Seven Grafton teens have been arrested on felony witness-intimidation charges for allegedly harassing the 15-year-old victim of a violent crime, Grafton Police Chief Normand Crepeau, Jr. said.
On Jan. 18, the victim’s mother told police of the alleged harassment of her child, Crepeau said in a phone interview Saturday. He said the victim’s mother told officers that her child was being threatened and demeaned by several acquaintances of a person charged with committing a violent crime against her child last year.
The victim’s mother told police officers James Crosby and Alvin Hulbert that her child had been repeatedly harassed, “physically and through social media,” at school and elsewhere by a group of teens, a Grafton police statement issued Friday on Facebook.
The officers investigated the mother’s claims, interviewing witnesses as well as finding evidence of harassment on Twitter and Facebook before determining they had probable cause for the seven arrests, Crepeau said.
“Nobody came after this person with a knife or a gun in their hand, but you take it for what it is, and it was harassment. It was threatening. The intimidation factor was there. Threats and comments were made that were upsetting to the victim,” Crepeau said, adding that he believed the altercations between the individuals arrested and the victim were “ongoing” and “escalating” over several months.
Crepeau would not release any details on the violent crime against the victim in mid-2013, saying he wanted to protect the victim’s identity.
Joseph Todisco, 18, of South Grafton; Anthony Masterson, 19, of Grafton; and Daniel Guzetti, 19, of North Grafton, each was charged with witness intimidation, police said. Todisco and Masterson were arrested at their homes and transported to Westborough District Court for arraignment, and Guzetti will be summoned later to appear.
Paul Jarvey, a spokesman for the Worcester County District Attorney’s office, said in a phone interview Saturday that Todisco and Masterson were arraigned Friday, and bail was set at $500. He did not have an update on Guzetti’s case.
Attempts to obtain comments from the homes of Todisco, Masterson, and Guzetti Saturday were not successful.
Police withheld the names of the four juveniles who were arrested, but identified one as a 17-year-old South Grafton boy who was arrested at Grafton High School and charged with two counts of witness intimidation and criminal harassment. Another 17-year-old boy, of North Grafton, was arrested and charged with witness intimidation, criminal harassment, and threatening to commit a crime, police said. Both 17-year-olds were transported to Worcester Juvenile Court for arraignment.
Two North Grafton teens, ages 15 and 14, will be summoned to Worcester Juvenile Court charged with a count each of witness intimidation, police said.
Police did not say when any of the seven were arrested, and did not identify the two youngest suspects beyond saying that “both male and female subjects” were arrested.
Grafton High School officials assisted police in the investigation, Crepeau said, adding that he could not comment on whether any of the accused teens will face displinary sanctions at school.
“The Grafton Public Schools takes bullying and harassment very seriously,” Grafton High School Principal James Pignataro said in an email Saturday. “Currently this is being treated as a police matter. We are limited in what we can say at this time but can assure you that we will continue to work closely with the police and will take further school-based actions as needed.”
The high school’s website provides resources about bullying, including definitions of cyber-bullying and harassment.
“In this specific case, it’s not just a matter of cyber-bullying and harassment,” said Crepeau. “This stemmed from this person being a victim of a crime, and then this person is being victimized again by the acquaintances of the person who committed the crime.”