By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MANCHESTER — A former Belknap County deputy convicted on April 28 of one count of aggravated felonious sexual assault has asked the judge who presided over his case to set aside the jury's verdict because he was not employed by the Department of Corrections.
Through his attorney, Brad Davis, Ernest Justin Blanchette of Valley Street in Manchester argues that when the legislature was writing RSA 632-A:2,I(n) the lawmakers made it clear that the law was only intended for corrections officers, parole and probation officers, and for those who have direct supervisory control over secured psychiatric hospitals.
Davis also claims that a correctional institute is a building, enclosure or a structure used for the confinement and not a concept of corrections.
"In viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the state, the jury could not have properly found the defendant was an employee of the correctional institute under the plain language of the statute," wrote Davis.
Davis cited state laws that establish employer-employee relationships and a letter written from Associate Attorney General Ann Rice to Sen. Andrew Peterson who was the chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary who asked for language to be added that said "where the actor is employed" be inserted at the end of the sub-paragraphs dealing with correctional officers.
In his reply, Assistant Hillsborough County Attorneys Michael Zaino and Nicole J. Schultz-Price said Davis took Rice's communications with Peterson out of context. The state says that the reason the language was added was to clarify jurisdictions of off-duty corrections officer in area where they were not employed, like work release, and how it applies to non-working sexual relationships.
In this particular case, the state said Davis eliminated references to the words "or for any other matter related to confinement." Zaino said a sheriff's vehicle is an enclosure and a space and certainly a structure used for confinement or for any matter related thereto.
"It would be illogical to assert that individuals handcuffed and locked in the back seat of a fully marked police cruiser are not confined," he wrote.
In her order on the verbal motion raised by Davis about Blanchette's employment as a county sheriff, Judge Gillian Abramson wrote on the same day he was found guilty that to interpret the statute in a manner that would absolve a defendant, "This case a sheriff's deputy with direct disciplinary and supervisory power over (the victim) by virtue of her status as a N.H. State Prison for Women inmate and and his delegated duty to deliver there thereto – of criminal liability simply because he does not receive a paycheck from the NHSPW would be directly contrary to (the) underlying purpose of the statute. Moreover, it would create and untenable loophole under which inmates, despite being protected from the coercive acts of those with authority inside the wall of a penal institute, are subject without restraint to the coercive acts of those delegated with similar authority outside of the wall."
She determined the inherent vulnerabilities of a defendant don't go away when he or she leaves the insides of those walls.
No hearing date is set. Blanchette is expected to be sentenced on May 27 at 10:30 a.m. in the Hillsborough North Superior Court.
- Category: Local News
- Hits: 373