Judge opts not to revoke man’s bail, orders no contact
NASHUA – Delivering firm warnings that he have no contact by any means with a witness in his ongoing criminal case and that he under no circumstances go anywhere near Facebook, a judge nevertheless agreed not to revoke Martin McHugh’s bail as his case moves forward in Hillsborough County Superior Court South.
McHugh, of Nashua, was arrested in December 2015 for allegedly letting a juvenile watch him and his girlfriend engage in sex and again in August 2016 on allegations he contacted a witness numerous times asking her to provide false statements to investigators, had been accused of violating the no-contact order by contacting the witness – his ex-girlfriend – via text message and through Facebook.
But while prosecutors cited instances where, they allege, McHugh communicated with the witness, including a Jan. 28 conversation and several Facebook posts meant for her, defense attorney Chuck Keefe, by scrolling through McHugh’s cell phone, was able to point out numerous instances in which the witness contacted McHugh.
The witness, called to the stand by First Assistant County Attorney Michael Valentine, who prosecuted the case, said she and McHugh were once in a relationship and have children in common. She said she called police in January after McHugh allegedly contacted her through the “messenger” feature on Facebook.
She said McHugh posted a photo of a hand holding a gun and the words, “Lord, forgive me, it’s time to go back to the old me.” She also noted someone she believed was McHugh created another Facebook account with an inappropriate screen name.
But Keefe, in cross examination, read a text message from McHugh’s phone that, he said, came from her. “At 8:07 this morning, you texted him, saying ‘you don’t have to talk to me but talk to your friend,’ correct?” She answered yes, that she’d texted him twice that morning.
But when Keefe asked her how many times she’s “reached out” to McHugh, she responded, “I can’t tell you. I can’t give you a number.”
“Was it 100? Fifty? Thirty-five?” Keefe asked. “I didn’t know,” she said each time, becoming more emphatic.
“How many times did you contact him?” Keefe repeated.
“You can ask me as many times as you want. I can’t give you an answer,” the witness replied. “You can’t remember?” Keefe asked. “That’s what I just told you,” she said.
Asked why she can’t remember, the witness said she “has a very hard time with my memory, because I was a drug addict.”
Because the witness reportedly “blocked” McHugh on her Facebook account, Valentine called to the stand a family member of the witness who could open McHugh’s Facebook page.
She cited posts, purportedly written by McHugh the night before his hearing, that state “this is my last night a free man” and he was going to “party it up,” and “(expletive) this, I’m gonna have the time of my life.”
The writer apologized to his kids and wrote “tomorrow at 10 a.m. I’m going away for a little bit,” according to the witness’s family member.
Keefe, in summary, told Judge Jacalyn Colburn that “the state has utterly failed to meet its burden here … the state offers no evidence to indicate Martin McHugh was the one who wrote” the posts. “Anyone could have created a profile under his name.”
After brief consideration, Colburn handed down her ruling, telling McHugh that “I’m not going to revoke your bail at this point,” based in large part, she said, on her concerns over whether it was McHugh who actually sent the messages to the witness.
Nevertheless, she said, McHugh “knows he’s on thin ice … he did send a message.” Therefore, he “is restricted from using Facebook, cannot contact (the witness) by any means,” Colburn said.
Turning to McHugh, who stood with Keefe, Colburn told him “you are not to have contact with her. Period. The end. If you do have contact, your bail will be revoked, and you will leave this courtroom through this door, not that one,” she said, gesturing first to the security door through which prisoners come and go, and second to the courtroom’s main entrance.
“I want you to leave her knowing for sure that you are to stay off Facebook … do you understand?” Colburn asked. “Yes, your honor,” McHugh replied.
Colburn also asked the witness’s family member to tell the witness “that it’s best she not contact” McHugh. Referring to the witness’s earlier testimony, Colburn said “I don’t find her explanation credible that she cannot remember sending those messages.”
Alluding to the friction that has apparently developed between members of McHugh’s and the witness’s families, Colburn said while they don’t come under the court’s jurisdiction, she suggested “it’s time to grow up. Stop this now, and let this play out in the legal system.”
Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, firstname.lastname@example.org or@Telegraph_DeanS.