MALDEN ― Former Everett schools superintendent Frederick F. Foresteire admitted to calling a payroll clerk who worked for him “Miss Argentina” but vehemently denied touching her inappropriately when he took the witness stand Wednesday in his trial for indecent assault and battery.
As for the nickname, “she liked it,” Foresteire told jurors in Malden District Court. “She brought it on herself.”
Foresteire, who worked with the 41-year-old woman for nearly two years, took the stand prior to closing arguments in the trial that began Monday.
“What a window into the defendant’s state of mind in this case,” Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Carrie Spiros said of Foresteire’s admission in her closing argument. “This defendant was a powerful man who seemed to have an obsession with [the victim]. She essentially felt powerless in this situation.”
The woman’s name is being withheld by the Globe because she is an alleged victim of assault. She worked for Everett Public Schools from November 2016 until June 2018. She did not immediately tell anyone about the alleged abuse.
“He hired, he fired, he approved their time off, and he spent a lifetime making connections and forming relationships in the city of Everett, that dynamic matters in the analysis of this case,” Spiros told the jury of four women and four men. “She felt shame, she was embarrassed, she feared retaliation. In her words, she had ‘no one to tell’ and she just tried her best to survive it.”
Foresteire, 79, a diminutive man with arthritic fingers and two hearing aids, was the final witness on the third day of trial. He testified that he has lived in Everett his entire life, graduated from Everett High School, and first started working for the school district in 1966. He was superintendent from 1989 until his his retirement in December 2018 — one month after the victim filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
Foresteire is accused of pulling the woman’s cardigan, tank top, and bra strap off her shoulder, exposing her breast and putting his mouth on her breast.
“Never happened, never,” Foresteire testified.
The prosecutor posed a series of questions about the misconduct allegations:
Did he regularly ask her the color of her undergarments, tug at her skirt, and repeatedly put his hand around her waist and let it creep down to her buttocks? Did he call her when she worked the switchboard and subject her to graphic questions about her sex life? Did he parade her around the office, remarking on how she dressed?
“No, absolutely not,” Foresteire said.
“Absolutely nothing” was true about any of the victim’s allegations of inappropriate touching and behavior, Foresteire testified.
Calling the woman “Miss Argentina” began a month or two after she started working for the school district and he meant “no disrespect,” Foresteire said.
“When she started to work for us, she made it clear to everybody that was her heritage,” Foresteire said. “In fact, she seemed to like it. She referred to herself as ‘Miss Argentina.’ ”
Foresteire has pleaded not guilty to five charges: three felony counts of indecent assault and battery and two misdemeanor counts of assault and battery.
“He did not do these things, and he told you he did not do these things,” Foresteire’s lawyer Gerard Malone told jurors in his closing argument. “He’s always denied it, he continues to deny it.”
“If the crime they charged him with was calling [the victim] ‘Miss Argentina,’ he did it, he admitted it. It’s not a crime,” Malone said.
The woman made up a “convoluted story,” changed it as she went along, and failed to immediately report any wrongdoing to authorities, Malone said.
“If you listen to these allegations, they’re so detailed, they’re so specific, they’re so horrific ... would you really not tell somebody about that? Why is the police an afterthought?”
The woman’s MCAD complaint sought money and attorney’s fees and “that’s what it’s all about,” Malone said.
Jurors spent about an hour deliberating Wednesday afternoon. They will resume at 9 a.m. Thursday.
The jury does not know the case is the first of three separate lawsuits brought by women who worked for Foresteire and say he cornered and groped them and subjected them to humiliating treatment.