Out of jail, Marzilli posts online to residents

The former state senator plead guilty to sexual harassing four women in 2008. The former state senator plead guilty to sexual harassing four women in 2008.
By Glen Johnson
Globe Staff / August 10, 2011

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Less than four months after leaving jail, former state senator J. James Marzilli Jr. is once again speaking out to the people of Arlington, though not about politics this time.

Instead, the Democrat is posting his thoughts on gardening, cooking, and science on a pair of community listservs in the town he once represented at the State House.

“Hibiscus margaritas are to die for,’’ he wrote last month to a woman who was struck by his mention of the drink in an earlier post.

“Next time you return to your real home here in Arlington, you will have to choose between my hibiscus ’rita or my tamarind ’rita,’’ Marzilli added. “But be warned, I served them tangy and strong.’’

The onetime lawmaker told the Globe in his first media comments since being arrested that he is not trying to reenter society because he never left it, despite quitting the Senate in 2008 and pleading guilty in February to sexually harassing four women during a bizarre spree in downtown Lowell earlier that year.

He served two months in the Billerica House of Correction, before being released April 29. He must wear an electronic monitoring device for a year and spend five years on probation.

“The week I quit the Senate, I went to Iraq to work on democracy protections,’’ he said this week. “I’ve never really retreated from being out and active, and I’ve been writing about politics and agriculture and gardening for a long time.’’

Marzilli, who remains unemployed, also said he had no interest in getting back into politics.

“Oh, no,’’ he said with a laugh. “I was involved in state and local government from 1977 until 2008. I think that’s enough.’’

Wendy Murphy, an attorney for an Arlington woman who said Marzilli assaulted her two months before the Lowell incidents, said the posts indicated a lack of respect for the seriousness of his crimes.

“I’m not saying he should be locked up for the rest of his life and not interact with people in the world, but I do think it’s appropriate for people to make assessments about his lack of remorse when he engages in this kind of frivolous banter about cooking,’’ Murphy said.

The former senator did not shy away from discussing his case, though he modified the explanation of what happened shortly after he attended an official government meeting in Lowell on June 3, 2008.

According to authorities, Marzilli approached a woman sitting on a park bench, asked her questions about her body, and reached out to touch her. When police arrived, he falsely identified himself using the name of a former House colleague and led them on a foot chase through the city that ended in a public parking garage.

Later, other women came forward and said Marzilli had made similarly lewd comments to them earlier in the day.

Marzilli immediately checked himself into McLean Hospital in Belmont for a psychiatric evaluation. In a later note to supporters, his wife explained that Marzilli was bipolar and had experienced a bout of hypomania, an either euphoric or extremely irritated mood.

On Monday, Marzilli downplayed the suggestion he was bipolar and said he acted up in a fit of hypomania caused by an adverse reaction to steroids legally prescribed for another condition.

“But, unfortunately, the doctor did not check for another, underlying medical condition, a chemical imbalance in my blood, that should have kept the doctor from prescribing those,’’ he said.

Murphy disputed that explanation, noting he was accused of crimes that spanned months.

“He’s wrong to say this was momentary,’’ she said.

During the interview, Marzilli pointed out that he pleaded guilty to crimes and accepted punishment for them.

“I’ve spent three years since my bout with hypomania putting my life back together, and, no, there’s nothing instructive about being in jail,’’ he said. “I highly recommend against it.’’

What he does recommend is a “sailor’s stew’’ with lobster stock, coconut milk, shrimp, tilapia, and scallops, as he wrote in another listserv post last month.

“It was my first attempt at recreating something I picked up on the coast of Honduras last year, certainly more complicated but worth the effort,’’ Marzilli said. “The Garifuna people know what perfect hot weather/beach food is, and like so many other cultures in the tropics, hot soup is sometimes the answer.’’

Glen Johnson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.