Pines Community Center custodian Magoon’s rape case hinges on his health
By BEA LEWIS, for The Laconia Daily Sun
NORTHFIELD — A 74-year-old man accused of sexually abusing a disabled woman and molesting seven children while working as a janitor at a local community center is scheduled to undergo a mental health evaluation.
Robert Magoon, 74, who now lives in Boscawen is scheduled to stand trial in April on charges alleging that he isolated a wheelchair-bound woman in a separate room at The Pines community center and repeatedly sexually abused her. The allegations involving seven children that range in age from 7 to 13 will follow, most likely in two separate trials. Magoon remains free after posting $10,000 cash bail on the condition he wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, and have no contact with children.
On Jan. 18, Judge Diane M. Nicolosi granted a motion filed under seal asking the court to approve the hiring of a forensic psychiatrist. Typically, a forensic psychiatrist is called upon to evaluate a person in order to determine their mental state ahead of a trial. If they find that the defendant cannot fully grasp the charges they're facing,
or are not in any condition to help their lawyer mount a defense, they may be found incompetent to stand trial.
This judgment is based on the interpretation of the Fifth Amendment, allowing a defendant to be present at their trial, face and challengetheir accusers and help their attorney defend against the charges.
As part of the examination, a forensic psychiatrist will make adiagnostic assessment about a defendant's mental state, and then make a recommendation about whether any treatment may help them overcome their problems.
If treatment is recommended, a judge can order the defendant to comply. If within 12 months a follow-up evaluation shows no improvement, a defendant may be found "non-restorable," prompting dismissal of the criminal charges.
A defendant may still face involuntary commitment to the secure psychiatric unit of the New Hampshire State Hospital, however, if a court rules they pose a danger to themselves or the public.
Some forms of dementia can cause people to become sexually disinhibited. According to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, inappropriate sexual behavior can be one of the symptoms of its onset. Damage in the front and temporal lobes of the brain can disrupt a person's ability to control their impulses.
In asking a judge to order a separate trial for the charges involving the disabled woman, Prosecutor Wayne Coull said the alleged assaults against her were "much more severe in nature" than those involving the children, and occurred in a different part of the community center during a different time of day.
In urging the court not to reduce Magoon's bail, Coull disclosed that in July 2015 a similar complaint was lodged against Magoon "that was apparently handled by the police merely speaking with the Director of the Pines, who in turn warned the defendant not to touch children. That incident was correctly re-investigated after the new disclosures, and resulted in an indictment."
While such a warning, Coull said, would prompt any "normal" person working in an environment with children to avoid any future contact which would be remotely construed as inappropriate, Magoon's behavior not only continued but seemed to have increased, demonstrating that his compulsion to engage in sexual contract with children is something he cannot control.
Defense Attorney Catherine Flinchbaugh concurred with the state that it makes sense to hold a second trial in early May to hear the charges involving one child who has accused Magoon of touching her genital area beneath her clothes. The remaining victims allege the defendant fondled them through their clothing.
At issue is whether the testimony of seven children would in and of itself be so prejudicial in sheer volume as to sway a jury to convict. The state believes the children should be able to testify in one trial to show that Magoon's conduct was intentional, not just a mistake or accident.
Given his age and status as a retired police officer, Coull asserts that Magoon seems unassuming and inoffensive. It would be easy, he maintains, for the defense to portray at trial his acts were mistaken conduct – just a misunderstanding accidental act by a kindly, older, gentlemen being nice to children.
The prosecutor suggests the defense may also try to suggest to the jury that Magoon didn't know that his conduct was inappropriate. That trial strategy makes the charge involving the oldest allegation, "exceedingly relevant" to all the other cases, because in that instance he was warned to not have any contact with children, Coull wrote.
Last August, a Merrimack County grand jury returned 11 indictments charging Magoon with aggravated felonious sexual assault, one count of felonious sexual assault, two counts of attempted felonious sexual
assault and one count of simple assault. Given his age, were Magoon to be convicted of just one of the charges the resulting prison term would be a de facto life sentence.
Robert Magoon enters the Concord Circuit Court last May for a bail hearing. (Bea Lewis/For The Laconia Daily Sun)
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