Judge calls ex-Dunbarton selectman a ‘dangerous, manipulative predator’

  • Merton Mann is led away after closing arguments at his trial on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at Superior Court in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Merton Mann after closing arguments at his trial on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at Superior Court in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Merton Mann listens to closing arguments at Merrimack County Superior Court in May GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

  • Merton Mann

Monitor staff
Published: 7/22/2019 5:06:06 PM

No amount of time in prison will reduce the threat that convicted sex offender Merton Mann poses to society, a Merrimack County judge said Monday.

“I can’t think of a better example of someone who needs to be isolated from society – and permanently isolated from society,” Judge John Kissinger Jr. said during Mann’s sentencing on 21 sexual abuse-related charges.

“Mr. Mann could be 100 years old and could still represent a threat,” Kissinger continued. “He is a dangerous, manipulative predator.”

Kissinger delivered his remarks from the bench Monday before sentencing Mann, now 75, to 20-40 years in prison for molesting two children when they were 5 years old and for sending nude photos to a 15-year-old as recently as last year. Mann also faces an additional 10 to 20 years of incarceration if he violates the conditions of his sentence to include a no-contact order prohibiting communication with the victims. He must register as a sex offender for life.

In late May, a jury convicted Mann, a former Dunbarton selectman, of nine counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and seven counts of felonious sexual assault. He was sentenced on those 16 charges Monday, in addition to five counts of indecent exposure, which he pleaded guilty to at the start of the hearing in Merrimack County Superior Court.

Assistant Merrimack County Attorney Joe Cherniske called Monday “a day for justice” for the three victims whose lives were forever changed by “a sexual predator.”

What began as a typical day of kindergarten for two of the boys on April 4, 2007, ended with one of their mothers calling Dunbarton police to report that Mann – who then held the elected position of selectman – had molested her child in the town. The investigation continued on and off for nearly 11 years until 2018, when both boys disclosed for the first time the full extent of the abuse to a forensic interviewer at the Merrimack County Advocacy Center in Concord.

Jurors found that Mann began abusing one of the boys before that April, including on car rides between Dunbarton and Hooksett. Prosecutors said during the trial that Mann tried to normalize the sexual abuse, first by showing the boy a pornographic film and then “replicating” the acts in it.

Mann repeatedly told the 5-year-old to never speak of what they were doing, the now-teenager testified.

Cherniske said Monday that Mann used the boys “for his own twisted gratification.”

“He hurt them and he manipulated them,” Cherniske continued.

The victims did not provide statements Monday; however, one of the boy’s mothers spoke on the family’s behalf and the parents of the 15-year-old submitted a written statement that was read aloud.

The mother of a now-teenager assaulted by Mann in 2007 said no sentence will ever be enough to fully articulate what Mann stole from her son.

“He fought and fought to be normal – and to just feel okay,” she said as her son looked on from the front row. “He will never be without this burden.”

She said the best her son can do today is manage the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. He has battled insomnia and depression and is anxious in the presence of older men, she noted.

As prosecutors called for what amounts to a life-sentence for Mann, defense attorneys asked the judge to consider a 10-year maximum sentence.

“We must consider what he’s been convicted of in the context of what other people do in society,” public defender Catherine Flinchbaugh said.

She noted that trial testimony did not include evidence of physical injuries, torture or unlawful restraint and explained that the abuse did not continue over a period of years or more.

“I understand that the focus of this hearing thus far has been on the three victims, but Merton is a human being and he is deserving of a sentence that recognizes that fact,” Flinchbaugh said, noting that rehabilitation is a key component of sentencing.

Conversely, rehabilitation was not the focus of county prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation.

“What type of treatment and rehabilitation could possibly be enough for your honor to feel that the public is safe?” Cherniske said to Kissinger, noting that Mann was 75 years old in 2018 and yet still texting a 15-year-old boy for sexual gratification. “No amount of rehabilitation will make the defendant safe.”

Kissinger ultimately agreed with prosecutors, calling Mann’s conduct “outrageous.”

“He is bright, capable and had standing in the community, and he abused his position in the community to manipulate these victims to his own selfless ends,” Kissinger said.

Mann chose not to address the court on Monday. Flinchbaugh said during the hearing that Mann maintains his innocence on the 16 felony sexual assault charges.

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