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March 20, 2013

Halloween reveler from NH admits biting cop

SALEM, Mass. — Christopher Mitchell had already called the Salem police station shortly after his arrest to apologize.

Yesterday, 41/2 months after a drunken Halloween night tirade ended with Mitchell kicking and biting a Salem police detective, he pleaded guilty to a charge of assault and battery on a police officer.

Mitchell, 34, of Hudson, N.H., was in Salem with his girlfriend and their 4-year-old child to celebrate Halloween, said his lawyer, William Barabino.

“That’s their thing,” said the lawyer, who went on to tell Salem District Court Judge Robert Brennan that the couple visit Salem every Halloween.

But this year, Mitchell “drank way too much,” Barabino acknowledged.

Prosecutor Michelle DeCourcey told the judge that police were responding to a report of a loud verbal argument on Derby Street in the early morning hours of Nov. 1.

Detective Brian St. Pierre immediately realized that Mitchell was highly intoxicated and wanted to put him into protective custody for Mitchell’s own safety.

But when St. Pierre attempted to handcuff him, Mitchell tensed up, the prosecutor said.

A struggle ensued, during which Mitchell kicked St. Pierre and then managed to bite the detective’s finger, though he did not break the skin.

DeCourcey urged the judge to find Mitchell guilty both of assault and battery on a police officer and on the felony charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, citing the seriousness of the incident and what could have happened. She also pointed to similar pending charges in Quincy.

Barabino wanted both charges continued without a finding, saying his client is trying to turn his life around and has been attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

A felony conviction, the lawyer argued, would jeopardize all of that, as well as his job as a “master stylist” at a J.C. Penney.

Brennan offered a compromise: If Mitchell pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge, he would agree to continue the felony charge, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (Mitchell’s own shod foot), without a finding for 18 months and then dismiss it, sparing Mitchell a felony conviction.

But the judge also had a warning: “When you start putting teeth on someone, all sorts of bad things can happen.”

Mitchell was ordered not to drink as a condition of his probation and will be subject to random alcohol tests during the next 18 months, the judge ordered.

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

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