Domestic assault charges overturned following former state senator’s appeal

Monitor staff
Published: 3/23/2023 3:42:19 PM

The New Hampshire Supreme Court overturned criminal convictions Thursday of former State Senator Jeffrey Woodburn who was charged with domestic assault-related crimes in 2018 after a series of disputes with his then-girlfriend.

Woodburn, now 57, filed an appeal with the court to overturn the misdemeanor charges of domestic violence, criminal mischief and simple assault in 2021. He argued that the trial judge was wrong to refuse to instruct the jury on the issue of self-defense and disallow evidence of the woman’s alleged prior acts of aggression toward him, according to the Supreme Court findings released Thursday.

The Supreme Court concluded that the court did fail to provide appropriate instruction to the jury and reversed the convictions of domestic violence and simple assault but affirmed the two counts of criminal mischief and remanded the case for a new trial.

“As I said from the beginning more than four years ago, that this process would and will continue to reveal the truth, underlying politics, and injustice,” Woodburn, who represented himself during his appeal, said in a statement. “I know what happened in this relationship, my mistakes and that I defended myself and never abused anyone.”

The simple assault charges stemmed from an incident in December 2017 when Woodburn and his then-girlfriend got into an argument while driving. She pulled over on the side of the road and when Woodburn attempted to vacate the vehicle and call a friend for a ride, she reached for his phone and a tug of war ensued. Woodburn bit her on the hand to release the phone.

The original domestic assault-related charges claimed that over the course of a year, Woodburn repeatedly abused the woman to include biting, hitting, throwing objects at her and breaking into her home.

In his appeal, Woodburn argued that evidence was suppressed from the jury that showed many prior occasions when the complainant attempted to block or restrain him from leaving during a conflict. Woodburn pleaded not guilty and argued that the woman and a friend conspired to develop a list of incidents he allegedly committed as a plot to scare him and prevent him from leaving her, which the prosecution argued was false, according to the Associated Press.

“It’s disappointing that these convictions were overturned by the Supreme Court on a legal technicality; however, other convictions in this case still stand and Mr. Woodburn will be going to jail for his crimes,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, director of public affairs of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence in a public statement. “This decision should not in any way discourage victims of domestic violence from coming forward and reporting abuse.”

After his arrest, Woodburn, who served three terms in the Senate, lost reelection in 2018 to Republican David Starr of Franconia.

A date for a new trial has not been released and Woodburn remains released on bail.

Editor’s note: Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Jamie Costa

Jamie Costa joined the Monitor in September 2022 as the city reporter covering all things Concord, from crime and law enforcement to City Council and county budgeting. She graduated from Roger Williams University (RWU) in 2018 with a dual degree in journalism and Spanish. While at RWU, Costa covered the 2016 presidential election and studied abroad in both Chile and the Dominican Republic where she reported on social justice and reported on local campus news for the university newspaper, The Hawks' Herald. Her work has also appeared in The *Enterprise *papers and the *Cortland Standard *and surrounding Central New York publications. Costa was born and raised on Cape Cod and has a love for all things outdoors, especially with her dog.

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