Suspended state trooper to claim self-defense in assault case

Jill Harmacinski, The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.
·4 min read

Apr. 15—BRENTWOOD, N.H. — A November trial date is eyed for a Massachusetts state trooper charged with assaulting his girlfriend last winter in Exeter.

Sgt. Bryan Erickson, of Groveland, Massachusetts, remains off the job and held without bail in a New Hampshire jail, according to court records.

His strategy at trial will be "self defense," his attorney, Hank Brennan, said during a court hearing Thursday morning.

Brennan has also filed an appeal of Erickson's no bail order to the Supreme Judicial Court.

Erickson, a trooper for the past 10 years and a former Marine, was charged after an incident involving the 29-year-old woman on Jan. 31.

Following his indictment, Erickson, 38, was formally arraigned Thursday on charges of second-degree assault for domestic violence, criminal restraint and domestic violence kidnapping, according to court paperwork.

During the hearing, Judge Martin Honigberg set a series of filing dates in the case and discussed the November trial date.

Following jury selection, the trial is expected to last six to eight days.

Brennan said he is still waiting to review discovery, potential evidence, but expects to call at least 15 witnesses at trial.

He also said he intends to soon request a closed court hearing regarding issues he's detected in transcripts turned over so far.

"There are some issues in the transcripts that trouble me ... issues the court should know about," said Brennan. He added he would be requesting the closed-door hearing before filing a motion to suppress evidence in the case.

Honigberg in the previously issued bail detention order acknowledged Erickson denies the charges. However, the judge pointed to a "lengthy text message exchange that preceded the events in question" which showed Erickson "wanted to control the actions and manipulate the emotions of the alleged victim."

However, in his appeal to the SJC, Brennan noted Erickson is a "trooper, honorably discharged Marine, and has no criminal record."

The court "factored those accomplishments against him opining that one of the aggravated factors included the premise that his training would make him more capable of inflicting more damage," Brennan wrote.

Also, the girlfriend wrote "in a restraining order application she was strangled but denied to police she was strangled," Brennan wrote.

And, Brennan said, on the night in question, there is a doorbell video showing the woman leaving her apartment and then returning. But the video does not show Erickson pursuing the woman "preventing her from leaving or harming her in any way."

The SJC has yet to rule on the appeal.

A police affidavit says that during an argument on Jan. 31, Erickson took his girlfriend's cellphone and threw her on a bed. He "wrapped her arms around her on the bed and knelt on her upper thigh area so that she could barely breathe and could not move" and "put his hand on her neck and one of his fingers down her throat" to stop her from screaming, according to the affidavit.

Erickson is also accused of head-butting the woman twice, according to court papers.

Police said they responded to a 911 hang-up call at a house in Exeter and found Erickson in the garage. Police said he drove away at about 80 mph. Erickson was arrested at his home in Groveland.

Previously, during a bail hearing, Brennan argued Erickson could be released on bail, with conditions including GPS monitoring if the court felt that was necessary. Brennan also said Erickson could rent a place to live in New Hampshire, under supervision, and seek counseling possibly through the Veterans Administration or another service.

Brennan also argued investigators did not provide photos showing the victim suffered marks from a beating, but rather just "light scratches" on the woman's hands.

Brennan also previously described the girlfriend as being angry because she and Erickson had broken up.

Erickson's wife also applied for a harassment prevention order against the girlfriend in October 2020 after an incident at their Groveland home. The couple has two small children, according to court documents.

The woman showed up there at 12:55 a.m., demanding to speak with Erickson's wife and asking to show her something on her phone, according to a report the wife filed with Groveland police.

The wife told the woman, who appeared to have been drinking, to leave the property. Groveland police allowed the woman to call someone for a ride and for someone to drive her vehicle home, according to court papers.

Erickson has been suspended indefinitely from the State Police following a duty status hearing.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.