convicted of sexual assault without church testimony
Associated Press Newswires
NASHUA, N.H. (AP) - A Hollis man has been convicted of molesting twin
sisters although his apparent admission to church elders could not be
used in the trial.
A jury deliberated two hours Tuesday before convicting Gregory Blackstock,
45, in Hillsborough County Superior Court of three counts of rape. He
already was serving a five- to 10-year sentence for sexually assaulting
a 9-year-old East Kingston girl in that town.
Blackstock's lawyers have moved to have the latest verdict set aside.
No date has been set for a hearing on the motion or sentencing.
"We're fairly confident that the verdict will be set aside," defense
lawyer Paul Garrity said. "The evidence was insufficient to support
the verdict. "I think the judge will take a close look at it." Assistant
County Attorney Roger Chadwick said prosecutors believed the
evidence supported the charges. "Obviously, we're very satisfied," Chadwick
said. He said it was "a tremendous relief for me given the work that
went into the case to see the jurors believe these girls, who were so
courageous to get up and testify."
The girls, now 10, testified in open court. More charges are pending
against Blackstock in an unrelated case. He was accused of sexually
assaulting a Hollis girl, who is now in her teens, between 1989 and
1996. A trial has been scheduled in October.
Judge William Groff ruled that Blackstock can't be sentenced under the
state's "three strike's" law although he was convicted of three counts
of rape. However, he could face an enhanced minimum sentence of 15 years
for each charge because of his earlier conviction in Rockingham County.
Earlier, Groff found that elders in Blackstock's Jehovah's Witness congregation
could not be made to testify about Blackstock's statements to them.
He cited the "religious privilege" rule, which holds that religious
leaders can't be required to disclose a confession or other statements
made in confidence in their capacity as spiritual advisers. Prosecutors
wanted to subpoena a minister and elders from Blackstock's congregation
to testify about meetings at which they discussed the allegations.
Blackstock became acquainted with the girls' families while living in
East Kingston and attending a Jehovah's Witness church there. He worked
with the parents, and lived with the family for a period of time, Chadwick
said during the trial.
The sisters' mother contacted her church elders after one of the girls
disclosed the abuse, Chadwick said. One of the elders then contacted
elders in the Hollis congregation. Blackstock was accused of molesting
the twins between October 1998 and June
1999 at his mother's home in Hollis. The defense argued the girls' mother
inadvertently misled them into making up the abuse charges by repeatedly
questioning them and sharing with them her experience of sexual abuse.
The mother spoke to the girls in general terms when she began to have
concerns about Blackstock's relationship with them, Chadwick said. When
she read them a children's story about sexual abuse - "No-No the Little
Seal" - the girls confided to her about the abuse, Chadwick said. "She
did what any mother would do," Chadwick said, adding later, "I'm glad
the jury found that acceptable."