Former coach Joubert argues against further investigation of cell phone in sex assault case
Robert Joubert (center) turns to his lawyer as he is handcuffed following a hearing on whether police can search Joubert's cellphone at Merrimack County Superior Court; Wednesday, April 17, 2013. Joubert, a former baseball coach, is being tried on charges of sexually assaulting several bchildren in Hillsborough, Merrimack and Federal courts. (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »
When a judge seemed skeptical yesterday that evidence would be found on Robert Joubert’s cell phone of sexual assaults he’s accused of committing a decade ago, a prosecutor relayed in detail what he suspects might be seen there.
The descriptions – of VHS tapes he said could be easily transferred onto a cell phone – provided the clearest picture to date of any of the multiple sexual assaults Joubert is accused of committing.
“There were regular television shows and then spliced into it there were photographs, or video, of (the boy) sleeping, focusing on his hands, on his crotch, on his mouth . . . and on at least one occasion focusing on his exposed penis,” Assistant Merrimack County Attorney David Rotman said.
Joubert – a former youth baseball coach who is facing charges spanning two decades in both state and federal courts – shook his head as Rotman spoke yesterday in Merrimack County Superior Court.
The 59-year-old Manchester man came under investigation in March 2012 after a Concord woman, the mother of the child believed to be in the video discussed yesterday, contacted the police in the Maine town where Joubert ran his baseball academy.
Court documents show Joubert lived with that mother and her son in Hillsboro in 2003 and 2004.
The woman told the police in Maine that Joubert had a history of investigations pertaining to young boys, prompting officials there to contact the Concord police.
Joubert was arrested in June 2012, and shortly after the police searched his parents’ Manchester home, where he was living at the time. Among other items, they seized Joubert’s cell phone.
The initial search warrant only gave the police the right to take that phone, not to complete a forensic analysis of it. Yesterday, Rotman asked a judge to grant that permission.
But initially there appeared to be confusion about which case the request pertained to. The investigation against Joubert is sprawling, covering three cases in Merrimack County Superior Court alone. At the start of the hearing, Judge Larry Smukler had in front of him just the file pertaining to the boy from Hillsboro. He took a brief pause to obtain the other two files.
Joubert’s court-appointed attorney, James Quay, objected to the request. He said that to receive the initial search warrant, the police needed to show they had reason to think there was evidence in the home that Joubert had committed sexual assault.
To search that phone in the context of the cases in Merrimack County, though, the prosecutor now needs to show that it likely contains evidence of the specific assaults Joubert is charged with, Quay argued.
Quay said there have been allegations that Joubert used the phone to record members of his youth baseball team in a swimming pool. But he called that incident unrelated.
“They’re simply not allowed to go fishing for things that might or might not be there. There is simply no specific allegation of anything on that phone that relates . . . to the indictments of the alleged victims in this case,” he said.
But Rotman wanted to make clear that the police already believe Joubert has recorded himself in the midst of sexual assaults. So he described the video of the boy in his bed.
And then he described another video in which a naked man, whose face isn’t visible but is believed to be Joubert, stands beside the same sleeping boy. As Rotman described that video, Joubert appeared agitated and began whispering to Quay, prompting the prosecutor to pause.
“I’m talking to my lawyer,” Joubert said, looking up.
Rotman continued but was distracted as Joubert kept talking to Quay, who started to lift his hand to silence his client.
Rotman took a few steps away from the defense table, then kept describing the video.
“We have that individual taking the hand of (the boy) and rubbing it up and down against his exposed penis. And so we have child pornography involving (the boy) that was found in his possession,” Rotman said, adding that it’s reasonable to think the video could be transferred to a phone.
Smukler asked if Rotman thought Joubert might have put the video on his cell phone “to carry it with him.”
“Individuals who engage in these activities with children oftentimes like to have these materials to relive these experiences and have these things close at hand,” Rotman said.
According to court documents, the boy’s mother filed stalking petitions against Joubert in 2004 and 2005 after she had asked him to move out of her home.
Rotman also asked Smukler yesterday to grant permission to review documents given to investigators by Joubert’s mother and brother that the police believe relate to those stalking petitions. Rotman said the papers were provided after the search warrant was executed, and detectives have not reviewed them yet, pending court permission.
Concord police Detective Wade Brown testified yesterday that he thinks the documents are relevant to the case because he has listened to a recorded phone call between Joubert and his brother in which Joubert discussed those papers and said they gave his side of the story.
Smukler didn’t rule on the motion yesterday.
The first of Joubert’s cases in Merrimack County Superior Court is scheduled for trial in June. He’s also facing charges in Hillsborough County Superior Court and U.S. District Court in Concord.