By BEA LEWIS for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The jury hearing evidence in the sexual assault trial of a Belmont man won't get to hear testimony that the complaining witness allegedly told others about the abuse before she was arrested for stealing from the defendant.
Judge James D. O'Neill III ruled from the bench on Monday to uphold his earlier decision that such testimony amounts to hearsay and can not be substantiated, making it inadmissible.
The prosecutor argued such testimony would clearly rebut the defense's theory that the woman had a motive to lie to dodge being imprisoned for stealing jewelry and coins from Steven Price.
Price, 66, is charged with knowingly committing a pattern of sexual assault against the alleged victim between June 14, 1996, and June 13, 2000, over a period of more than two months, but less than five years when she was older than 13 but younger than 16.
Assistant Strafford County Attorney Alysia Cassotis, who is prosecuting the case, said the testimony should be allowed because the crux of the defense "is an absolute reliance on a motive to lie."
Allowing the jury to hear from witnesses who would testify that the alleged victim told them about engaging in sex with Price when she was still a minor, would also explain the reason for the delay in her disclosure.
The prosecutor maintained that the New Hampshire Supreme Court has recognized why victims of sexual assault put off telling anyone they have been abused. In this case, the woman testified that she loved the defendant and that he had also been caring for her son.
In asking the judge to rethink his earlier ruling barring the admission of such testimony, the prosecutor said that the alleged victim's best friend would testify at about age 15 she disclosed that she and Price had been having sex for the past several years.
Based on the defense's theory that the woman invented the accusations to avoid being prosecuted for felony theft, the testimony is necessary to allow the jury to fully access why the alleged disclosures were so late, Cassotis said.
Defense attorney Jim Moir urged the judge to uphold his earlier ruling, arguing the state's request was being made too late as the alleged victim had already testified. The statements the prosecutor wanted to introduce were made out of court, Moir asserted, and as such are hearsay and not admissible.
The prosecutor argued that to rebut the impression created by the defense that the complaining witnesses' testimony was a recent fabrication, evidence that she told the same story before should be admissible, as a prior consistent statement is not hearsay.
The state is predicting that it could wrap up its case tomorrow.
Steven Price, 66, of Belmont, is on trial in Belknap County Superior Court, charged with having a sexual relationship with a minor girl. (Bea Lewis/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
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