LACONIA — After four days of testimony, Eric Grant took the stand in his own defense yesterday, telling the jury that he was not the "monster" is accused of being.
"I did not do this," he said breaking down into tears for the first time since his trial for aggravated felonious sexual assault began on November 12.
"I have lived for a year not thinking I could go home and see my little boys," the popular local band leader said. "I've waited a year to tell the jury — these people — that I did not do this."
Grant ex-wife's sister's daughter accused him of digitally assaulting her at a 2006 New Year's Eve Party at his former house in Gilford. The girl was 10 when the alleged assault happened and she told her therapist about it during a session with her therapist in 2012.
During her testimony, the girl was sitting next to Grant on an "L" shaped couch during the party when he allegedly slipped his finger down the back of her pants and touched her private parts. She said the alleged assault lasted "two minutes" and there was a room full of people that included her mother, step-father and her grandmother.
Grant's recollection of the night was similar in many way to the prosecution witnesses that included the girl's mother, Grant's ex-wife, and the girl's step-father, yet all who testified remembered different things happening at different times.
Under direct examination from his lawyer, Emily McLaughlin, Grant said the first time he was aware of any kind of issue with his niece was when his family went to visit her family in California about seven months later. He recalled the girl didn't want to be around him and the family sat and discussed what happened that night. He said yesterday he recalled the girl had farted in his face and that he had called her an unflattering name like "fart-face" or something and that he forcibly removed her from his lap by pushing her to the floor.
He said yesterday that he recalled having his thumb in her lower back and may have grabbed her pants in a "wedgie" way so she didn't get hurt on the coffee table when he put her on the floor.
He said she began crying and was undoubtedly embarrassed. He said when the two families were together in California he spoke to her an apologized for embarrassing her.
He recalled that his apology was triggered by the girl's desire to go shopping with his ex-wife and the girl's mother and the decision had been that the two sisters should have some alone time. He said the girl "had a fit" and she was acting "bratty" because she couldn't go.
That was when the families had their discussion, testified Grant. He said he didn't remember any talk of a "wedgie" but said he and the step-father disagreed about child rearing in general and how he thought that the alleged victim and her brother were ill-behaved and disrespectful to adults.
Grant also testified that when the two families vacationed together in Jamaica in 2011 the girl was sometimes acting like an overly dramatic teenaged girl but also recalled the vacation as one of the best he ever had.
Grant said it came to his attention that his ex-wife's side of the family may be treating the New year's Eve incident as something more when he and his soon-to-be ex-wife were having an argument regarding their business and their divorce.
He said he called her a "procrastinator" and then she retorted by saying, "well, at least I'm not a child molester."
Grant said about a year later, Belknap County Sheriff's Deputy Judy Estes knocked on his door and asked him about the event. Estes testified yesterday about his voluntary interview with her and the written statement he gave her.
Both Estes and Grant agreed he spoke willingly and was told he didn't have to talk to her and that he could get a lawyer.
During Asst. Belknap County Prosecutor Carley Ahern's cross examination of Grant, she pointed out some inconsistencies between his statement to Estes and his testimony yesterday.
Final arguments are scheduled for today at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The judge will give his jury instructions and the 9-man 3-woman jury will begin deliberations.