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At trial, band leader Eric Grant denies 2006 sexual assault of 10-year-old niece

LACONIA — After four days of testimony, Eric Grant took the stand in his own defense yesterday, telling the jury that he was not the "monster" is accused of being.

"I did not do this," he said breaking down into tears for the first time since his trial for aggravated felonious sexual assault began on November 12.

"I have lived for a year not thinking I could go home and see my little boys," the popular local band leader said. "I've waited a year to tell the jury — these people — that I did not do this."

Grant ex-wife's sister's daughter accused him of digitally assaulting her at a 2006 New Year's Eve Party at his former house in Gilford. The girl was 10 when the alleged assault happened and she told her therapist about it during a session with her therapist in 2012.

During her testimony, the girl was sitting next to Grant on an "L" shaped couch during the party when he allegedly slipped his finger down the back of her pants and touched her private parts. She said the alleged assault lasted "two minutes" and there was a room full of people that included her mother, step-father and her grandmother.

Grant's recollection of the night was similar in many way to the prosecution witnesses that included the girl's mother, Grant's ex-wife, and the girl's step-father, yet all who testified remembered different things happening at different times.

Under direct examination from his lawyer, Emily McLaughlin, Grant said the first time he was aware of any kind of issue with his niece was when his family went to visit her family in California about seven months later. He recalled the girl didn't want to be around him and the family sat and discussed what happened that night. He said yesterday he recalled the girl had farted in his face and that he had called her an unflattering name like "fart-face" or something and that he forcibly removed her from his lap by pushing her to the floor.

He said yesterday that he recalled having his thumb in her lower back and may have grabbed her pants in a "wedgie" way so she didn't get hurt on the coffee table when he put her on the floor.

He said she began crying and was undoubtedly embarrassed. He said when the two families were together in California he spoke to her an apologized for embarrassing her.

He recalled that his apology was triggered by the girl's desire to go shopping with his ex-wife and the girl's mother and the decision had been that the two sisters should have some alone time. He said the girl "had a fit" and she was acting "bratty" because she couldn't go.

That was when the families had their discussion, testified Grant. He said he didn't remember any talk of a "wedgie" but said he and the step-father disagreed about child rearing in general and how he thought that the alleged victim and her brother were ill-behaved and disrespectful to adults.

Grant also testified that when the two families vacationed together in Jamaica in 2011 the girl was sometimes acting like an overly dramatic teenaged girl but also recalled the vacation as one of the best he ever had.

Grant said it came to his attention that his ex-wife's side of the family may be treating the New year's Eve incident as something more when he and his soon-to-be ex-wife were having an argument regarding their business and their divorce.

He said he called her a "procrastinator" and then she retorted by saying, "well, at least I'm not a child molester."

Grant said about a year later, Belknap County Sheriff's Deputy Judy Estes knocked on his door and asked him about the event. Estes testified yesterday about his voluntary interview with her and the written statement he gave her.

Both Estes and Grant agreed he spoke willingly and was told he didn't have to talk to her and that he could get a lawyer.
During Asst. Belknap County Prosecutor Carley Ahern's cross examination of Grant, she pointed out some inconsistencies between his statement to Estes and his testimony yesterday.

Final arguments are scheduled for today at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The judge will give his jury instructions and the 9-man 3-woman jury will begin deliberations.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 November 2013 01:09

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Money is main obstacle as solution to Meredith traffic woes nears consensus

MEREDITH — Improvements Routes 3 and 25, including the junction of the two, to ease the flow of traffic through the center of town could get underway by 2017, according to a schedule presented by officials of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT) to the Board of Selectmen at a workshop yesterday.

The so-called US3/NH25 project began in 2005 with the aim of moving traffic in "a slow, steady, safe efficient manner," mitigating congestion, while configuring the corridor to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists and promoting the local economy, preserving the natural environment and highlighting the cultural assets of the community. Initially the scope of the project reached some four miles from the junction of Route 3 and Rte. 104 through the intersection Rte. 3 and Rte. 25 and along Rte. 25 to the Center Harbor town line.

Between 2006 and 2009, personnel from DOT, together with an advisory committee of local officials and residents, held 26 meetings and solicited public comment, exploring what Gene McCarthy of McFarland Johnson, a consulting engineer, called "anything and everything that could possibly be considered." In a report, issued in 2009, the myriad of alternatives were winnowed down to a number of preferred options.

Since then, McCarthy explained, for want of sufficient funding the scope of the project has been reduced to the stretch between the junction of Rte. 3 and Rte. 104 to the intersection of Rte. 25 and Pleasant Street, with the US3/NH25 intersection the centerpiece of the project.

"It's a smaller, confined project," he said. The next step will be to select the preferred alternative.

Don Lyford of DOT told the board that the current budget for the project is $5 million, with federal funds representing 80 percent of the total. He said that "the finite amount of funding" would shape the scale of the project.

The report presented four options corresponding to the reduced scope of the project. Three would add a center left-turn to Rte. 3. One would upgrade the traffic signal at Routes 3 and 104 and construct two-lane roundabouts at Routes 3 and 25 and Rte. 25 and Pleasant Street while another would construct single-lane roundabouts at both locations. A third option would include a two-lane roundabout at Routes 3 and 104 as well as at Routes 3 and 24 and Rte. 25 and Pleasant Street. With the fourth option, Rte. 3 would remain a two-lane highway with seven roundabouts — at Rte. 104, Terrace Avenue, Mill Street, Church Landing, Lake Street, Rte. 25 and Pleasant Street.

McCarthy said that while a one-lane roundabout at Routes 3 and 25 could be constructed with minimal impact on surrounding property, a two-lane roundabout would impact all four quadrants, including two buildings on the northern corners of the intersection, but provide greater capacity to ease the bottleneck.

"One lane roundabout doesn't accomplish anything," said selectman Lou Kahn, who questioned if there was enough money in the budget to acquire the necessary land. McCarthy said that apart from reconfiguring the intersection of Routes 3 and 25, the project required little land acquisition. In particular, he said that a third lane could be added to Rte. 3 within the state-owned corridor with only minimal takings.

At the recommendation of the DOT, the Selectboard agreed to convene an advisory committee of nine consisting of the town manager, community development director, a member of the Planning Board, one selectman, representatives of the Greater Meredith Program and Chamber of Commerce and three residents to work with DOT on selecting a final plan by 2014. DOT anticipates the design to be completed by 2016 and construction to begin the following year. Originally the more expansive project was scheduled to begin in 2012.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 November 2013 02:53

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Man accused of burglarizing Gilmanton home on same day he was in court to answer to another charge

GILMANTON — A local man who had appeared in circuit court earlier in the day has been charged with breaking into the home of one of his relative's neighbors.

According to Gilmanton Police affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, John "Jack" P. Geddis, 23, now of Pine Hill Road in Gilmanton but formerly of Mountain View Terrace in Belmont entered the Foss Road home on November 7 through a sliding glass window.

Records show Geddis had appeared in circuit court in Laconia earlier that same day and had pleaded innocent to drug possession — a charged that stemmed from an arrest on September 18 by the Belmont Police. He had been freed on $1,000 personal recognizance bail.

"I think he still had his court clothes on," said Gilmanton Police Chief Joe Collins, referring to the November 7 burglary.

Affidavits said police were notified by Geddis's uncle who lives next door to the victim's home and who said he saw his nephew go into the house. He said he tried to approach Geddis but said he fled into the woods.

Collins's court affidavit said he interviewed the homeowner and learned some money (about $80) was missing from one of her bedrooms. She also told him Geddis didn't have permission to be in her house.

After his appearance in circuit court on November 12 for the most recent burglary, Judge Jim Carroll ordered him held on $10,000 cash-only bail. As of last night, Geddis is still incarcerated in the Belknap County House of Corrections.

The Daily Sun has learned that Geddis also allegedly broke into his uncle's Foss road home on September 14 and stole money.

He was indicted by a Belknap County grand jury last week for one count each of burglary and theft by unauthorized taking for the September 14 allegation. The indictment said the amount stolen was greater than $1,500.

Geddis is scheduled for arraignment in the Belknap County Superior Court on Thursday.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 November 2013 01:49

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3 Winnipesaukee coves closed to rafting

MEREDITH — The New Hampshire Department of Safety (DOS) has prohibited "rafting" at Round, Fish and Flag coves on Lake Winnipesaukee in response to a petition presented by neighboring property owners.

In 1983 the Legislature authorized the DOS to define and regulate rafting and since 1947 property owners have been entitled to petition the department to impose operating restrictions on water bodies within or bordering municipalities. The practice of "rafting-up" involves getting two or more craft, often many, to anchor very close together for the purpose of socializing.

Cheri Pierce, whose family has owned property on Flag Cove since 1945, submitted a petition in August and the DOS held a public hearing in September, at which eight residents spoke in favor and none against forbidding rafting in the three coves. Moreover, another 13 residents submitted letters supporting the petition.

The petitioners claimed that rafting posed a safety hazard in and around the narrow, shallow inlets where the most of the water is less than six feet deep and nowhere exceeds 12 feet in depth while much of the navigable area in between 150 feet and 200 feet wide. Moreover, the shallow, warm waters and fertile sediment provide ideal conditions for milfoil, the growth and spread of which is fostered by the repeated dropping and hauling of anchors of rafting boats. The coves also provide nesting sites for loons as well as habitat for other species of wildlife. Finally. residents complained that rafting is often presents a nuisance, primarily the disposal of trash in the lake.

Unless the decision of the DOS is appealed within 30 days, the agency will draft rules to implement the ban.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 November 2013 01:37

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