SALEM — The lawyer representing a Peabody police sergeant, whom authorities allege assaulted his girlfriend, said it was the woman who should have been charged.
“Typically, police arrest the dominant aggressor, in this case it’s clear from the injuries sustained that my client took a significant brunt of the assault,” said Kenneth Anderson, a Boston attorney. “But because he’s a police officer and the department didn’t want the perception they were covering for one of their own, he was arrested, ordinarily it would have been her.”
Sgt. Brendan O’Brien of Peabody pleaded not guilty in Salem District Court Monday to charges of strangulation and assault and battery on an intimate partner. The 42-year-old officer faces up to 7½ years in prison if convicted. O’Brien joined the force in 2007 and was promoted to sergeant in 2015. He has been placed on paid administrative leave, although that is subject to change, according to Peabody Police Capt. Dennis Bonaiuto.
He declined to release the police or incident report and Chief Thomas Griffin did not return calls seeking comment.
The story was first reported in The Salem News.
The report, a public document obtained by the Item in Salem District Court, said the alleged incident happened Saturday night, Aug. 24. The evening began when the couple and two friends dined at Hooters in Saugus, according to the report. Police said the pair, who have been dating for a few years, returned to O’Brien’s third floor apartment where there was a confrontation.
At 7 p.m. O’Brien was texting another woman and his 34-year-old girlfriend accused him of cheating and lying about it, the 12-page police report said. Police said she took his phone, examined the texts and learned the messages between O’Brien and the other woman were of a sexual nature, she threw the phone across the room, and told O’Brien the relationship was over and got up to leave.
At that point, the report said O’Brien grabbed her by the throat, choked her, told her she was not going anywhere and threw her to the floor.
“Brendan then told her he was not going down for her, retrieved his cell phone and called the police telling them she was trying to kill herself,” the report said.
The officers said O’Brien told them his girlfriend took a large quantity of pills telling him she wanted to kill herself. Police found pills on the floor, but the girlfriend denied taking any, saying they were thrown in the fight, the officer wrote.
While the woman said she had injuries on her throat and knee, police said they only saw a red mark on the right knee cap, which, she said, happened when pushed to the floor. O’Brien has scratches on his upper body, police said.
The court issued a restraining order to O’Brien and the judge told him to surrender his weapons, keep away from the victim and not use alcohol. He is scheduled to return to court on Oct. 4.
“My client steadfastly affirms his innocence,” Anderson said.
No one answered the door at O’Brien’s Peabody address provided in the court documents.