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Judge temporarily delays jail sentence for former state Sen. Woodburn, as new trial is scheduled

Josh Rogers
/
NHPR
Former state Sen. Jeff Woodburn (left) is seen in the New Hampshire State House in a file photo.

A Superior Court judge in Coos County is giving former state Sen. Jeffrey Woodburn’s new legal team another six weeks to file an appeal of his conviction on criminal mischief charges over the state’s objection that he should begin serving his 30-day jail sentence immediately.

In 2017, Woodburn, who was at the time one of the North Country’s most notable – and powerful – political figures, was in an altercation with his then-partner during which he allegedly bit her hand. Woodburn was ultimately found guilty of domestic violence simple assault charges, as well as criminal mischief charges related to separate incidents in which he kicked the door to a clothes dryer and door to the victim’s house.

Woodburn, a Democrat, refused to step down from the state Senate at the time, where he served as the Democratic leader; he later lost his bid for re-election.

In March, the New Hampshire Supreme Court overturned the domestic violence conviction, ruling that the trial court judge improperly instructed jurors to not consider Woodburn’s claims of self-defense. Woodburn did not directly appeal the criminal mischief convictions, which carried a 30-day sentence.

During a hearing Tuesday morning, attorney Mark Sisti, who is now representing Woodburn, told the court he now plans to file a motion seeking a new trial on the criminal mischief charges, citing previous ineffective counsel. He also told the court he believes the slate of charges against his client, which also included simple assault allegations, should have been originally handled during two separate trials.

Prosecutors on Tuesday argued that Woodburn should begin immediately serving his sentence.

“I don’t think there’s any basis to delay that,” Josh Speicher, assistant attorney general, said. “I don’t think there’s any procedural or legal basis not to impose that sentence today.”

But Sisti told the court that he is still getting familiar with the case, and needs more time to file an appeal challenging the effectiveness of Woodburn’s previous legal representation.

He also told the court that should Woodburn serve any jail time, it should be imposed following the resolution of the retrial on the domestic violence charges, which was scheduled for next March.

“He shouldn’t be in a situation where he is doing incarceration on the installment plan,” Sisti told the court.

Superior Court Judge Peter Bornstein ordered that Sisti file his motions related to appealing the criminal mischief verdicts by July 14. He also scheduled a three-day retrial on the domestic violence charges for next March.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
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