Judge goes ‘out on limb’ to grant bail to Rockland woman charged with assault while on bail for another assault

Posted Dec. 31, 2013, at 9:16 a.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Judge John Kennedy acknowledged he was going out on a limb by granting bail Monday to a Rockland woman accused of assaulting two women while out on bail for assaulting another woman.

Jessica M. Arsenault, 32, was arrested Sunday night and charged with two counts of domestic violence assault, domestic violence criminal mischief, and violating a condition of release.

She was taken to the Knox County Jail in Rockland where she was held without bail until she made her initial appearance on those charges Monday afternoon in Rockland District Court.

According to an affidavit filed by Rockland police, officers were called to a home in Rockland where the two victims had restrained Arsenault on the floor after being assaulted. The women said Arsenault had become agitated while on the telephone with an ex-boyfriend and then began striking the women with the telephone. One woman had a large bump on the back of her head, according to police.

An officer also detected a strong smell of alcohol from Arsenault. Her bail condition prohibited her from using alcohol.

She had been free on bail after being arrested on Nov. 6 for entering the Thomaston home of her ex-husband and assaulting a woman in that home. Arsenault allegedly pulled hair out of the head of the victim in that assault, according to Assistant District Attorney Christopher Fernald.

A jury convicted Arsenault in May 2012 of assault in a separate case but the jurors also found her not guilty of five other charges including burglary, aggravated criminal trespass, domestic violence, criminal threatening and criminal mischief. In that instance, she assaulted a woman who was with her then-husband.

Fernald asked Judge Kennedy to order Arsenault held without bail, saying she posed a significant public safety risk. He said the woman has a substance abuse problem and suggested that she attend a residential treatment center.

Defense attorney Jonathan Handelman asked that Arsenault be released on $1,000 cash bail, pointing out that she has three children and a job.

The prosecutor pointed out that her children witnessed the latest assault and it was her 12-year-old child who ran to a neighbor’s house to have police called.

Kennedy said he was going out on a limb by setting bail at $250 cash. He also required that Arsenault begin intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment within seven days of her release.

He warned her that if she was caught drinking again, she would likely be held in jail until a trial and risk losing her children.

A motion by the district attorney’s office to revoke her bail from the November assault trial will be heard at a Feb. 24 hearing.

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