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Woodburn diary cites ‘explosive moments’ at heart of domestic violence case

  • This photo provided by the Concord Police Department shows New Hampshire state Sen. Jeff Woodburn. Woodburn, the Senate's minority leader, faces charges including simple assault, domestic violence and criminal mischief stemming from the encounters that took place both last year and this year. Woodburn is accused of hitting and biting a woman and kicking in the door of her house. (Concord Police Department via AP)



Monitor staff
Wednesday, October 03, 2018

A diary kept by state Sen. Jeff Woodburn backs up key details at the heart of a string of domestic abuse charges filed by the attorney general’s office, an investigator wrote in an affidavit unveiled Tuesday.

In diary entries spanning back a year, Woodburn detailed two out of four events at the center of the charges against him, according to the affidavit. The state senator, a from Whitefield, was arrested Aug. 2 and charged with nine counts including domestic violence.

On Aug. 12, 2017, Woodburn recalled losing his temper after an argument two days earlier, according to the affidavit.

“I responded by kicking the door off the dryer, we have not communicated since that night, I feel bad about the whole thing,” he wrote.

The following Christmas Eve, Woodburn added, the arguments continued, and the anger followed. “I’ve had a few explosive moments with (redacted) ... it’s becoming regular and it scares me,” a Dec. 25 entry stated.

On Dec. 24, “I became enraged and kicked the door in busting up the framing around the door,” Woodburn wrote.

In that entry and others, he expressed regret. “Mind is sad and focused on my failure to control my anger,” he wrote on Dec. 25.

The entries were obtained by the victim and handed over to the attorney general’s office, the affidavit stated. The public version of the arrest affidavit, unveiled in a petition by the Berlin Daily Sun, redacts all references to the victim’s name and identifying details.

“It’s so embarrassing, upsetting,” Woodburn wrote Dec. 25. “It just keeps repeating itself in my brain ... 52 years old I need to grow up! I risk so much and hurt people who I should be loving.”

Woodburn, a three-term senator representing the North Country in District 1, is planning to fight the charges at a trial set for December. He stepped down from his position as Senate Minority Leader in August but declined to resign, despite widespread calls by top Democratic officials and Senate colleagues to do so.

As he prepares to battle the charges, he’s also fighting for his political future. Last month, he won his party primary, overcoming a last-minute write-in challenge from Kathleen Kelley, who stepped forward after his arrest.

Woodburn declined to comment directly on the affidavit Tuesday, referring queries to his attorney, Donna Brown. In a phone call, Brown declined to address details in the affidavit, urging the public to wait for the full facts to emerge.

“I reiterate what the judge said in the order releasing the affidavit, which is that Jeff Woodburn is presumed innocent and everybody should presume that he’s innoncent,” she said. “His case should not be tried in the court of public opinion but should be tried at his trial.”

Prosecutors say the abuse toward Woodburn’s partner began in August 2017. They had been in a relationship since 2015.

The investigation began July 25, with an interview involving deputy chief investigator Todd Flanagan, the victim’s attorney, and Senior Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward.

Speaking to investigators, the victim described an “up-and-down relationship,” and characterized Woodburn as “controlling.”

The alleged abuse began months earlier. In August 2017, Woodburn threw a plastic cup of water at the victim’s face, resulting in no injuries, and then kicked her dryer “with such force that the door was broken away,” the affidavit said.

On Dec. 15, shortly after a Coos County Democrat Christmas party hosted in Lancaster, the two had a heated argument on the drive home. Woodburn wanted to leave the car; the victim did not want him to. As she reached for her phone, Woodburn bit her on the wrist, injuring it and make it difficult for her to use her hand, she told investigators.

According to Flanagan, cellphone photos the victim took at the time showed “fairly significant bruising to the left palm and wrist.”

On Christmas Eve, the victim was wrapping presents at her home and entered into another argument with Woodburn, who struck her in the stomach with his hand. “You just punched me in the stomach,” she recalled telling Woodburn to investigators. “Oh did I hurt you ... I’m sorry,” he mockingly replied, according to the victim.

Woodburn left the home and then attempted to re-enter through a locked door, the affidavit continued. The victim did not let him in; he began banging on the door. Eventually, he kicked in the door, breaking off some of the molding and splintering it, the victim told investigators.

This past June, the two were in another altercation in a car, coming home from another party, according to the affidavit. They were driving to the victim’s residence late into the night, leaving a birthday party for Woodburn at which he had been drinking, she told investigators. The victim chose to leave the party early, which prompted an argument, the victim said.

At one point Woodburn, a passenger, reached over to grab the steering wheel and bit her on the arm “as she struggled to maintain control of the car,” the affidavit states. The victim pulled the car over until Woodburn calmed down. Photos taken at the time and shown to investigators included “three small puncture wounds” and “did appear to be consistent with a bite mark,” Flanagan wrote in the affidavit.

The attorney general’s office has brought four charges of simple assault, two of domestic violence, two of criminal mischief and one of criminal trespass. All charges are Class A misdemeanors, each punishable with up to 12 months in jail and a $2,000 fine.

For his part, Woodburn intends to argue he acted in self defense. In court documents filed Thursday, Woodburn says any force he used against the woman was necessary in order to leave a volatile situation she created. Woodburn says the woman repeatedly tried to block and restrain him, including brandishing a knife.

And Woodburn has also sought to raise questions around the victim’s conduct; a motion for discovery released to reporters by his attorney last week includes an allegation that the victim recorded Woodburn without his knowledge, which would itself be a misdemeanor.

That motion, which has since been under seal, also included a “proffer” letter allowing the victim to discuss her allegations with the attorney general’s office as long as her statements would not be used against her, according to an article in InDepth NH.

In declining to comment, Woodburn referred a reporter to that article. Brown, his attorney, declined to comment on the motions.

A trial date has been set for Dec. 17 in Lancaster.