Ex-church leader convicted of sexual assault denied early release

Monitor staff
Friday, November 10, 2017

A former Concord church leader convicted in 2007 of sexually assaulting a child will remain imprisoned for a minimum of five more years after a judge denied his request for early release.

Peter Barton, 61, pleaded guilty in November 2007 to four counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault for molesting an 8-year-old girl whom he knew outside of his affiliation with the New Life Fellowship Church. This December, he will have served 10 years of his 15- to 40-year state prison sentence.

Barton through his attorney, Nicholas Brodich, argued that the remainder of his minimum sentence should be suspended on the condition that he complete the sexual offender treatment program at the prison. Brodich maintained that Barton has been “warehoused for 10 years” without an opportunity to meaningfully address “the underlying cause of his crime.”

However, Assistant Merrimack County Attorney George Waldon objected, saying Barton needs to uphold his end of the agreement. He said what the defense characterized as “dead time” is “well deserved punishment” for a man that caused a young girl “a lifetime of pain.”

“The victim and her family were told that the defendant would serve the full measure of his sentence. To inform her now that he will not serve a sentence that was fully negotiated with her input would be unconscionable,” Waldron said.

Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara agreed with Waldron that a suspension of Barton’s remaining sentence would send the wrong message to both victims of sexual violence and offenders.

“The offense to which the Defendant has pleaded guilty involved extraordinary trauma to an 8-year-old girl,” he wrote. “The State argues, and the Defendant does not dispute, that she had input into the disposition of this case. A substantial reduction in the Defendant’s sentence would reduce public confidence in the criminal justice system. It would be inconsistent with the goals of general deterrence.”

Barton was initially charged New Year’s Day 2007 with two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault against an 8-year-old girl after Barton’s wife walked in on him and the girl, according to a police affidavit. At his arraignment, prosecutors filed additional charges alleging similar conduct, including a pattern of abuse against the same girl.

At the time of his arrest, Barton had a prior conviction for sexual contact.

In 1991, Barton exposed himself to an undercover police officer who was patrolling the James Park rest area on Route 4, according to court records. He also grabbed at the police officer’s pants zipper, prosecutors said previously.

Barton is incarcerated at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility in Berlin. He is eligible for release in late 2021.

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