By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Former Deputy Sheriff Ernest Justin Blanchette was in Superior Court Tuesday to argue that the four of the remaining cases for rape against him remain separate.
The state has asked the cases be tried together, citing the cases are logically connected in that Blanchette allegedly used the same method of operation to coerce his victims into either having sex with him, having sex with each other, or having sex with each other while he watched.
His methodology, said the state, was to use cigarettes, cell phones and special privileges to coerce people he transported to engage in some kind of sexual act. Assistant Prosecutor Adam Wood said yesterday that all of the allegations occurred at, in or near a transport van, that in all cases Blanchette was the only person in authority there, and that all of the victims were selected from inmates at the Belknap County Jail.
Wood said he told them not to do anything that would get him fired.
Blanchette's attorney, Brad Davis, said he wouldn't object to the two cases that involve the same alleged victims being tried together, but feels they are distinct and separate from the other two. He said the remaining two are distinct from each other.
In other words, the state wants one trial and Davis wants three trials.
He said trying all of the cases at the same time will confuse the jury, and the only commonality they all share is the same set of investigators and maybe one witness from Belknap County who would testify to internal regulations.
"Even if the court agrees they're related, you can decide to keep them severed to get a fair determination," Davis said to the court.
Davis has also filed a motion to dismiss the cases based on the theory that Blanchette was not employed by the Department of Corrections as is stated in the statues.
The same argument is being used in Hillsborough County by Judge Gillian Abramson as she decides whether or not to overturn the a jury verdict of guilty in Blanchette's trial there.
Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen said that in Blanchette's Hillsborough case, the judge determined where Blanchette was employed was not an element of the case.
It is Davis's argument that the law doesn't address sheriff's or police officers but only corrections officers, probation and parole officers and staff at secure psychiatric facilities.
Yesterday, Judge James O'Neill asked Davis why he shouldn't wait until Abramson had made her ruling.
Davis agreed to wait for Abramson's after O'Neill assured him that Abramson's ruling wasn't going to be the the absolute law as it applied to his four trials in O'Neill's court.
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