Another Dark Day That State Police Can’t Afford
The Massachusetts State Police have made headlines for all the wrong reasons lately, after disclosures of overtime abuse and issuance of phantom tickets during periods when troopers weren’t even on duty.
But the latest black eye concerns a more personal and reprehensible crime -- domestic violence.
On Wednesday, a Lowell Superior Court jury found Robert Sundberg, 48, of Fitchburg, a 14-year veteran of the State Police, guilty on 14 counts of domestic assault. The victim of this outrageous display of cruelty was his longtime girlfriend and fellow state trooper.
According to a spokeswoman for the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, Sundberg was convicted on two counts of rape, strangulation, assault with intent to rape, stalking, five counts of assault and battery on a household or family member, three counts of assault and battery, and malicious damage of a motor vehicle.
State Police released a statement soon after the verdict, indicating that it will take immediate steps to terminate Sundberg, who had previously been suspended without pay from his $130,000-per-year job, adding that the department’s Employee Assistance Unit provided support to the victim.
Sundberg was arrested after attacking the victim in his Boxboro home in April 2016. During his indictment in Lowell Superior Court later that month, prosecutors said the assault against the woman was the culmination of a long history of sexual and physical abuse by Sundberg, allegedly fueled by alcohol.
During that April 2016 incident, Sundberg allegedly strangled his girlfriend, threw her around, punched her and straddled her; it occurred a day after he had apparently celebrated an accepted offer for a Westford home they would share.
Apparently, the victim had reached her breaking point after that latest incident of unprovoked violence, which she related in a phone call to the Realtor handling the sale, who testified to the details in court.
From afar, it seems inconceivable that it would take years of emotional and physical abuse before the victim finally made the perpetrator pay for his crimes.
Obviously the personal and professional bond the couple shared contributed to her reluctance to press charges.
Even for someone in law enforcement -- trained to deal with similar incidents -- can fall prey to a love-hate relationship.
Sometimes, victims need the support of colleagues, friends or family to free them from an abusive relationship. Court records indicate that fellow troopers observed prior examples of Sundberg’s violent behavior and even possibly physical evidence of his abuse.
Comforting words of support might have provided the motivation this or other domestic-violence victims needed to regain control of their lives.
Even Edward Ryan, one of Sundberg’s attorneys, previously admitted that his client engaged in “disgusting” behavior, but maintained it was consensual. The overwhelming evidence to the contrary deep-sixed that defense.
In this case, justice won’t be served unless Sundberg receives the maximum penalty at his sentencing in Lowell Superior Court on Tuesday.