Defense motion relative to what jury might know about eye witness leads to postponement of sex assault trial
LACONIA — The jury trial of a Tilton man who was charged in January with one count each of aggravated felonious sexual assault and indecent exposure was postponed last week while the court considers a motion filed by his defense team regarding the actions of his accusers.
Thomas Gardner, 55, of Sanborn Road was arrested by Tilton Police on January 16 — about a week after two men, Joseph Ernst and Mark Corenti, reported to police they had seen him performing a sex act in his car on a disabled 20-year-old man while parked in a manufactured housing park off School Street in Tilton.
According to paperwork filed with the Superior Court, the defense said it has recently learned that Tilton Police officers investigated a reported theft at Sherryland Park four days later and the two men who reported Gardner for sexual assault were suspects in the alleged theft.
While being questioned about the alleged theft, one of the men is said to have told a Tilton Police Officer that if the police were to charge him with theft, he would refuse to testify in the rape he says he witnessed.
New filings also indicated that the officer who was investigating the reported theft from Sherryland Park was not involved in the investigation regarding Gardner's alleged rape of the disabled man.
Belknap County Superior Court Judge James O'Neill had previously denied a motion filed by Gardner's defense team to let similar evidence be presented to the jury. With the new information, Gardner's defense team asked the judge to reconsider his earlier ruling and allow what they consider exculpatory evidence to be given to the jury.
Gardner's defense team said it got the information on September 12, which was after jury selection on September 9. The court had already ordered the prosecution to provide any exculpatory evidence to the defense and, with this new information, Gardner's defense team said in its motion it wants to pursue a different theory of the case — namely that Ernst and Corenti made up the story about Gardner and young disabled man because they were at the park unlawfully.
The state's case is pretty cut and dry. Police and prosecutors contend Gardner took the 20-year-old disabled man who was left in his care to Sherryland Park, where he had him perform a sex act. The victim is unable to communicate and, according to police affidavits filed in January, has two brain disorders, is autistic, and epileptic.
Ernst and Corenti told detectives they were at Sherryland Park looking for a mobile home that they thought was for sale. One of them said he went up to Gardner's Volkswagen to ask him if he knew anything about the trailers.
The man said he initially thought Gardner was alone but when he went to his window he allegedly saw the two men engaged in a sexual act.
The men called 9-1-1 to report what he saw and gave police the license plate number of Gardner's Volkswagen but his cell phone connection died. The witness called police back about an hour later to report the same Volkswagen was now parked in the driveway of a house on Sanborn Road.
Police went to Gardner's house and said he didn't seem upset or defensive by what they were saying. He offered to take a lie-detector test so police would know he hadn't done anything wrong. Affidavits also reflected that Gardner asked police what would happen to his accusers if police determined they were lying.
The court has denied the Gardner's request for a lie-detector test to be presented to the jury.
Court filings show Corente has been convicted of two felony counts of driving after being deemed a habitual offender, one conviction for misdemeanor theft, one conviction for possession of heroin, and one conviction for bail jumping. The court ruled this evidence could be given to the jury if Corente were to testify against Gardner.
The same police affidavit said Gardner was initially reluctant to allow detectives to enter the home to make sure the disabled man was unharmed. Gardner eventually did consent however police found the alleged victim to be so severely disabled they were unable to communicate with him.
Gardner told detectives he and the alleged victim had gone for a ride and had stopped at Sherryland Park to see if the view was different as some trees had recently be removed.
No date has been set for the motion hearing and new trial.
Last Updated on Saturday, 21 September 2013 02:57
LACONIA — "it's hard to leave," Maggie Rushbrook conceded yesterday, her last as head nurse at the Community Wellness Center at Normandin Square as she was showered with cards, flowers, food and gifts by those with whom she has shared the last decade.
"She is the heart beat of the Wellness Center," said Lorraine Parkhurst of Gilford. "She has worked here heart and soul. If you had come her earlier, you wouldn't have gotten in there were so many people here to say goodbye."
In 2004, when LRGHealthcare announced it could no longer sustain the center, Rushbrook, together with John Allen, a retired minister of St. James Episcopal Church, led the effort to place it on a sound financial footing and in a suitable permanent home. With the support of generous clients, individuals and businesses as well as assistance from the hospital company, they raised the funds to purchase the space on the ground floor at Normandin Square Apartments while increased memberships defrayed operating costs. Since 2006 the center has operated as a self-supporting department of LRGHealthcare.
"Together we have turned a dream into a reality," Rushbrook wrote high on a wall of the center. "The Center is an outward sign of an inward faith and determination. Thanks to all who believed!"
Rushbrook said that the center offers supervised exercise regimens designed to increase stamina and strength for individuals with a wide range of medical conditions that hinder their mobility. "We have people in their late 30s and one person 96 years old," she noted. But, just as important as the physical exercise, she stressed, is the social camaraderie. "They renew old friendships and make new ones," she remarked. "if someone is missing, they'' get a phone in the next day to make sure they're okay."
As one person after another said their goodbyes, Rushbrook said "it's a roller-coaster around here. One minute you're laughing and the next you're crying."
A message, penned on a whiteboard, read "if you love your job, you will never work another day in your life. It has been an honor and a privilege to care for and to care about you. Love, Maggie."
CAPTION: Maggie Rushbrook (center and inset) is surrounded by just some of the many men and women she has served at Community Wellness Center who paid their respects when she retired yesterday (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)
Last Updated on Saturday, 21 September 2013 02:48
LACONIA — Hundreds of volunteers fanned put across the Lakes Region and in the Plymouth and Tamworth areas Friday for the annual Day of Caring for the Granite United Way's Central region.
Now in its 18th year, the event pairs teams of volunteer workers up with area non-profit agencies for a variety of needed projects, ranging from landscaping and painting to office work and cleanup.
Sponsoring this year's Lakes Region Day of Caring, which got underway with an early morning kickoff event at Sacred Heart Parish Hall, was AFL-Noyes of Belmont.
A group of volunteers AutoServ of Tilton showed up to undertake a variety of projects at the Salvation Army's Carey House homeless shelter on Union Avenue.
''This is our third year here. We've kind of adopted the shelter,'' said Carolyn Gaudet of AutoServ, who was working on the landscaping beneath the sign on the shelter's lawn.
''We've formed a connection to shelter that continues more or less year-round,'' said Gaudet, who said workers at AutoServ donate funds and food to the shelter and have formed relationships with the families which use the facility.
''They come here every year and do a great service, helping us with projects we couldn't accomplish on our own'' said Captain Steve Warren of the Salvation Army. ''It's a great relationship.''
Paul Gaudet, Jr. said that last year AutoServ workers provided assistance to families at the shelter during the Christmas season and are working to get flat screen TVs for the shelter, as well as filling up the Salvation Army's food pantry.
He said that 15 AutoServ workers, about 10 percent of the firm's employees, were taking part in Day of Caring activities.
Kamal Gosine of Franklin, who works in sales and customer relations at AutoServ, was directing a group of workers who were working on cleaning the grounds and trimming trees and shrubs on the border of the Carey House property.
''We're here to help the people who live here. It's their home for the time that they're here and they need to be proud of it,'' said Gosine, who noted that there were 31 people at the shelter, including a two-week-old baby.
Also helping out at Carey House was Elaine Cartier, senior director for patient care at LRGHealthcare, who was working on the flower beds.
She said that there were several others from LRGHealthcare helping out and that she was pleased to be working outdoors on a meaningful community project.
''It's a great day to be out and I don't mind getting my hands dirty,'' one bit.
Carolyn Gaudet was one of a crew of workers from AutoServ in Tilton who were doing a variety of projects at the Salvation Army's Carey House homeless shelter on Union Avenue Friday. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
Elaine Cartier, senior director for patient care at LRGHealthcare, works on the flower beds at the Salvation Army's Carey House homeless shelter on Union Avenue Friday. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
Last Updated on Saturday, 21 September 2013 02:33
LACONIA — Dave Gammon yesterday petitioned the Belknap County Superior Court to order a recount of the primary election results in Ward 5, where three write-in votes for the City Council were cast, but not recorded.
"We had no alternative," Gammon said, adding that the he will pay close to to $300 to file the suit.
When the polls were closed on September 10, votes tallied and ballots sealed, incumbent city councilor Bob Hamel, who ran unopposed, was declared the winner with 39 of 47 ballots cast. No write-in votes for city councilor were reported. However, a computer print-out reports that three write-in ballots were cast in the race.
The City Charter makes no specific reference to write-in votes, but simply prescribes that the two candidates receiving the most votes for each office shall advance to the general election in November.
Gammon claims that he, his wife and another woman cast write-in ballots for his friend, former mayor Tom Tardif, which would account for the three write-in votes for city council that appear on the computer print-out. Election officials reported that Tardif received three of four write-in votes for ward clerk, but none for city council. If Gammon's claim is confirmed, the City Clerk would be bound to offer Tardif a place on the ballot for the general election, which he could either accept or decline.
On the strength of advice from the city attorney, Laura Spector-Morgan, City Clerk Mary Reynolds advised Gammon and Tardif that five registered voters could petition the New Hampshire Secretary of State to conduct a recount before the second Friday after the election, which fell yesterday. But, when Tardif met with Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan on Thursday, he was told that this process applied only to questions, not candidates, on the ballot and advised him to approach the Superior Court.
Yesterday Gammon submitted a petition with the signatures of 10 registered votes and asked the court to set aside the the reported results of the primary election in Ward 5 and direct the City Clerk to "schedule a recount or review of the three write-in ballots." Alternatively, he suggested the court review the ballots to identify who received the second highest number of votes in the primary election and therefore, qualified for the general election. He also asked the court to instruct the clerk not to print the ballots for the general election until "the irregularities in the conduct and reporting" of the primary election are resolved. Finally he asked the curt to award him "out of pocket expense for having to correct the results of the Ward 5 primary election results."
Meanwhile, Tardif has not decided whether or not to run in November in the event that a recount confirms that he polled the second highest number of votes for City Council.
Last Updated on Saturday, 21 September 2013 02:28
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