Evidence of previous alleged crime will be heard by jury in deputy rape case


MANCHESTER — A jury will hear that a former Belknap County deputy sergeant allegedly coerced his female victim with cigarettes and cell phone use at least two times prior to raping her in a house in Bedford on the way to the prison in Goffstown, a Superior Court judge ruled yesterday.

After hearing arguments yesterday morning, Hillsborough County North Judge Gillian Abramson ruled the state could present evidence that Ernest Justin Blanchette, 36, of Epping had similarly coerced a prisoner, "B.H.," in two incidents leading up to the alleged events of July 2, 2015.

With jury selection complete, the trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday at 10 a.m.

Blanchette is charged with one count of aggravated felonious sexual assault in Hillsborough County. He is also charged with two separate counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault in Belknap County for events that allegedly took place before July 2 but with the same victim. Trial for those cases have been set for later this year.

"In this state, evidence does does not have to be infallible to be admissible," wrote Abramson, quoting from a ruling from 1967 and rebutting Blanchette's attorney who said the information falls directly within one of the rules that prohibits evidence that would prejudice or unduly affect a jury.

Abramson added that Blanchette's claim that telling the jury about what allegedly happened months before and in Belknap County is a "trial within a trial" because it would require him to provide rebuttal testimony. She said Blanchette's attorney can cross-examine the witness and call rebuttal witnesses if he wants and any delay this causes would be minimal but would not outweigh the value of the jury's need to hear it.

She said she will instruct the jury that if it should find there was prior sexual contact between Blanchette and B.H. in the past, it may not consider it in the present case when determining whether there was sex in this case.

New Hampshire law RSA 632-A:2(n) states that a crime is aggravated felonious sexual assault when the actor is in a position of authority over the victim and uses this authority to coerce the victim to submit under any of the following circumstances:
(1) When the actor has direct supervisory or disciplinary authority over the victim by virtue of the victim being incarcerated in a correctional institution, the secure psychiatric unit, or juvenile detention facility where the actor is employed. Consent of the victim under any of the circumstances set forth in subparagraph (n) shall not be considered a defense.

More protest in Alton - School Board finally chooses chairman but parents push back


ALTON — Over 60 people crowded into the Alton Central School library late Monday afternoon to protest a decision by a majority of the Alton School Board to call an emergency meeting to elect a chairman without consulting with two new members of the board.
Members Steve Miller, Sandy Wyatt and Terri Noyes voted unanimously to name Miller as chairman even though the other two members of the board, Peter Leavitt and Michael Ball, were unable to attend Monday's meeting.
Miller, who was the outgoing chairman, defended the board's decision to act without input from the new members by saying that the board needed a chairman in order to hire staff in a critical shortage area as well as to deal with a pressing personnel issue.
He also said that without a chairman the board has not had anyone who was able to speak for the board in public or as official spokesman to the press since March.
"There are documents to be signed and no committees have been formed," said Miller.
The chairmanship has been vacant since earlier this month when the board deadlocked 2-2 between Miller and Leavitt as chairman at a meeting at which Superintendent Maureen Ward, who is authorized to conduct the election then surrender the chair to the newly elected chairperson, abruptly recessed.
But the argument didn't resonate with those present who were not allowed to provide any public input but nevertheless injected comments throughout the meeting.
Jeffrey Clay, a member of the public who has been critical of Alton town officials, said he believes a meeting at which the three board members decided to call an emergency meeting for this week was conducted in violation of the state Right-to-Know Law.
He urged Miller to resign "for the good of the town," and as the meeting wound up and Miller started to leave said that there was a reason Miller had not been successful in a race for selectmen and that given what has happened on the school board in recent weeks he "couldn't be elected as dogcatcher."
Controversy pitting parents and teachers on the one hand against the school board and superintendent on the other has escalated since February when more than 250 petitioners expressed no confidence in the superintendent and her administration and presented seven other demands. The board has yet to respond to the petition.
Kim Mochrie, a parent, was one of a group of a half dozen people who carried signs outside the school prior to the meeting. She criticized the board for not taking seriously the concerns expressed by the parents over changes at Alton Central School which she said have never been fully explained to the public.
Another parent, Anne Ransom, said that the decision by the three board members to elect a chairman without the participation of the other two board members "is a violation of the spirit of school board ethics.:
She noted that 60 percent of those who voted in this year's school board election supported Leavitt and Ball, which shows a lack of support for the board's policies in recent years.
"People know they have been holding meetings outside of the public view. The board tries to minimize the public concerns which are expressed, but when over 240 people sign a petition showing a vote of no confidence in the administration it shows that the entire community is concerned."
Scott Bickford, vice president of the Alton Teachers Association and a teacher at Alton Central School, said "The school board has not properly responded to many parent concerns, including a letter of no confidence that parents presented to the board at a recent meeting. The board has also ignored the results of a culture and climate survey completed by 38 of 44 teachers. Now the board is not allowing all of its elected members to be a complete part of their process. People want a fair school board that is going to listen to its concerned and frightened parents,community members and teachers. People want a board that will deal with the issues, and a board that will take appropriate, positive action for our students."

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More than 60 people showed up at an Alton School Board meeting Monday afternoon to protest the board’s action in calling an emergency meeting to elect a chairman. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Chamber of Commerce to present pumpkin festival


LACONIA — The Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce announced last Friday that it will be the official organizer of the 26th Annual New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival to be held downtown on Saturday, Oct. 22.

The city hosted the festival for the first time last year, after Keene, where the festival was held for its first two dozen years, chose to put it up for adoption after rioting among students and visitors at Keene State College marred the event. Let It Shine!, which had presented the festival for a number of years in Keene, presented it in Laconia last fall in partnership with the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce.

This year Let It Shine! has passed the torch. Karmen Gifford, executive director of the chamber, said, "We learned a lot, as we planned last year's event in less than six months time. " In particular, she said that an entirely new footprint for the festival was designed to to fit the streetscape of the city.

Gifford said that planning for the next festival began "when the jack-o-lanterns went dark." A number of businesses have already made investments and offered sponsorships, including AutoServ, Bank of New Hampshire, T Bones & Cactus Jack's restaurants, Boston Beer & Amoskeag Distributors, Lakes Region Tent & Event, Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad, Laconia Harley-Davidson, Vista Foods, Associated Grocers of New England, Children's Dentistry and Kennell Orthodontics.

Gifford said that, along with the carving and lighting of pumpkins, the 2016 festival will again include a grand parade, pumpkin bowling and activities for children on PumpCANALLY as well as "Not So Ordinary" pumpkin patch by Prescott Farm and "Mayhem at the Mill." There will also be art and craft exhibits, food and drink, and live entertainment.