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Child's mother on stand at 2nd day of Eric Grant trial

LACONIA — Eric Grant's attorney, Emily McLaughlin, continued yesterday to try to discredit the 17-year-old girl who said she was sexually assaulted at the band leader's home during a New Year's Eve party that happened when she was 10.

After another two hours of cross-examination of the alleged victim, the girl's mother was called to the stand by Asst. Belknap County Prosecutor Carley Ahern, who tried to elicit testimony from regarding any change in the girl's demeanor after the 2006 New Years Eve party and if the girl's relationship with her uncle (Grant) changed.

The state's case against Grant, who is a well-known local country music performer with some national recognition, is that he digitally assaulted the girl while the two were sitting next to each on a couch at the party. The girl never disclosed the assault until she told her therapist about it during a session in April of 2012.

According to her mother, the girl had told her that Grant touched the top of her butt and that it made her uncomfortable.

With no physical evidence except the child's testimony and a few pictures and a video of portions of the evening, McLaughlin needs to poke enough holes in the girl's story to create reasonable doubt in the minds of the nine men and three women who are the jurors that her client raped her with his finger.

Grant has said that he gave the girl a "wedgie" when she passed gas in his face. He has also said the issue was discussed about seven months later when he and his family went to California to visit the girl's family.

The girl's mother testified yesterday that until her daughter's therapist told her about the allegation in April of 2012, she thought that all that had happened was that Grant had touched the top of her butt and he had told the family that he "probably" gave the girl a wedgie.

The girl's mother said the only thing out of the ordinary she remembered about the night of the party was a loud verbal argument between Grant and his wife (her sister). She said she had been drinking but her husband had not.

She testified yesterday that after the argument she noticed her daughter was very upset but she had attributed her discomfort to the fight. She also said that she hadn't spent a lot of time with her daughter that night because she was visiting with her mother (the girl's grandmother) who she said she didn't get to see that often.

She said that until that time, Eric Grant was her daughter's favorite uncle. "Oh she loved him. He was her favorite."

She said that after that night, the girl didn't want to be around her uncle any more.

With the therapist's note excluded from the trial except for impeaching a witness, McLaughlin grilled the mother about Grant's California visit seven months later, a family trip to Jamaica in 2011, and her daughter's visits to the therapist.

Under direct questioning, the mother had testified that her daughter didn't not want to be with Grant, that she "made her" go on the family trip to Jamaica, and that her daughter somewhat stayed away from him during the times the family was together after the 2006 alleged assault.

The mother didn't remember all the details and dates but testified that when she learned about the alleged assault in 2012, mother and daughter were not getting along very well. She said she was concerned primarily about her daughter's marijuana use but was also concerned about her unusually poor grades.

She described her daughter as a good student who got "A"s and "B"s and the occasional "C." She also said that after the therapy, the disclosure, and Grant's divorce from her sister, that mother and daughter got along fine again and are still fine today.

Under cross-examination McLaughlin pressed the alleged victim's mother about what she remembered from that night and the mother said she didn't remember any farting incidents or wedgie incidents.

She also said her daughter slept with her and her husband at her sister's house that night, contradicting the girl's recollection that she stayed upstairs at Grant's in the same bedroom as her grandmother. The family flew back to California on New Year's Day.

When McLaughlin asked if she remembered the pink pajamas the girl remembers wearing, the mother said she did, recalling she thinks she bought them in New Hampshire.

The mother also said she did her daughter's laundry and would have remembered if there was blood on the bottoms or if there was any bloody underwear. She didn't remember packing the clothes the day they flew home.

The girl has testified that she was bleeding from the alleged penetration and there was blood streaks on her pajamas. She also testified that she saw blood when she went to urinate.

The trial continues Thursday morning.

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 November 2013 01:10

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Downtown parking debate raises temps at City Hall

LACONIA — "I don't even want to call it an issue, said Mayor Mike Seymour by way of introducing another discussion of downtown parking when the City Council met Monday evening,"because I think the only issue we have is a lot of empty spaces and we'd like to fill more of them."

As it turned out, the mayor misjudged the temper not only of the council but also of John Moriarty, president of the Main Street Initiative, an organization of downtown building and business owners. What Seymour preferred to call "a concern" sparked exchanges first between Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) and Chris Santaniello, executive director of Lakes Region Community Services, and then between Councilors Henry Lipman (Ward 3 ) and Bob Hamel (Ward 5) and Moriarty.

Afterwards the council directed a Parking Committee, formed in 2012, to reconvene and prepare a report and recommendations to the council. At Moriarty's suggestion the committee, which consists of City Manager Scott Myers, Planning Director Shanna Saunders, Baer, Santaniello, Andy Patterson of the Laconia Clinic, Robert Sawyer of Sawyer's Jewelry and Moriarty, be expanded. Moriarty said he would like for residential, retail, entertainment, professional, hospitality and service interests to be represented.

In January, the council agreed to designate 34 of the 38 vertical parking spaces on the east side of New Salem Street for all-day parking, leaving four spaces immediately behind the historic railroad station restricted to two-hour parking for patrons of the businesses housed in the building. The 38 spaces had been evenly divided between two-hour and all-day parking. In reallocating the spaces the council was responding to business owners, who found that all-day parking for their employees had become scarce after Lakes Region Community Services (LRCS) occupied the old Federal Building on North Main Street.
At the same time, the council prohibited on-street parking on Harvard Street between North Main Street and Dartmouth Street, where congestion posed risks to motorists leaving the Laconia Clinic lot by the Harvard Street exit.
Both changes were introduced for a trial period set to expire with the lifting of the winter parking parking ban, which passed unnoticed. Last month, when City Manager Scott Myers recommended both changes remain permanent, the council deferred its decision until this week.
Santaniello endorsed the arrangement, explaining that her agency provided as much on-site parking as the Planning Board permitted and appreciated the spaces on New Salem Street for employees. "I don't think us parking there impedes any downtown business," she said, and added that she found it "frustrating when there is an issue about us using those spaces they were empty most of the time."
However, Baer responded that "if there are so many empty spaces, you should have no objection to two-hour parking." She reminded Santaniello that when the LRCS acquired the Federal Building there was sufficient parking on-site for its employees. Santaniello explained that in renovating the building many of those spaces were lost in order to comply building and fire codes, but that recently 10 spaces had been added.
Noting that a restaurant would be opening on Veterans Square and efforts are underway to expand business downtown, Baer said that without sufficient parking "everything's for naught." Santanuiello stressed that she also wants downtown to thrive and said the agency brought employees, clients and visitors to the city. "You have your opinion and I have my opinion," she told Baer, "and we may not agree."
"I wish, I really wish I could address this with humor, with some other tool in the arsenal," Moriarty began ominously. "We're all trying to raise a tide that will lift all boats. You've got to know that. You've got to know that," he continued, his tone sharpening and voice rising, "we don't commit our resources because we feel like doing it. We do it so the community succeeds. '
"Excuse me, John," Lipman interrupted. Would you tone down your tone a bit. I feel like I'm being yelled at."
"I really wish I could use humor," Moriarty replied. "I'm obviously quite upset about this."
"You don't need to use humor. Just talk in a level tone," Lipman said.
Saying that "our concern is not really two-hour parking, it's what's coming next," Moriarty urged the council not to legislate "one parking space at a time."
"I've listened to you talk for 10 minutes," said Hamel, "and I have no clue what you're talking about — no clue. I don't know what you're looking for."
At this point Seymour intervened, offering to interpret what he called the "initial diatribe." He said that Moriarty appeared to be asking for a comprehensive parking plan for downtown in place of a piecemeal approach.
"Yes!" said Moriarty, who added that the plan should be based on data profiling the number of parking spaces, who uses them and for how long and so forth.
Hamel said that the councilors relied on the property and business owners downtown to provide that information and urged them to present a plan rather than engage in a perpetual back and forth with the council.
It was Baer who, reading through the minutes of past discussions of the parking question, proposed directing the Parking Committee to prepare a plan.

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 November 2013 01:04

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Smith Track open - 31

LACONIA — Smith Track renovation is complete and the Opechee Park amenity is again open to public use. Parks and Recreation officials say they keep the facility open until the snow sticks.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 November 2013 04:02

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Shaker Board hears yearly meeting with selectmen is not enough

BELMONT — At a Shaker Regional School Board meeting last night to which the Belmont Selectmen were invited, Selectman Jon Pike said that one meeting annually was "inappropriate."

"You've asking us for policies and plans we haven't discussed yet," Pike said in response to Chair Heidi Hutchinson's request that the selectmen tell her board what is happening in the town that effects the school.

He said he was "bewildered" because in his recollection this meeting was only the second one he can recall in his years as selectmen.

The meeting is the second in two years where the two boards were scheduled to get together and discuss commonalities between the town and the school district. Last year's selectmen's meeting between Superintendent Maria Dreyer and the selectmen produced a more cooperative use of the school's sports facilities and the town's Department Parks and Recreation.

Selectman Ruth Mooney said she thinks there should be a school district budget committee, like the one the town has had for years. She said taxpayers automatically assume that if their bills go up "it must be the school."

"A second set of eyes can't hurt," she said noting that a school district budget committee could also take the blame off the school board for its budget.

Pike said the town was "out of money" and he and Mooney agreed that since they learned that Gilmanton's tax rate went down, Belmont taxpayers have been contacting them about why Belmont's rate didn't also drop.

Pike also mentioned that if everything was "for the kids" he was on board but if things were such that someone was "making money on the kids" then he was out. With that statement he left.

School Board members took the comment in stride, saying little to Pike's commentary or Mooney's budget committee suggestion.

Hutchinson said the Shaker Board was looking at its long-term capital budget as it prepares for the upcoming budget year. She said there is a "bubble" of students in the Belmont Elementary School and the Belmont High School is at 93 percent of its student capacity.

As for updates on the town side, Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin said the town had altered the employee insurance plans with an eye toward 2014 and the time that the town could face tax penalties under the Affordable Care Act for so-called "Cadillac" insurance plans.

All agreed that the two boards should be meeting at least four times a year so policy and planning especially for budgets can be consistent.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 November 2013 04:01

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