Update: N.H. state rep. with history of domestic violence charges resigns, won’t seek re-election

  • Robert Forsythe, a state representative in District 8, campaigns at the Boscawen Transfer Station in 2014. Monitor file

  • Robert Forsythe, a candidate for a state representative in District 8, waves to a resident at the Boscawen Transfer Station on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014. JULIE BYRD-JENKINS

Published: 8/27/2020 12:42:24 PM

State Rep. Robert Forsythe, facing calls to step down after domestic violence charges against him became widely known, has resigned from the New Hampshire House and won’t seek re-election, he said Thursday.

The Boscawen Republican has been charged with one felony count of second-degree assault and two misdemeanor counts of domestic violence after allegedly choking a pregnant intimate partner and kneeing her in the back on June 28, the Monitor reported Wednesday. That report prompted a swift call for Forsythe’s resignation by Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, and State House Democrats.

A review of court records revealed an extensive history of domestic assault allegations filed by multiple women against Forsythe. Further, records show, the victim of the reported assault in June had previously obtained a restraining order against the representative two months before, and that Forsythe had earlier violated another restraining order involving a different victim.

In a phone call Thursday morning, Forsythe, 38, said he had chosen to step down after consulting with fellow representatives and Rep. Dick Hinch, the House Republican Leader.

“The governor asked for my resignation obviously. He made a public statement about it. I’ve consulted other representatives and the caucus leader. All of them mentioned that that that would be the most prudent choice,” he said.

“I haven’t been pressured,” he added. “They left the decision up to me. I agree that that is the best option, not only for the district but for the state.”

Hinch confirmed the resignation in his own statement Thursday afternoon.

“I spoke with Rep. Forsythe this morning and encouraged him to resign from the House, which he has now done,” Hinch stated. “He faces very serious charges that he will need to answer to in a court of law. Domestic violence and assault are unacceptable and wrong and have no place in our society.”

Forsythe said he will fight the criminal charges against him.

“The felony charges – that’s not going to hold up in court,” he said. “Most of what was said, especially by the police officer were lies. Either he misheard something or he’s intentionally being misleading.”

Boscawen police allege that Forsythe was intoxicated when he showed up at the victim’s residence on June 28 with a knife in his waistband to intimidate her, according to an affidavit filed in Merrimack County Superior Court. The woman reported that she was talking with Forsythe about her pregnancy, noting that the baby could be his, when she and Forsythe began to “fool around,” the affidavit says. She said out of nowhere he “freaked out” and attempted to strangle her.

In April, the woman sought a restraining order against Forsythe after he repeatedly harassed her and members of her family, according to court documents. She wrote in her petition that Forsythe was angry she broke up with him and by her request to stop all forms of communication.

“I am afraid he may become so upset that he could hurt me, my children or my family,” she told the court on April 15.

A judge found that Forsythe had committed harassment and posed a credible threat to the woman’s safety. The woman’s request for a final protective order was granted on May 5. Under the order, Forsythe was prohibited from being within 300 feet of the woman and needed to relinquish all firearms. The order would have remained in effect until May 2021; however, the woman filed a motion with the court on June 15 to vacate the order, and a judge granted that request the same day, court records show.

Two weeks later, Boscawen police say Forsythe showed up intoxicated at the woman’s house and committed felony-level assault. Within 48 hours of the June 28 incident, the woman returned to the Franklin courthouse to file another request for a protective order against Forsythe.

This time, the woman recounted for the court what happened in those early-morning hours in Boscawen. 

“Robert came to my house with a large knife. He told me he could do more harm to someone with his hands and put his hand around my neck, using slight pressure,” she wrote. “He forcefully grabbed my arm and kneed me in the back. He yelled at me, calling me a whore and a slut and damaged my house.”

She told the court that this wasn’t the first time he had threatened her and that she feared for her life.

A judge granted the woman a temporary order of protection the same day she filed her petition. Again, Forsythe was ordered to relinquish all deadly weapons and to have no contact with the woman.

A final protective order hearing was scheduled for July 17 in Franklin. Because the woman did not show for the hearing, the judge dismissed the case. The court mailed her a notice that day of her right to appeal the decision and the case was closed.

This summer marks the first time that Forsythe has faced a felony-level charge in New Hampshire. However, his history in the state court system is extensive, dating back to 2014.

Court records show that Forsythe has faced prior charges of domestic violence, stalking and assault, and that he previously violated a protective order on more than one occasion between December 2018 and March 2019. The violations involved a different victim who also told the court that she had broken up with Forsythe but that he continued to harass her with phone calls and texts.

In her petition for a protective order that December, which was ultimately granted, the woman wrote that Forsythe had sent nude photos of her over social media to a man she’d met for coffee, and threatened to send other sexually explicit material if she continued to date.

“I talked to him on the phone briefly to ask him to stop and he said, ‘I’ll kill any mother (expletive) that I need to to get you back,’ ” the woman wrote.

A few months after the breakup, she agreed to a date with a man she met online, but her date turned out to be Forsythe, according to an affidavit prepared by Concord police. Even after she canceled the date, text messages show Forsythe didn’t give up and continued to proposition her for sex.

Forsythe received suspended jail time for the protective order violations and was ordered to remain of good behavior. 

Forsythe, a strong advocate of Second Amendment rights and supporter of open-carry laws, was running unopposed in the Republican primary. He said Thursday he had consulted with the Merrimack County Republican Party but that no Republican replacement candidate had yet been identified.

This past legislative session, Forsythe introduced a bill aimed at legalizing violations of a restraining order if the victim initiated the contact. Under the bill, a defendant would be excused from criminal liability if it could be proven that the plaintiff requested or initiated making contact. The bill was ultimately voted “inexpedient to legislate.” Advocates said at the time that the bill would have weakened the power of protective orders and had dangerous implications for victims.

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