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Judge in LaRoche case orders review of alleged victim’s counseling records 

  • A judge has ordered prosecutors to turn over the counseling records of a woman who accused former Canterbury police chief John LaRoche (right) of sexually assaulting her. Monitor file



Monitor Staff
Wednesday, April 06, 2016

A judge has ordered prosecutors to turn over the counseling records of a woman who accused former Canterbury police chief John LaRoche of sexually assaulting her more than a decade ago.

In an order last week, Judge Richard McNamara said he wants to review the records privately and determine whether any part of them should be disclosed to the defense as they prepare for trial.

“A dispassionate view of the circumstances under which treatment was suggested by a prosecuting authority, rather than a health care provider leads to a conclusion that the witness may have difficulty articulating precisely what occurred – which would plainly be relevant to the defendant’s defense,” McNamara wrote.

In a hearing last month, LaRoche’s attorney, Nicholas Brodich, argued that the conversations should be reviewable as they could help prove that the encounters were consensual.

LaRoche is expected to argue at trial that the woman, then a teenage cadet at the Boscawen Police Department, took part in the encounters willingly. Though she was over the state’s age of consent, she was still subject to statutory abuse because LaRoche had authority over her at the department. If the case goes to trial, as scheduled this summer, jurors will have to determine whether he used that authority coercively.

Conversations between therapists and their clients are normally protected by federal privacy laws, but this case appears unique in that the woman began seeing the counselor, Dave Berger of Concord, at the state’s recommendation.

Brodich suggested prosecutors were using Berger to secretly groom the woman for trial. The state disputed the claim and noted that it’s not uncommon for alleged victims of sexual assault to seek counseling before a court appearance.

LaRoche is accused of pressuring the woman to perform oral sex on him during a ride-along around 1999, when he was just starting out as an officer in Boscawen and she was a trainee in its Explorer Program. The charges also allege that he touched her sexually while on duty and once directed her to perform a sexual act on herself.

LaRoche resigned as Canterbury police chief in January. He has pleaded not guilty to each of the charges and is out on bail.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)