Former state Senate candidate Howard Pearl arrested on sexual assault charges
Howard Pearl, who on Wednesday dropped his bid for state Senate District 17 citing an “unforeseen personal issue,” has been arrested and will be charged with misdemeanor sexual assault, Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin said yesterday.
Pearl, a Loudon farmer, turned himself into authorities Wednesday evening and was released on $10,000 personal recognizance bail. The sheriff’s department is expected to file a Class A misdemeanor charge in Concord’s district court by Monday, Wiggin said. No charge had been filed as of close of business hours yesterday.
Pearl is scheduled to appear for an arraignment in Concord on Sept. 15.
Wiggin said an arrest affidavit has been sealed, and he declined to detail both the allegation and his department’s investigation into it, explaining it involves a juvenile. Wiggin also declined to provide the gender of the alleged victim, but he said the child was “known” to Pearl.
The incident allegedly occurred several months ago and involved “sexual contact” of some kind at Pearl’s residence in Loudon, Wiggin said.
“The charge is sexual assault, but the circumstances here make it a misdemeanor,” Wiggin said. He said an investigation was ongoing, but would not say whether he expects or is pursuing additional charges.
Wiggin said the case was referred to him a month or two ago by the Merrimack County Sheriff’s Department and county attorney’s office. Both cited professional conflicts of interest, he said. Pearl, who Craig believed to be 58, and Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard have ties through the Merrimack County Republican Committee.
The Belknap County Attorney’s office will be prosecuting the case, Wiggin said. Merrimack County Attorney Scott Murray said Thursday night that he had not seen any paperwork in the case, but had been aware the inquiry was taking place.
Pearl did not return multiple requests for comment. Wiggin believed he had no history of sexual assault.
Pearl, a fourth-generation farmer and the owner of Pearl & Sons Farm on Loudon Ridge, announced his decision to drop out of the Republican primary Wednesday.
“Running for state senate has been one of the best experiences of my life as I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting with Granite Staters about their thoughts and concerns on how best to move New Hampshire forward,” he said in a brief statement distributed by Michael Dennehy, a local Republican consultant. “Regrettably, I have an unforeseen personal issue and effective immediately I am dropping out of the race.”
His opponent, incumbent Sen. John Reagan, declined to comment yesterday. In a statement Wednesday, Reagan said, “I send my prayers and best wishes for a resolution to the circumstances leading to Howard Pearl’s withdrawal for the State Senate District 17 primary race.”
The race was poised to be a rematch of the 2012 primary race in District 17, in which Reagan defeated Pearl by just 130 votes. The district encompasses Allenstown, Chichester, Deerfield, Epsom, Loudon, Northwood, Nottingham, Pembroke Pittsfield, Raymond and Strafford.
Pearl has never served on the state Legislature, but he is currently a member of the Loudon Zoning Board of Adjustment, according to his campaign biography. He is also a member of the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association, and sits on several other local boards.
(“Monitor” reporter Kathleen Ronayne contributed to this story. Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)