EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 23, 2013

Felony charges dropped against McDougall

Felony charges against McDougall dropped

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — SALEM — Felony charges were dropped yesterday against Patrick McDougall, who could have spent years in prison if convicted.

He still must serve two days in the county jail, beginning this morning.

The former Budget Committee and Zoning Board of Adjustment member pleaded guilty in 10th Circuit Court as part of a plea bargain.

In exchange for his plea to misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing government administration, three felony charges — two for witness tampering, one for criminal threatening — were dropped.

McDougall, 38, faced up to seven years in state prison on each of the three felony charges if convicted.

He said little in court as Judge Michael Sullivan sentenced him on the two misdemeanor charges, giving him a 120-day suspended sentence for obstructing government administration and a $1,000 fine, suspended for two years, for disorderly conduct. He also must serve a year of probation.

Sullivan said McDougall must demonstrate good behavior for two years or he serve the suspended jail time.

“That’s 120 days hanging over your head ...” Sullivan said.

McDougall’s attorney, Neil Reardon, assured Sullivan his client would stay out of trouble.

“I don’t think you’ll ever see Patrick again,” Reardon said.

McDougall declined to comment following his sentencing. When asked why McDougall decided to plead guilty, Reardon simply said, “Because it was the right thing to do.”

The charges stem from incidents last summer when McDougall became involved in a heated argument with Salem fire Chief Kevin Breen. He also interfered with a police officer serving his wife, Jane, a subpoena in connection with an earlier case when he refused to allow emergency personnel to transport her to the hospital.

Jane McDougall called 911 on June 25, complaining of a severe headache, but McDougall wouldn’t allow paramedics to take her in an ambulance, saying he couldn’t afford a costly bill.

McDougall is scheduled to turn himself in at the county jail in Brentwood this morning, the result of his conviction last month on a charge of obstructing government administration.

He was sentenced in that case last week, receiving 28 days of suspended jail time and 50 hours of community service. McDougall was ordered to receive anger management counseling and to stay away from Breen and Fire Department property.

As he handed down his sentence, Sullivan told McDougall he betrayed his wife’s trust and served as a poor role model for the couple’s 7-year-old son.

“You obviously have an anger problem, you really do,” Sullivan said.

The latest charges against McDougall were filed by Salem police in late August.

McDougall became upset when police Officer Matt Mackenzie went to the couple’s Tiffany Road home to serve a subpoena on Jane McDougal. She was called as a witness for the prosecution in her husband’s obstruction trial.

McDougall told Mackenzie the subpoena should go to his lawyer, not his wife, according to a police affidavit.

Mackenzie had knocked on the door several times and heard a woman’s voice inside. While the officer was waiting, McDougall went inside the apartment and slammed the door. McDougall re-emerged, telling Mackenzie his wife was sleeping.

“He accused the officer of trying to break up his family,” prosecutor Jason Grosky told Sullivan yesterday.

While Mackenzie and McDougall were engaged in a heated conversation, Jane McDougall yelled through a window that she was awake and accepted the subpoena.

Several days later, McDougall went to the central fire station and asked to speak to Breen, saying he wanted information about a patient’s right to refuse ambulance service, according to an affidavit.

McDougall appeared “distraught,” Breen told police.

Breen told McDougall the fire department does not have a specific policy regarding patients’ right to refuse ambulance service, Grosky said. The two men then became involved in a heated argument, the prosecutor said.

Breen later told police he was “bracing for a possible physical confrontation.”

The argument ended, but McDougall found himself facing charges.

McDougall, running for state representative at the time, finished last in the primary Sept. 11. He resigned from the Board of Adjustment and Zoning Board of Adjustment last month.

McDougall is scheduled to be released from the county jail Friday afternoon.

Salem Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten said yesterday his department was pleased with McDougall’s guilty plea.

“We are happy that Mr. McDougall took responsibility for his actions and behavior during these unfortunate incidents,” he said. “We were happy to be able to bring this to a conclusion at this time.”

Breen declined to comment.