By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
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.
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