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New Joshua's Law aimed at curbing domestic violence

By Gail Ober

LACONIA — It's been a month since Joshua's Law went into effect and for Laconia Police Prosecutor Jim Sawyer and Franklin Police Chief David Goldstein it couldn't have happened soon enough.

Joshua's Law established domestic violence as a specific crime in New Hampshire.

"It makes a lot of sense and I support it," said Sawyer last week.

"It was about time," echoed Goldstein, who holds a doctorate in domestic violence-related criminology.

Joshua's Law was signed last year by Governor Maggie Hassan and is named for Joshua Savyon, a 7-year-old Manchester boy who was shot to death in 2013 by his father, who then killed himself after a domestic violence incident. It went into effect on January 1.

Sawyer said that until the beginning of the year, police charged crimes according to the statute that governs each individual crime. Now, if the responding officer can prove a domestic or "intimate" relationship between the victim and the accused, he or she can charge the same crime but as domestic violence.

So far this year, Sawyer said he had charged a specific domestic violence charge under the new law between 10 or 12 times for three or four assaults.

An often used scenario to explain the difference is if a man punches someone at the bar, then the crime is typically simple assault. If the same man punches his significant other or any family member it is domestic violence simple assault — a Class A misdemeanor that is possibly punishable by incarceration. If a threat involves a deadly weapon, the crime is charged as a Class B felony.

The difference, said Sawyer, is that the person assaulted in the bar, though still a victim, can go to his or her own home while the victim of domestic assault can't necessarily find a safe place to go.

The same principle applies to other crimes commonly associated with domestic assault, like criminal threatening, criminal mischief, obstructing the report of a crime and interference with freedom.

While simple assault can be negotiated by the down to a Class B misdemeanor, domestic violence simple assault cannot.

The difference, said Sawyer, is the definition of the relationship now provided by Joshua's Law.

Goldstein was in on the ground floor during the shaping of Joshua's Law and served as chair of the police advisory committee.

"(Joshua's Law) allows us to help the people we were intended to help," he said.

Goldstein said Franklin Police, and most other departments, have been tracking whether or not certain crimes are domestic related for years. Since 2011, he has been able to use the data to get a grant for a domestic-violence officer and liaison who will follow cases through the criminal justice system and work with the victim to get help.

"Every year I apply for a grant made available through the federal Violence Against Women Act (passed initially in 1994) and every year I get it," Goldstein said.

Goldstein also said that not all victims of domestic violence are women; in 24 percent of his cases last year the victims were men.

He said the domestic violence calls peaked in 2011, the same year he got his first grant, with 122 individuals seeking help from the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire in Concord.

In 2014, he said 78 victims sought counseling in Concord, representing a 33 percent drop.

Goldstein said there are 21 different crimes associated with domestic violence and last year his department responded to 657 calls for service that resulted in 119 arrests.

In 2013, he said there were 792 calls for service that resulted in 104 arrests.

Laconia Police Sgt. Thomas Swett said nearly all departments, including Franklin, use the LAP (Lethal Assessment Program) when responding to domestic violence calls. LAP is a questionnaire specifically designed to assess the level of danger a victim is in.

Described as a matrix, Swett said police interview willing victims and in some cases in Laconia, police call the New Beginnings crisis shelter immediately, meaning the victim is potentially in grave if not lethal danger from the abuser.

One addition both Sawyer and Goldstein like is the inclusion of domestic pets in orders of protection. "Pets are often used to control a victim," said Goldstein.

The domestic violence laws in New Hampshire are not without controversy. Since 2003, police officers have had the ability arrest without a warrant within 12 hours after a domestic assault.

This year, Rep. Daniel Itse (R-Fremont) has filed a bill in the Legislature to repeal the 12-hour warrantless arrest policy. This is not Itse's first time trying to amend this portion of RSA 594:10.

According to WMUR television news, Itse testified for House Bill 207 in front of the House Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety on January 22 saying that it is not acceptable to detain anyone without a warrant.

Others, including the head of the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire, Jill Rockey, testified against the change. She said every time a bill to eliminate the 12-hour warrantless search provision pops up, she opposes it.

Sawyer said yesterday that should Itse's bill pass, it could seriously effect the way police handle domestic violence. He said law that allowed warrantless arrests was codified in 1989 for six hours after the alleged assault which was extended to 12 hours in 2003.

"This is to protect the victims," Sawyer said.

As of July 2014, the criminal code that allows for the protection of persons from domestic violence (RSA 173-B:5) allows that should a restraining order be issued to protect a victim, the defendant shall relinquish "any and all deadly weapons specified in the protective order that are in the control, ownership, or possession of the defendant, or any person on behalf of the defendant, for the duration of the protective order."

Sawyer added that if a person is convicted of domestic violence, he or she can never legally own or possess a firearm in the state.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 February 2015 01:11

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Roland Tichy & Michael Pelczar join those running for selectman in Meredith

MEREDITH — When voters go to the polls on March 10 to fill the two seats on the Board of Selectmen left open by the retirement of Peter Brothers and Carla Horne they will have a choice among seven candidates — Rosemary Landry, Michael Hatch, Jonathan James, Bev Lapham, and Raymond Moritz, who were profiled in Friday's newspaper, Roland Tichy and Michael Pelczar — all of whom are making their first bid for elective office.

"I guess I'm pretty opinionated," Tichy said Friday, confessing that he does not always agree with what happens in town and asks himself "you should do something that." When he saw that two seats on the Selectboard were up for election, he decided to toss his hat in the ring.

Tichy drives a school bus for the Inter-Lakes School District as well as serves as an independent troubleshooter for owners of Apple computers. A member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, he is the shop steward for the drivers of the Inter-Lakes and Moultonborough school districts.

"I've always been interested in politics," said Tichy, who described himself as "fiscally responsible and socially progressive. I'm a bit all over the map," he continued, "but that's not atypical for New Hampshire." He indicated he would like for there to be closer control over spending and questioned whether a town the size of Meredith needed a police station and community center larger than those of Laconia. ,

However, Tichy said "there is no particular hot button issue in Meredith right now, adding that "I'd like to keep the town as it is. But, show me what would improve things and I'll listen."

Michael Pelczar, who with his brother Joseph, owns and operates Inter-Lakes Builders, Inc., could not be reached for comment late last week.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 February 2015 02:26

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County to receive $254,000 health insurance refund this year, up from $92,848

LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention's Support Subcommittee (formerly the Administration Subcommittee) learned when it met Friday that a refund from a health insurance provider will increase from $92,848 last year to $254,000 this year.
In addition to that reimbursement from Health Trust, the successor to the Local Government Center (N.H. Municipal Association), which was ordered by the New Hampshire Supreme Court to make the refunds following an investigation by the New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Regulation, there will be a separate $75,000 refund from Primex, another insurer ordered to make reimbursements to government entities which it had insured.

The Local Government Center was found to have been using excess premiums from its health insurance policies to subsidize losses incurred in a new worker's compensation insurance product line.
County Finance Director Glenn Waring said that the refunds are likely to continue, but not to the extent that they reached this year.
He said that the Health Trust refund will continue as long as Belknap County remains a member of the trust.
County Commissioners have expressed the intention to put the health insurance contract for county employees up for bid and recently asked county Administrator Debra Shackett to complete a census which would show what kinds of health insurance programs are used by county employees in order to prepare bid documents.
Subcommittee members asked whether it was possible to reduce the amount to be raised by taxes by the amount of the anticipated refunds and were told that it would entail taking the amount out of both expenses and revenue, which would make it ''invisible''. That prompted Herb Vadney of Meredith, chairman of the subcommittee, to say that he thought it was important that the transactions be more visible to taxpayers.
Committee members also got to look at adjusted lines in the proposed 2015 budget brought about by the desire of the new commissioners to end the practice of atributing a percentage of administrative costs to the nursing home budget.
The adjustments showed administrative salaries increasing by $35,000, from $207,200 in the budget proposed by former commissioners, to $242,600, health insurance from $65,875 to $76,200, payroll tax from $18,400 to $21,200 and retirement from $23,000 t0 $26,900.
Increases in the Finance Office showed wages increasing from $121,000 to $192,900, health insurance from $33,490 to $59,200, payroll tax from $9,700 to $15,300 and retirement from $13,500 to $21,500.
Committee members suggested that it made more sense to spread out the cost, as has been the normal practice of the county for several years, in order to assign the full cost of operating the nursing home to the facility in order to ensure maximum Medicaid reimbursements from the state and federal governments.
Rep. George Hurt of Gilford said ''if we don't put them back over there we have no chance of getting reimbursements.''
The proposed budget also consolidates all county legal expenses into one line and and sets a total of $30,000 for the county. Last year nearly $100,000 was expended and $60,000 of the bills accumulated remain unpaid.
Shackett said that county legal expenses amounted to $30,000 in 2012 and $27,000 in 2013 and that $40,000 was appropriated for last year.
Committee members also discussed the relationship of the county with several organizations of which it is a member, including the New Hampshire Association of Counties and the New Hampshire Municipal Association and the need for them to be more useful to the county.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 February 2015 02:21

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Corrigan & Eddy to contest selectboard seat; 6 running for election to Gilford School Board

GILFORD — There will be some new blood on the Board of Selectmen this year as current Budget Committee Chair Phyllis Corrigan will be challenged by Dale Channing "Chan" Eddy for seat left open by the retirement of John O'Brien.

Corrigan has served on the Budget Committee for 12 of the past 13 years.

"I left for a year but they asked me to come back," she said.

Eddy is a member of the Planning Board and has recently be serving as Gilford's representative to the Lakes Region Public Access Board of Director, where he is the chair.

Six people are vying for three spots on the town's Budget Committee — incumbent Norm Silber, past board member Sean Murphy, Joy Hall, life-ling resident Harry H. Bean III, Zoning Board of Adjustment Chair J. Scott Davis and Leslie Suranyi.

Incumbent Alan Voivoid decide not to seek a second term and the Board Chair is Corrigan who will be running for selectmen.

Three seats on the School Board are up for election this year. Jack Landow is the only candidate for a special one-year term created last year by the resignation of Allan Demko. Landow was appointed to the position by the School Board and will now likely be elected on his own.

 Two, regular three-year terms are to be filled from a field of five candidates. Sue Allen is the only incumbent running as Kurt Webber declined to seek re-election to another term. She is joined on the ballot by Pamela Hayes, Jennifer McGreevey, Christopher McDonough and David "Skip" Murphy.

Election day is Tuesday, March 10.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 February 2015 02:07

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