By BEA LEWIS, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The lawyer representing a Sanbornton man charged with sexually assaulting a child claims police extracted a confession because his client is of "limited mental capacity."
Michael Lennox, 49, of 21 Patriot Lane, was arrested in May, and remains free after posting a $101,000 bond, on the condition he have no contact with the alleged victim, her immediate family or anyone under age 16.
In August, he was indicted on four counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and one count of felonious sexual assault, alleging that he engaged in sex acts with the girl beginning when she was 9 and continuing until age 12, from August 2008 to August 2013.
In a motion asking that the defendant's statements to police be kept from a jury, attorney Charles O'Leary of Manchester, argues that Lennox "has significantly impaired mental functioning."
The defense attorney claims police took advantage of Lennox and questioned him for some 3.5 hours even after the defendant allegedly showed that he wasn't really sure why he had been asked to come to the police station. When police asked where and when he'd known the complaining witness and had contact with her family, Lennox's answers
showed he lacked clarity as to the dates and times of significant events, O'Leary claims.
Prosecutor Carley Ahern maintains police did not violate Lennox's right to remain silent, and that the defendant voluntarily spoke to them.
During a probable cause hearing, shortly after the defendant's arrest, Sanbornton Police Lt. Kevin MacIntosh asked that a hand-written apology Lennox had written to the girl during his interview with police be admitted as evidence.
O'Leary objected, arguing that the document was not relevant to the issue of probable cause and that it would prejudice his client, if it were made public before he could challenge its admissibility in Superior Court.
Lennox had been scheduled to stand trial this week, but the state did not oppose O'Leary's request for a continuance after he disclosed that he anticipated that additional reports that would provide a more current assessment of his client's level of mental functioning and cognition would be turned over to the prosecutor by late December.
In October 2015, Sanbornton police were notified by the Division of Children Youth and Families of an investigation into suspected child abuse. Lennox was identified as a suspect after two minor children were interviewed at the Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center in October 2015 and in January 2016.
On May 9, Lt. MacIntosh went to Lennox's home and told him that an investigation into allegations of child abuse was underway and asked whether he would be willing to take a lie detector test.
Lennox reportedly agreed to come to the Tilton Police Station four days later, to undergo further questioning and submit to a polygraph examination.
In asking a judge to throw out the statements Lennox made to police, his lawyer asserts that his client showed up at the police station without legal counsel, or even with an interested adult such as his mother, with whom he lives.
When Lennox asked Tilton Police Detective Corporal Nate Buffington what would happened if he decided not to answer and left, the defense claims the officer spoke to Lennox, but basically avoided giving him a direct answer.
The defense claims the statements should be suppressed as they were not freely and voluntarily given.
Lt. MacIntosh has previously testified that the girl disclosed that starting when she was in the fifth grade, that Lennox sexually abused her as frequently as three times a week.
The defendant knew the girl through her mother, and the inappropriate behavior, MacIntosh said, began with Lennox kissing and touching the girl both on top of and beneath her clothing before escalating to other sexual acts.
The officer testified that the girl disclosed that Lennox frequently assaulted her before school and that it "made her feel bad and wrong, and that she knew this wasn't happening to any other child in the school."
An hour-long hearing on the motion to suppress is scheduled to be held in Belknap County Superior Court on Feb. 1 at 9 a.m. A final pretrial hearing is now set for March 14, with a jury to be selected on March 20.
Michael Lennox, 49, of Sanbornton, appeared in the Franklin Circuit Court in May for a probable cause hearing. He has since been indicted on rape charges and his lawyer argues police took advantage of his "limited mental capacity" to get him to confess. (Bea Lewis/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
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