Ex-Mass. pol gets 3 months on harassment charges

AP News
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Posted: Feb 22, 2011 3:18 PM
Ex-Mass. pol gets 3 months on harassment charges

A former state senator was sentenced Tuesday to three months in jail after he pleaded guilty to sexually harassing four women in a single day in a series of events a judge called "bizarre" and "potentially dangerous."

James Marzilli was sentenced in Lowell Superior Court after he admitted making lewd remarks to four women on June 3, 2008, in downtown Lowell. He was also sentenced to five years of probation.

Prosecutors had asked for a year in jail while Marzilli's lawyer had asked for three years of probation.

Judge Paul Chernoff noted that Marzilli had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder shortly after his arrest and said it appears his illness was "a causative factor" in his actions.

But Chernoff said he also considered the impact on Marzilli's victims and the "undermining impact" on public confidence in government when a crime is committed by a public official "who should be setting an example for the community."

The 52-year-old Marzilli pleaded guilty to four counts of annoying and accosting a person of the opposite sex, and one count each of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

He admitted to "sufficient facts" on the most serious charge against him _ attempting to commit indecent assault and battery. The judge granted a defense recommendation to continue that case without a finding during his five years of probation. If he complies with the conditions of his probation and does not commit any new crimes during the five-year period, that charge will be dismissed.

Chernoff said the charges stemmed from "a series of bizarre, unsettling, upsetting and potentially dangerous acts."

Marzilli's wife and a dozen other relatives and friends watched as Marzilli was handcuffed and taken away to begin serving his sentence. He did not speak during the hearing, except to answer questions from the judge.

Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Dunigan said Marzilli began approaching women after attending an early morning event at a Lowell business.

He approached the first woman outside a community health center and said: "The sex is sweet, the sex is sweet, you want it and you want to go with me."

About half an hour later, he walked behind another woman and said, "Oooh, baby, you are so beautiful, "and made references to her body.

Dunigan said Marzilli drove by a third woman several times and then asked her if she was wearing any underwear. She said he approached a fourth woman as she sat on a bench outside an apartment building, attempted to grope her and made sexually explicit remarks.

When police approached Marzilli, he gave a false name and address, then ran away before being caught in a parking garage.

Dunigan said urged the judge to sentence Marzilli to one year in jail, saying he had frightened all four women and violated the public's trust. She said one of the victims repeatedly told her she didn't understand how Marzilli could have committed the crimes.

She said, 'I don't get it. He makes the laws and then he breaks them,'" Dunigan said.

Marzilli's lawyer, Terrence Kennedy, asked the judge to consider his career in public service. The Arlington Democrat spent 17 years in the House of Representatives before winning a special election in 2007 to fill a vacant seat in the Senate.

"There's no question that mental illness played a role in what happened that day," Kennedy said.