LACONIA — The 17-year-old girl who is accusing Eric Grant, the lead singer and namesake of a local country music band, of penetrating her digitally at a New Year's Eve party in 2006 was the first to testify in his trial yesterday.
The alleged victim, who lives in North Monterey County in California, is now a senior in high school. She is Grant's niece. Poised, wearing a black suit and with long, dark blond hair, she spent most of yesterday afternoon telling the 12 members of the jury her recollections of that night.
In front of about 20 of Grant's friends and family who were in the Belknap County Superior Court room yesterday — some of them wearing blue oval buttons that read "TRUTH" — the girl said Grant slipped his hand down the back of her pajamas and put his finger in her while she sat next to him. She said Grant's legs were stretched out on the couch and she was sitting between them.
Under direct examination by Assistant Prosecutor Carley Ahern, the girl told the jury that she "felt violated, it hurt."
During her opening arguments, Ahern had prepared the jury by telling them that "New Year's Eve began a hellish time in which (the victim) kept a secret, believing her family had betrayed her."
"She might not remember what she ate, who was there," Ahern said. "But she'll remember the defendant touched her vagina."
During her testimony the girl recalled she was wearing her pink pajamas and was sitting on an "L" shaped couch next to Grant. She said he reached into her pajama bottoms and put his finger in her. She said she went upstairs to the bathroom and when she wiped herself she saw "streaks of blood."
She said the alleged assault happened before the fireworks she and her family lit off that night.
Grant's lawyer Emily McLaughlin spent most of yesterday afternoon trying to discredit the girl's story by questioning her about different things she told different people after she told her story to her therapist about six years after the alleged incident.
McLaughlin had already presented the jury a family tree and a home video of that night for visual aids during her opening statements to the jury.
The video showed the girl wearing blue jeans and a jacket, playing outside of Grant's home that night. She was waving sparklers and the snippets of the video spanned the hour from 9:34 p.m. until 10:30 p.m.
McLaughlin had told the jurors in her opening arguments they would hear the alleged victim's testimony and find the girl's statements "inconsistent, contradictory, unbelievable, and untrue."
When McLaughlin asked the alleged victim whether she remembered telling certain details to a specific person she often didn't. She admitted that she didn't tell anybody about the alleged assault until she started seeing a therapist nearly six years later and four months after she started therapy.
The girl admitted under cross-examination that she had had some personal problems including failing grades and marijuana use during the time she made her statements — her sophomore year. She said she was having problems with her mother during this time.
She said she didn't remember all the things she told every person who interviewed her — including her therapist, her therapist in the presence of her mother, a California Police Officer, and a Community Action Counselor.
At several points during the cross examination, McLaughlin showed the girl excepts of statements she made and question her as to whether she remembered making them or not. Often, the alleged victim didn't remember making the particular statement.
The alleged victim answered all of McLaughlin's questions — sometimes speaking very softly other times speaking loudly and clearly.
She testified that she told her therapist about the alleged digital penetration when she learned that Grant and his wife (the girl's mother and Eric Grant's wife at the time, Erica, are sisters) had divorced. She said she waited nearly six years in part because she didn't want to be accused of breaking up the family.
McLaughlin also cross examined the girl about the blood in her underwear. She testified yesterday that she didn't remember if she was wearing underwear that night and that she didn't remember what happened to the pink pajamas.
McLaughlin told the jury during her opening arguments that they would hear that no adult who was in the room will testify that they saw the digital rape of an 8-year-old. "At most, they saw a wedgie," she said, telling the jury that the family would later talk of the "wedgie incident."
McLaughlin also told the jury in her opening argument that the girl passed gas in Grant's face and he pushed her away and called her a "stinky butt" and a "fart face" and gave her a wedgie and this likely caused the girl some embarrassment and lasting hurt feelings.
The "wedgie incident" is expected to be the first thing the jury hears today when the trial reconvenes at 10 a.m. and McLaughlin continues her cross examination of the alleged victim.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 November 2013 03:56
LACONIA — A request by Aavid Thermalloy, LLC to change the name of Primrose Drive South to Aavid Drive set the firm at odds with their corporate neighbors at the O'Shea Industrial Park and led to disagreement among the city councilors last night.
Ultimately the council encouraged the firms to address the issues dividing them and return to the council once an arrangement was reached.
Norm Soucy, general manager at Aavid, reminded the council that earlier this year the company returned its headquarters from Concord to Laconia, where it began almost 50 years ago, bringing 50 jobs to the city and investing $500,000 in its facility. Acknowledging that changing the name of the street would impose costs on neighboring firms, he said that Aavid would reimburse them for all out-of-pocket costs and offered to provide them with any administrative assistance they might need.
But, Michael DeAngelis of Amatex Corporation, a designer and manufacturer of fiberglass textiles headquartered in Norristown, Pennsylvania, said "we see no reason for the name change," adding "it will cause us a great deal of stress." He said that the company has operated in Laconia since 1982. "We like Primrose Drive. We like south and we like north." With business brisk and plans to expand in the spring, he said affecting the change of address would be a costly distraction.
Jeremy Baron of Baron Machine Company, Inc. called the prospect "a pain in the butt that doesn't benefit anyone." He applauded Aavid for returning to the city, but repeated there was no need to change the name of the street.
Robert Maher who owns 72 Primrose Drive, which he rents to three tenants, including Amatex, expressed reservations on behalf of his tenants
Councilor Matt Lahey (Ward 2) asked Soucy if there were a business reason for the request. Soucy replied that it would enable Aavid and the city to promote advanced manufacturing throughout the world and described it as "an enhancement to the city of Laconia."
"What about the industries that have been here 40 years?" DeAngelis asked.
Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) endorsed the name change, which he said represented an opportunity to "rebrand" the city and "leverage" the success of Aavid to "go beyond ourselves to get to another place." At the same time, he stressed that the timing of the process and the reimbursement of the costs should be arranged to the satisfaction of the neighboring companies. Seconded by Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4), Lipman moved to approve the change.
Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) urged that a vote be deferred. He questioned the benefits of changing a street name and expressed concern that one company would be given preference over others.
Lahey said he too was "uncomfortable" and and asked "are we only talking dollars?"
Both DeAngelis and Baron conceded that apart from the costs the name change would not otherwise disadvantage their businesses. Soucy reaffirmed his commitment to reimburse costs. "Our goal is not to have this cost our neighbors money," he said.
Seeking reassurance Lahey remarked "I don't want to wake up some morning to find out that 25 jobs moved to Pennsylvania because somebody got mad."
Lipman repeated that by supporting a business with the potential to attract other businesses the name change would create "synergy," noting that "everybody benefits if we raise all boats."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 November 2013 03:51
LACONIA — With homeowners at the gated communities of South Down Shores and Long Bay determined to keep the WOW Trail from passing along the western shore of Paugus Bay on its way toward the Meredith town line, City Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) has begun exploring an alternative route.
As planned, the third phase of the trail begins at Van Buren Street and runs northward 2.2 miles past Pickerel Cove to Birch Haven Road, following railway along the shorefront through South Down Shores and Long Bay. The South Down Recreation Association has accrued a legal fund from annual assessments of $100 on each of some 500 households and allied with residents of Long Bay. Chester Cilley, president of the South Down Recreation Association, said yesterday that while the association has convened a committee, which will cooperate with anyone seeking an alternative route, it has also repeatedly resolved that "no one. . . but no one . . . will cross South Down."
Bolduc suggests that instead of the planned route, the trail follow Elm Street from Lakeport Square to Parade Road then proceed northward to Hilliard Road at Petal Pushers Farm and across Hilliard Road to The Weirs. Hilliard Road runs northeast from Parade Road to join Endicott Street North (Route 3) near Cumberland Farms, a distance of almost two miles. However, about half of the length of Hilliard Road, from Parade Road to Hillcroft Road has not been maintained for many years.
This alternative route would stretch for approximately six miles — two miles across Elm Street, two miles up Parade Road and two miles across Hilliard Road. It would require adding or widening sidewalks on Elm Street, constructing a pathway along Parade Road and reopening half of Hilliard Road.
Bolduc said that just as segments of the first two phases of the WOW Trail follow sidewalks on Messer Street and Fair Street, the third phase could follow Elm Street.
He acknowledged that along Parade Road, a state highway where the speed of traffic approaches or exceeds 50 miles per hour, it would be necessary to distance the trail from the roadway, but offered bike paths paralleling I-89 in Lebanon and Concord as examples of the compatibility of trails and highways. Reopening Hilliard Road would not only provide a route for the trail but also improve access to The Weirs, especially during Motorcycle Week when congestion may pose challenges for employees going to and from work as well as emergency vehicles.
Luke Powell, assistant director of Public Works, said that he has walked the length of Hilliard Road, which he described as passable with an all-terrain vehicle. He estimated that reconstructing the roadway, together with building a trail, could be a costly project, requiring stream crossings and extensive grading. Moreover, he recalled that the public right-of-way was relatively narrow. Likewise, Powell questioned whether the state-owned right-of-way on Parade Road would be sufficient to accommodate a 10-foot-wide trail at a safe distance from the roadway, which he suggested could be as much as 30 feet.
Alan Beetle, president of the Board of Directors of the WOW Trail, said that he was not aware that this particular alternative route was being considered. "I think it's great to add sidewalks and bike lanes for pedestrians and cyclists," he said, "but they are not the same as a recreational trail." He stressed that the WOW Trail is intended as an attraction that will draw people to the city and region and noted that a sidewalk through a residential neighborhood and path along a state highway were unlikely to attract visitors.
Beetle said that relatively few residences at South Down Shores are very near the trail, while for most the WOW Trail represented an additional amenity for their community. He acknowledged the risk of litigation, remarking "we're prepared for that," but fancied that residents of South Down will "use the funds to do something positive for the community, like the WOW Trail."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 November 2013 03:50
LACONIA — Some 70 people turned out at Hector's Fine Food and Spirits in downtown Laconia on Monday evening for a unique dining experience, a "Dinner in the Dark" at which they dined blindfolded.
Hosted by the Central New Hampshire Advisory Committee of the New Hampshire Association for the Blind , the unique sensory awareness experience took participants on a journey in which they experienced dining as a blind person, using only the senses of taste, sound and touch.
''It was an experience that really had a big impact on the people taking part,'' said Jean Foote, who said that at first participants were a little nervous but soon came to appreciate for the way it broadened their understanding of those with vision problems.
''Many people have problems relating to blind people and feel awkward around them. Most people don't even want to think of losing heir sight. So the event made them much more aware and hopefully spread the message that there are ways to help and that blind people can lead successful, normal lives,'' said Foote.
Keynote speaker was scheduled to be Randy Pierce, association board member, client and founder of 2020 Vision Quest, who has summited all 48 of New Hampshire's highest peaks in a single winter season. But his guide dog, "Quinn'', was recently hospitalized with a jaw problem and wasn't up to making the trip.
Speaking instead was Gracie Cilley of Meredith Village Savings Bank, who told those present about the struggles of an eight-year-old relative who is losing her sight due to complications from diabetes.
Sponsors for the event included Meredith Village Savings Bank, Sawyers Jewelry, E&S Insurance Services, The Laconia Daily Sun, Shetty Opthamology and the Salmon Press.
Created in Germany, "Dining in the Dark" is a one-of-a-kind concept that has been enjoyed by many people across Europe and came to this country in 2005.
To date the New Hampshire Association for the Blind has hosted similar events at Rudi's in Portsmouth and The Way We Cook in Manchester. Both were sold-out, as was the dinner at Hector's. All funds raised, as well as a portion of all tickets sold, support the many critical programs and services that have helped people of central New Hampshire live full and independent lives despite their vision loss.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 November 2013 03:49
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