Salem condo where he lives is owned by a trust that is controlled by his brother, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Zerola drove now sold, most of the proceeds going to pay off the note on the vehicle. He had just 12 clients before his arrest and they — and their fees — are in the hands of other attorneys, said Krowski. 

That was in sharp contrast to the high rolling lifestyle depicted by prosecutor Ian Polumbaum, who had asked for a total of $200,000 bail for Zerola after Sanders denied his request to keep Zerola in custody without bail until trial. 

Polumbaum suggested that Zerola, 49, had access to thousands of dollars at a time, has been able to hire two of Boston's top private defense attorneys to represent him, and paid a $2,000 bar tab and a $300 dinner tab and handed out $50 tips on the night of the alleged incident in January. He also said the woman who introduced Zerola to the alleged victim in the case refers to him as her "sugar daddy." 

But the prosecutor went further, pointing to a phone call between Zerola, who has been held at the Nashua Street Jail, and someone, during which Zerola directed that person to go to his Salem condo, retrieve some money and give $5,000 to someone. 

Polumbaum also brought up a video that circulated online last fall in which, he said, Zerola tosses cash into a fire pit at Sidelines, a Salem restaurant, during a dispute with his server. 

"Wait a minute, what's that?" Sanders interjected, as Krowski objected to the prosecutor mentioning the incident.

Polumbaum also argued that the case against Zerola — the fifth such time he's faced sexual assault charges — is stronger than some of the prior cases that resulted in "not guilty" findings. 

He also called Zerola a flight risk, recounting how Zerola arrived home to the Salem condo, saw police outside, and left, stopped using his cell phone, and parked his SUV in Lynn. He did eventually turn himself in several days later.

"I do have some grave concerns here as to risk of flight," Sanders said during the hearing, saying she too saw significant incentive for Zerola to flee. 

Sanders set bail at $100,000 on the new case, and increased Zerola's bail in his 2016 rape case from $10,000, which he had posted previously, to $35,000. 

If he makes that bail, he'll remain confined to his condo, located in a development off Swampscott Road, monitored by both a GPS bracelet and an alcohol test device. He was ordered not to use any drugs or alcohol, and his passport must stay in the custody of the court. 

Sanders also added a condition that any female visitors not related to him, except for his other attorney, Rosemary Scapicchio, who visit his condo must be identified to a probation officer prior to the visit. 

A pretrial hearing is scheduled for April 22, but if Zerola comes up with the bail money, he will be brought into court sooner than that to be fitted with the GPS bracelet before he's released, Sanders ordered. 

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521,  jmanganis@gloucestertimes.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis. 

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