Friday, June 26, 2015
By DEAN SHALHOUP
NASHUA – A Superior Court jury took barely an hour Thursday afternoon to acquit Nashua resident Michael Paquin of all four child sex-assault charges stemming from allegations he molested a pre-teen boy.
The jury returned verdicts of not guilty on each of the felony charges, which included two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, one count of “pattern” aggravated felonious sexual assault and one count of second-degree assault.
The alleged victim was 9 and 10 when, according to his and his parents' testimony, Paquin abused him, mostly on or near a couch in Paquin's Raven Street home. Indictments returned against Paquin in June and November 2014 allege the abuse occurred between September and December 2013.
The boy, along with his two younger brothers and their parents, were living in the basement of Paquin's home at the time. Paquin and his wife, Denise, had taken in the family after both parents lost their jobs, their home and two vehicles, and had turned to borrowing and stealing money from relatives to fund a drug habit that controlled their lives.
“We're just happy … very happy to have our lives back,” Michael Paquin said outside the Spring Street courthouse shortly after the jury of 10 women and four men returned the verdicts.
Paquin, surrounded by the more than a dozen relatives who attended most of the trial, said the verdict capped a very difficult 18 months for him as well as most of his extended family.
“It was a horrid year and a half,” Paquin said softly. “So many people were hurt by this … a lot of people got stuff that they didn't deserve.”
While Paquin and those close to him felt they were on a roller coaster of emotions since his arrest in late March 2014, it was the five or so minutes leading up to Thursday's verdict that was probably the most intense, Paquin said.
“I had a hard time standing up,” he said, managing a bit of a smile. His attorney, Roger “Rusty” Chadwick, described a tense, “very emotional” few minutes that melted into a collective sense of relief.
“It was pretty emotional, for me, watching Mike, Diane and their son,” Chadwick said, referring to one of the Paquins' grown children.
Chadwick, who was joined by co-counsel Kristen Weber for the trial, said the jury evidently agreed with his contention that statements by prosecution witnesses – including that of the boy and his parents – were fraught with inconsistencies.
“The fact pattern made no sense,” Chadwick said, referring mostly to the layout and tight quarters of the main floor of the Paquins' house where the abuse is said to have occurred.
Chadwick brought up that very subject in his closing argument about three hours earlier.
“That house – you were there – that's not a place someone would choose” to molest a child, he said to the jury. “That kind of thing happens in the woods, places like that.”
Chadwick also brought up the testimony of the boy's parents, calling their responses inconsistent and wide-ranging.
“Their memories were so specific on some things, and so non-specific on others,” he told the jury. He cited testimony by the boy's mother that she had lost her job in the middle of 2013 but she continued to receive her salary – about $2,200 “take home” pay every other week – through the end of the year.
She nevertheless continued trying to borrow money from relatives, Chadwick said. When one relative refused, the mother then told the relative about the allegations against Paquin.
Assistant County Attorney Cassie Devine, who prosecuted the case, countered Chadwick's assertions that the boy was inconsistent in his testimony.
“He gave you many details,” she told the jury, adding that “this case rests upon the shoulders of a small child who has been through so much already.”
As “pathetic as they were as parents, they never would have put (the victim) up to it,” Devine said, a reference to the defense's theory that the boy's parents concocted the allegations and coached their son on what to say to authorities.
Devine said the boy had no reason to lie, and that when he reported the alleged episodes to his father, “nobody did anything to help him, to get him out of (that situation),” she said.
“Every adult in this case failed (the boy) and his brothers, including their parents,” Devine said.