Former Pembroke Academy student must register as a sex offender after assault convictions
|Published: 11-26-2019 12:16 PM
As part of an amended plea deal, a former Pembroke Academy student convicted Monday of assaulting female classmates must register as a sex offender in New Hampshire for up to 10 years.
However, Griffin Furlotte, 18, could petition the superior court to have his name removed from the public registry five years after his release from jail.
The court clerk served Furlotte with his registration paperwork Monday as roughly 70 people, including former classmates, members of his family, police officers, victims and crisis center advocates, looked on from the courtroom benches. The plea and sentencing hearing drew dozens of people not personally connected to the case to offer their support to the victims who were not informed by the Merrimack County Attorney’s Office about an earlier, more lenient plea offer.
Pembroke Police Chief Dwayne Gilman told the Monitor last week that prosecutors also didn’t consult him on that deal, which he strongly opposed.
The initial plea bargain did not include the sex offender registration requirement. It required Furlotte to plead guilty only to misdemeanor charges, even though all of the initial charges filed against him were for felony-level sexual assault crimes punishable by significant prison time. Furlotte was scheduled to accept the initial deal on Nov. 14, but the hearing was postponed and the offer was revised, in part, to include a felony charge.
Furlotte pleaded guilty Monday to one felony count of nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images, for filming the assault of a 14-year-old girl and then sharing the video on the social media application Snapchat. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of simple assault, for sexual abuse that involved two different victims.
Assistant Merrimack County Attorney Carley Ahern said the Pembroke Police Department and the two victims were in support of the resolution that included the felony conviction. She told Judge Richard McNamara during the hearing that the plea deal would save the victims from the retraumatization that so often accompanies a public and, likely a high-profile, trial.
Furlotte will likely be behind bars until June 2020. He was sentenced Monday to 1½ years in jail, but received credit for 177 days he has already served since his arrest on June 2. He also received a suspended one- to three-year prison sentence and will be on probation for three years following his release. As a condition of his sentence, he is prohibited from having unsupervised contact with children.
During an emotional hearing Monday, Furlotte addressed the court for the first time since his arrest nearly six months ago. He said he was speaking “as a person and not a monster” – a label some had placed on him following his arrest.
“I was verbally abused, assaulted and worse as a direct result of these accusations. These last six months have been painful but they’ve also been an eye-opener,” he read from a statement. “Regardless of what I’ve had to endure, I’m not here to receive pity. I’m here to hold myself accountable for the charges set before you today, that far more accurately portray my actions.”
Furlotte had been accused of violently sexually assaulting three girls, ages 14 to 17, and of attempting to strangle two of them, according to court documents. One girl reported to police that Furlotte had choked her so hard during a rape that she was unable to speak and lost consciousness. A second girl spoke of similar circumstances, reporting that Furlotte had grabbed her by the neck one night before dinner with his parents.
One of the girls later told prosecutors she did not want to move forward with charges. She said at the hearing Monday she felt manipulated and lied to during the investigation, and that some of the allegations brought forward against Furlotte were simply untrue.
Prosecutors dismissed counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, second-degree assault, manufacturing child sexual abuse images and distribution of child sexual abuse images in exchange for Furlotte’s plea to reduced charges.
Ahern said Furlotte has no prior criminal record and that many of the charged crimes were alleged to have occurred when he was 17. She referred to the sex offender registration requirement as a “significant sanction” for someone who could have been charged as a minor.
Both of Furlotte’s parents spoke on his behalf Monday afternoon and told the court that their son is not the person he has been portrayed to be, both in media reports and by strangers who have threatened him on social media.
“Griffin made some inappropriate choices as a teen, but he should not be defined by them,” his mother, Stacy Furlotte, said.
“This situation has significantly humbled him,” she continued.
She also apologized to everyone whose lives have been “so deeply affected” by the case.
One of those people was a victim who wound up speaking on Furlotte’s behalf. She told the court that she did not want prosecutors to pursue charges on her behalf and that her relationship with Furlotte had been misconstrued by everyone, from Pembroke Academy staff to police officers.
“In the months following Griffin’s arrest, I carried so much guilt with me. I couldn’t understand how things had gone from picture-perfect to a nightmare in a matter of days,” she said. “I spent the week leading up to graduation in what can best be described as a catatonic state.”
The girl said she was bullied, threatened and stalked for weeks after Furlotte’s arrest, and that she lived the equivalent of a nightmare.
The two victims whom Furlotte was convicted of assaulting did not address the court Monday but had the prosecutor’s office speak on their behalf. Both girls said they supported the plea deal as presented to the court and genuinely hoped that Furlotte would use his time in jail to better himself.
One of those girls told the Monitor last week that the initial plea offer was “a slap on the wrist.” She said in an interview Thursday that if prosecutors had conferred with her, she would have told them that a felony plea and a sex offender registration requirement were essential elements.
Ultimately, both of those stipulations were incorporated into the final plea deal. However, advocates said Monday that the prosecutor’s office still didn’t confer with the girl directly about her wishes and that they were only known publicly because of a story that ran in Sunday’s Monitor. The prosecutor’s office told the girl’s family about the final deal early Monday, just hours before Furlotte’s plea and sentencing.
The Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire closed for the afternoon so its staff – wearing purple to support survivors – could attend the hearing, said the center’s Executive Director Jen Pierson.
“Victims continue to report that their statutory rights are being violated by the Merrimack County Attorney’s Office,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, director of public affairs for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. “We are glad that this office changed course after trying to offer a secret plea deal without conferring with victims in this case, and hope in the future this office will treat all victims with the dignity and respect they deserve.”(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319 or at email@example.com.)