Child psychologist sentenced for molesting patient

  • Foad Afshar

Monitor staff
Published: 8/26/2016 11:47:38 PM

Editor's note: All sexual assault charges against former Concord psychologist Foad Afshar, who was accused of molesting a patient, were dropped by the Merrimack County Attorney's Office in October 2018.

The stickers worn by the dozens of people who squeezed into a Concord courtroom Friday summarized in three words their reason for being there.

“Justice for Foad” was printed below a happy photo of their friend, former colleague and teacher, Foad Afshar, who to their disbelief was awaiting sentencing for molesting a 12-year-old boy. The happy photo conflicted with the subdued mood in the courtroom Friday, as the former Concord child psychologist learned his fate.

Afshar will spend the next three to six years in prison for touching a young patient’s genitals during a session on Jan. 6, 2015. To this day, Afshar maintains his innocence.

And while Friday’s sentencing marked the end of one chapter in the case, Afshar and his new attorney, Ted Lothstein, don’t see it as over. They are beginning their fight for a new trial, and plan to appeal Afshar’s conviction to New Hampshire’s Supreme Court.

A Merrimack County jury found Afshar, 56, of Bow guilty in June of one felony count of aggravated sexual assault and an alternative misdemeanor count of simple assault, as well as two counts of unlawful mental health practice, both misdemeanors. Afshar’s licence to practice had lapsed at the time of the crime, and as a result he faces two suspended $100 fines.

Afshar had been seeing the boy in Concord for about six weeks, and said during trial he was using touch therapy to help desensitize the boy to a fear of undergoing a hernia exam. He acknowledged having touched the child’s arm as part of that process, but insisted it never went beyond that.

In court Friday, Assistant Merrimack County Attorney Joseph Cherniske painted Afshar as a man with two different personas. The first is most widely accepted, a success story of an immigrant from Iran who traveled alone to the U.S. and made a better life. The second is of a child molester, Cherniske said.

He called Afshar an “opportunistic predator” who took advantage of his position as a psychologist to exploit a vulnerable boy.

“Only one touch and only one victim in only 15 seconds still has a lasting impact,” Cherniske said.

While he recognized the strong support for Afshar in the courtroom, he said it shouldn’t have any bearing on the prison sentence. Cherniske argued for five to 10 years.

The prosecution’s sentencing recommendation flowed easily, as the defense struggled to recommend any punishment given the circumstances.

“We’re making a recommendation for a crime we believe did not occur,” Lothstein said, while suggesting a term of 2½ to five years, with 1½ suspended if Afshar qualified for sex offender treatment in the community.

Lothstein said he respects the verdict, but noted there were several pieces of evidence the jury was not privy to. Of note, he said, is that no other victim has come forward, despite Afshar’s consistent and repeated contact with children over approximately 30 years.

Lothstein looked to the people seated in the pews as a testament to Afshar’s professionalism and good character.

“All these 63 people, this is not an illusion. This is not a defense shield against justice,” he said.

Judge Diane M. Nicolosi took note of them too when issuing her decision, saying in her 30-year career she had never seen so many people in a courtroom in support of a defendant. Further, many of them had submitted letters to the court in the days prior to sentencing.

In acknowledging Afshar’s support base, Nicolosi also noted her role as a neutral party in the case, and further explained her obligation to see “the good, the bad, the past, the present, and the future.”

She said while she understands there are many people who dismiss the verdict in Afshar’s case, she has faith in it.

In sentencing Afshar, she noted a number of factors that weighed on her decision, including the nature of the crime, which she called a “one time touching.” She said in her career she has seen far more egregious sexual assault crimes, and while that doesn’t understate what Afshar did, it must be considered.

She also said there was no evidence the crime was premeditated or that Afshar threatened the child.

The victim, now 14, chose not to attend Friday’s sentencing, but a handful of his family members did.

Nicolosi addressed them at the conclusion of her remarks and asked that they pass along a message to the teen.

“I think he’s a brave young man.”

 

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)




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