By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — Patrolman Victor “Manny” Pellot sat quietly during nearly two hours of testimony yesterday, waiting for a judge to decide whether Pellot was a danger to his wife and her boyfriend and should be held without bail.
Pellot appeared eager and excited when the judge ordered him to report to probation immediately to be fitted with an electronic tracking device before he was allowed to leave the courthouse.
Pellot, 50, a 29-year member of the Haverhill Police Department, nodded vigorously at the judge’s order, saying, “I’m going right now!”
In the back of the courtroom, Pellot’s family members smiled and appeared to be happy.
Pellot of Haverhill was arraigned Thursday in Newburyport District Court where he pleaded not guilty to two counts of stalking. He was ordered held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing yesterday. Following last Thursday’s hearing, Pellot’s lawyer said he was placed on administrative leave by the Haverhill Police Department. David Van Dam, Mayor James Fiorentini’s chief of staff, said Pellot has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of his court case.
Pellot was arrested by state police the night of Feb. 27, after he allegedly chased his estranged wife and her boyfriend through the city in his personal vehicle, confronting them at one point, and then continuing the chase on Interstate 495. The couple said that at one point during the chase, Pellot stopped his car in front of their car on Main Street, blocking them from moving. They said Pellot then walked to the side of their vehicle and punched the side view mirror, while yelling at his wife. The chase continued onto I-495 south, police said. After the couple called 911 to report they were victims of “road rage,” a state trooper told them to drive to the Methuen Police Department to report what happened, police said.
During yesterday’s nearly two-hour-long hearing, Assistant District Attorney Michelle Belmonte tried to convince Judge Michael Brooks that Pellot was a danger to his estranged wife and the man she has been dating since last summer. Belmonte said Pellot followed them on several occasions and also confronted them, and that he left them angry, threatening and profanity-laced voice mail messages, including one in which he said he would kill his wife, and that he also sent threatening text messages.
Belmonte said that in one message, Pellot even identified himself as “the stalker.”
“This will never be over between you and me,” Belmonte said in reference to one message Pellot allegedly sent to his wife’s boyfriend.
Pellot’s lawyer, Douglas Louison, argued there were conditions that would ensure the safety of Pellot’s wife and her boyfriend, including staying away from the boyfriend’s house and the house Pellot previously shared with his wife. Louison said Pellot has surrendered his police service weapon and a private gun, as well as his license to carry a gun.
“There’s been anger, there’s been upset and there’s been emotion, but there’s been no violence,” Louison said, arguing against “detaining and locking this man up, with no prior orders, no prior history of violence, no violence of a physical nature’’ against his wife and her boyfriend.
During yesterday’s hearing, Pellot’s wife, Doreena Pellot, told the judge that she intended to assert her marital privilege and not testify against her husband if called as a witness. The judge asked her if she understood that by refusing to testify, she could affect the state’s ability to prosecute her husband. She said she understood.
The judge subsequently allowed the prosecution to use voice mail recordings Victor Pellot allegedly left for his wife, and which she asked her boyfriend, Thomas Ratte of Merrimack, N.H., to record. Ratte testified yesterday about several instances where Pellot confronted him and Pellot’s wife, including one instance where Pellot showed up uninvited at Ratte’s home and introduced himself.
Ratte was asked to play back several messages Pellot left for him, and seven that were left for his wife. The recordings, which Ratte played back on a laptop computer, could not clearly be heard by those in the back of the courtroom.
Belmonte asked Ratte to read aloud one of the text messages he said Victor Pellot sent him in October, and which he subsequently provided to a state police investigator.
“Tom, this is the stalker,” Ratte said aloud in court. Ratte went on to say that in the message, Pellot asked that Ratte not come around Pellot’s house.
Louison noted that prior to the Feb. 27 incident in Haverhill, neither Pellot’s wife nor Ratte had filed for any restraining orders or protection orders with the court.
State Police Lt. Paul Zipper, who interviewed Doreena Pellot and Ratte after they reported last week’s incident of “road rage,” also testified during yesterday’s hearing.
The judge released Pellot on conditions that he wear an electronic monitoring device; stay at least 100 yards away from his wife and her boyfriend, with the exception of attending court proceedings, including divorce proceedings; that he seek counseling through the police department’s Employee Assistance Program; and that he not leave Massachusetts while his case is pending. The judge emphasized to Pellot that he is prohibited from traveling to New Hampshire, where the boyfriend lives.
The judge also ordered Pellot to report to probation each week. The judge warned Pellot that if he were to violate any of the conditions of his release, he would be held for up to 90 days without bail.
“If it’s true what your attorney says in regards to what you have at stake, in terms of your career, your life, that alone should be incentive to comply with these conditions,” the judge said.
Pellot must return to court March 27 for a pretrial hearing.
Victor Pellot was demoted to patrolman and suspended for a year in 2004 by Mayor James Fiorentini after police Chief Alan DeNaro sought to fire Pellot for being present in uniform in 2002 and 2003 during illegal drug sales at his cousin’s house.
Pellot returned to work as a patrolman in September 2005. In June 2007, the state Civil Service Commission began hearings on an appeal of his suspension. Pellot asked the commission to reinstate his sergeant’s rank and return back pay lost because of the mayor’s 2004 decision to suspend him for a year and demote him. Pellot said previously he knew nothing of the drug deals at his cousin’s home and was there only to keep an eye on a troubled family member. In May 2008, the commission upheld Pellot’s suspension and demotion.