New lawyers for Amy LaFond seek to delay Feb. 3 start to her trial

LACONIA — The attorneys representing Amy Lafond, the Laconia woman charged with manslaughter and negligent homicide for allegedly driving into two teenage girls — killing one and injuring the other — in April, will seek more time to prepare for trial, which is scheduled to begin with the selection of a jury on February 3.

Justice James D. O'Neill, III opened a brief hearing in Belknap County Superior Court yesterday by confirming that the state, as required, offered a plea arrangement, but the defense has made no counter offer. Jared Bedrick of the Sisti Law Offices, whose lead attorney Mark Sisti was retained by Lafond just last week, told the court that his office has not had sufficient time to review the case and respond to the offer.

Aware that a final pretrial conference is scheduled for January 14, Bedrick said that the defense would file a motion for continuance to allow sufficient time for discovery and depositions, which he expected would be complete by the end of January. County Attorney Melissa Countway Guldbrandsen told the court that she was not agreeing to rescheduling.

Yesterday's dispositional hearing was intended to determine if the case will be resolved by a court trial or plea bargain. Bedrick assured the court that a motion for continuance will be filed no later than Monday. However, in October, in order to expedite proceedings, the Superior Court introduced guidelines narrowly limiting the grounds for granting continuances.

Lilyanna Johnson and Allysa Miner were struck while on the sidewalk at the crosswalk at the south end of the Messer Street Bridge at approximately 2:30 p.m. on April 19. Lafond was traveling northbound on Messer Street toward its intersection with Opechee Street. A car going in the same direction had stopped at the crosswalk, apparently to enable a number of middle school students standing at the corner to cross the street. Lafond is alleged to have skirted the stopped car, crossed into the southbound lane of Messer Street and mounted the raised sidewalk, hitting the two girls.

In charging manslaughter, a class A felony, the state alleges that LaFond recklessly caused the death of Johnson by driving while distracted at an excessive speed after consuming drugs. Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 15 to 30 years in prison. Alternatively, she was indicted on two alternative theories of negligent homicide, both class B felonies, one for "failing to maintain a proper lookout" and the other for "failing to pay due attention while operating a motor vehicle after having consumed drugs." As class B felonies the negligent homicide charges carry maximum sentences of three-and-a-half seven years in prison. Lafond is also charged with second degree assault, also a class B felony with a sentence of three-and-a-half to seven years, for injuring Miner. 

Lafond pled not guilty to the charges when she was arraigned on September 25 and was subsequently indicted by a Belknap County Grand Jury on October 3. Since her arraignment she has been held in lieu of bail of $50,000 cash or $100,000 corporate surety. She appeared in court yesterday wearing a green jail uniform.