Additional Blanchette trials could be delayed for court ruling


LACONIA — While a former Belknap County deputy is already serving time for one rape conviction, he still faces charges in several other similar incidents.

The trials of Ernest Justin Blanchette, 37, on multiple counts of rape could be delayed for up to a year if his attorney appeals a ruling to the state Supreme Court made regarding his employment in his recent Hillsborough County trial.

Blanchette appeared briefly in the Belknap County Superior Court Tuesday. Presiding Justice James O'Neill said if attorney Brad Davis appeals Hillsborough North Judge Gillian Abramson's ruling regarding Blanchette's specific place of employment, he would like to wait to start the trial in his courtroom until after the high court rules.

Blanchette was convicted by a jury last month for one count of rape of a female prisoner he was transporting to the New Hampshire State Prison for Women in Goffstown in July 2015. He was sentenced to serve 10 to 20 years in prison with the possibility of parole in eight years if he completes a sex offender program while incarcerated.

In Belknap County, he is charged with multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault that allegedly involve three separate victims, one of whom is the same victim in Hillsborough County.

Davis said the law regarding custodial rape in Blanchette's case is specific only to corrections officers and Blanchette was employed by the sheriff's department. Abramson decided against his request that this be part of the jury instructions and instead told the jury that the victim was in the custody of the State Department of Corrections and that Blanchette was acting as its de facto agent during her transport.

Belknap County Prosecutor Melissa Guldbrandsen has said Abramson's ruling applies in her cases as well.

She said she doesn't want to wait until the Supreme Court rules on Davis's possible appeal and has said that she could amend the indictments to reflect his place of employment and the custodial charge she believes he had of the victims in Belknap County.

She said the law as it is written is vague, but that the intent of the legislature in passing it was to protect inmates from abuse while incarcerated or in any type of official custody.

Guldbrandsen also said that new information has come to light in her cases against Blanchette and has asked the court for time to consider it and will provide it to Davis as part of future discovery. She told the judge she needed about a week.

Davis said he was willing to agree to a continuance if its purpose is to wait for a state Supreme Court ruling but not if it was so the County Attorney could consider new evidence.

Blanchette's first trial is scheduled for the middle of this month.

A high school diploma at 50 – Bristol man graduates from Laconia Adult Ed program with pride (492)


LACONIA — Chris Costa of Bristol was doing fine in his chosen profession of carpentry and painting until about three years ago when he started feeling poorly.

He said he was on a job at the home of a nurse with whom he spoke to about his very swollen and purple thumb. Costa, who is 50, said the nurse went to work and the next day told him he should see a doctor immediately.

Told he had psoriatic arthritis, he was out of work for about a year before he entered a pharmaceutical trial at Dartmouth Medical School for an experimental drug that he said helped him immensely until the trial suddenly ended.

He began applying for jobs at local and chain stores hoping for a job that would include health insurance after being told the medicine would cost him $1,200 a month. He said he believes that one of the reasons he couldn't get hired was because he had no high school diploma.

With his arthritis in remission and after looking into a graduate equivalent program in Plymouth, he called Laconia Adult Education Director Peggy Selig, who encouraged him to come in for a visit with her.

"He only needed three credits," said Selig, beaming at her newest high school graduate.

Costa said he went to Malden High School in Massachusetts, but didn't like school very much. He said during his younger years he needed special attention but would get embarrassed when the teachers would take him out of one class to attend another.

Although his grades weren't bad, he said he had an attendance problem once he hit his senior year. With tardiness and absences exhausted, he said one day his grandmother, with whom he lived, was sick and he took her to the doctor.

"I was tardy, then suspended, and had lost too many days to graduate," he said.

Costa took the mandatory economics program he needed to graduate and two electives – one class in history and one class in current events. He earned three A's from three different teachers.

He said he loved the class taught by social studies teacher Laurel Hubbard about the Vietnam War, which he said was always of particular interest to him.

Now he is back to work and doing a lot of subcontracting business.

Costa said that, armed with his high school diploma, he will likely look for more permanent employment. He said he also has interests in continuing his woodworking skills and is hoping the Adult Education Program continues to offer these.

He also said he has taken a class in stained glass and has a fantasy of creating special doorways.

The Adult Education Graduation Ceremony is Friday at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium. Bank of New Hampshire CEO Mark Primeau is the keynote speaker.

06-02 Chris Costa

Adult Education graduate Chris Costa joins retiring program director Peggy Selig outside of her offices at the Laconia High School (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

Democrats file for city seats

LACONIA — On the opening day of the filing period the Democrats fielded a full slate of candidates for the city's three seats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives as well as the seat representing Ward 1 and the town of Belmont.

Former representatives Elizabeth Merry and David Huot were joined by newcomers Charlie St. Clair and Tom Dawson in a four-cornered race for the three seats in District 3, consisting of the six wards of the city. Beth Arsenault, who served the last of her several terms in House representing Laconia and Belmont, will seek to regain her seat in District 9.