Judge dismisses voter fraud case against Sunapee resident

Monitor staff
Monday, August 28, 2017

A judge has tossed out the voter fraud case against a Sunapee man alleged to have altered an email just prior to the March 2016 school board elections which ended in a victory for his wife.

Judge Gregory Michael ruled that prosecutors had filed three new misdemeanor charges against Joseph Furlong, 40, after the one-year statute of limitations had expired. Furlong had initially faced six other misdemeanor charges in Newport’s district court; however, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office dropped those charges July 11, months after new evidence surfaced.

The defense filed a motion July 17 to dismiss the case in its entirety, arguing the three replacement charges alleged an entirely different set of circumstances. The state had previously alleged Furlong had altered the email sent by a school board candidate just before the election. Conversely, the newer charges accused Furlong of working in partnership with Adam Gaw, a Manchester resident.

Prosecutors had believed Gaw was a figment of Furlong’s imagination, and that he was created to “divert responsibility for the alleged conduct,” Furlong’s attorney, Jim Rosenberg, said in the motion to dismiss. However, Gaw ultimately came forward to police and took responsibility for sending the email in question, according to court documents.

The statute of limitations does not “run during any time when a prosecution is pending against the accused in this state based on the same conduct," Michael wrote in his Aug. 22 order. That wasn’t the case here, he explained.

The attorney general’s office can appeal the lower court’s ruling.

Gaw faces three counts of forgery and two counts of false documents. That case is still pending in Newport.

Furlong and Gaw were arrested and charged in February with misdemeanor counts of forgery, and false documents, names or endorsements. 

Police said the email from school board candidate Janice Bettencourt to a friend was altered before being sent out. It referenced another candidate, questioning her integrity and motives, and asking if the election was a “popularity contest” for her.

Bettencourt’s husband made the initial report to law enforcement about the altered email on March 5. He alleged that the revised correspondence was designed to make his wife and another candidate look bad to sway voters’ opinions before they headed to the polls.

Furlong’s wife, Heather, won the election by a significant margin. She was not charged, but resigned from her position on the school board soon after her husband’s arrest.