Esplanade assault halted by State Police troopers

Man charged in attack on woman

Two State Police troopers patrolling the Esplanade stopped an apparent sexual assault in the area of the Longfellow Bridge early Sunday morning, according to the Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office.

The troopers arrested Joseph Barthel, 49, on charges of indecent assault and battery, according to a statement from the district attorney’s office.

The victim, a woman, was transported to a local hospital and was not seriously injured, said Jake Wark, a spokesman for Conley.


Wark said he did not believe the two knew each other, but did not have details about the circumstance of the alleged assault.

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He commended the troopers, saying they did “really great work” and that “they were in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.”

Later Sunday afternoon, boats drifted across the water and cyclists, runners, and sunbathers enjoyed the Esplanade.

Upon hearing the news of the assault, however, many people gave a second thought to the surrounding area.

Alexandra and Caitlin Plunkett, 23-year-old twins, sat on the docks near Community Boating Inc. on the Charles River and looked toward the Longfellow Bridge, where the alleged assault occurred.


“During the day, I feel safe being here, “ said Alexandra, who often runs along the Esplanade with her sister. “At night, I would think twice before running here alone.”

Caitlin echoed the statement.

“It’s kind of far off the street,” she said, looking toward the bridge. “It’s not well lit.”

She paused and said, “I actually probably would never come here alone at night.”

Izadora Pellizer immediately shook her head at the thought of being there by herself.


“No. Never,” said Pellizer, 21. “I’m from Brazil, and it’s so dangerous. I don’t [go out alone at night] anyway.”

She sat by the water with her friend, Alberto Franzoni, 23, who said he felt the Esplanade was “totally fine during the day.”

At night, however, Franzoni said it was a different story.

After living in the city for a year and a half, Franzoni said he has noticed that some people linger in the area after dark, sometimes apparently drunk or under the influence of drugs.

“At night, you never know what will happen,” said Franzoni.

The alleged assault does not appear to be linked to the spate of unsolved sexual assaults on the Esplanade over the past few years, the district attorney’s office said in a statement.

The suspect in custody does not match the description of the serial attacker, but the office said it would nonetheless compare the cases to look for similarities.

Since 2007, police believe one man at large is responsible for three similar sexual attacks, as well as a 2006 assault that took place at Joe Moakley Field in South Boston.

Authorities released a sketch of the suspect in 2008 .

Barthel is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Boston Municipal Court, according to the district attorney’s office.

Derek J. Anderson can be reached at