By BEA LEWIS, For The Laconia Daily Sun
LACONIA — A Belknap County jury deliberated for less than an hour on Wednesday before acquitting a city man of sexually assaulting a pre-teen girl.
Randy W. Nadeau II, 35, had been charged with 11 counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, and was facing a potential sentence of up to 200 years behind bars had he been convicted. He took the stand to testify in his own defense and his eyes welled with tears as the jury forewoman responded "not guilty" to each of the charges read by the
His trial began on Tuesday, the same day the New Hampshire House Committee on Justice and Public Safety held a hearing on a bill that would require that a rape victim's testimony be corroborated. As is common in such cases, there was no forensic evidence linking Nadeau to the charges that were brought after the girl disclosed the allegations to her mother.
Assistant Belknap County Attorney Adam Woods told the jury the case was about a betrayal of trust. The victim had looked up to Nadeau as a father-like figure and the defendant used that relationship to manipulate her.
The prosecutor said the defense would claim the allegations were spawned by a scorned woman so enraged by the defendant leaving her, that she fabricated each of the allegations and convinced her daughter to parrot them.
Public Defender Eric Wolpin told the jury the ultimate decision they must make is not whether the alleged victim was lying, but rather, if they can have certainty it is the truth.
There is no physical evidence to support the allegations, Wolpin said, no text messages or any indication that the girl ever tried to distance herself from Nadeau.
"People don't always tell the truth," said Wolpin. "You know that from your own common sense. Sometimes people say untrue things to get what they want, or to get back at someone, but they're usually not this damaging. When words are the only evidence I ask you to remember that people don't always tell the truth."
A petite soft-spoken girl, the alleged victim spent about an hour on the witness stand, testifying. She told the jury her favorite school subject was math, and that she was also fond of her pet dog.
Under careful questioning by the prosecutor, she recounted that the sexual assault started with infrequent touching through her clothing and then progressed in variety and increased in frequency.
The defense spotlighted that the girl disclosed the allegations to her mother the day the woman and Nadeau had spent arguing and had ultimately decided to end their relationship. The girl's mother called police to report the abuse that same night, and the girl was interviewed the following day.
Wolpin worked to impeach the girl's credibility, focusing on her initial tape recorded interview at the Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center.
When asked by a trained forensic interviewer the day after she made the initial disclosure, the girl responded no, when she was asked "Did anything like this happen on any other occasion?"
She agreed that she waited a full year before disclosing that the alleged abuse happened multiple times instead of just once, and that she never told either her counselor or the police about the other sexual encounters.
"You vowed to tell the interviewer the truth and you said it only happened once. Here today you vowed to tell the truth and you said it happened multiple times," Wolpin said.
What the jury of seven men and seven women didn't know was that an earlier effort to prosecute Nadeau ended in a mistrial, after the girl made additional allegations against him during her testimony.
Woods told jurors to apply their own experience in dealing with kids or recall their own childhood when weighing the girl's testimony and to consider how a child's memory works. He also asked them to consider how embarrassing it is for a young girl to have to recount the details of a sexual nature to a room full of strangers.
House Bill 106 was introduced by Rep. William Marsh (R), Wolfeboro, a retired ophthalmologist. The proposed legislation provides that a victim's testimony in a sexual assault case must be authenticated when the defendant has no prior conviction for the same crime. If adopted it would create an added burden of proof. Prosecutors would be pressed
to either produce DNA evidence or an eyewitness to a crime that predominantly happens behind closed doors.
Opponents charge it creates a new standard that would only apply to crimes of sexual assault, not to victims of any other crimes.
A related measure, House Bill 284, would change the term "victim" to "complainant" is sexual assault cases. If passed, anyone subjected to any other could would be referred to as a victim, except for those who have been sexually assaulted.
"These bills would perpetuate the faulty idea that victims lie about being raped," said Amanda Grady Sexton, Director of Public Affairs for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
"They also send a message to the public that here in New Hampshire, a sexual assault victim is less credible than a victim of any other crime."
Randy Nadeau listens as Judge Larry Smukler instructs the jury during Nadeau's sexual assault trial that ended Wednesday with the jury acquitting Nadeau. (Bea Lewis/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
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