By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
LANCASTER – A judge delayed former state Sen. Jeff Woodburn’s trial on misdemeanor domestic violence charges Thursday after Senior Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward argued attorney Donna Brown should be disqualified from representing him.
At issue is a photo of Woodburn’s alleged victim, Emily Jacobs, jumping on Woodburn’s car that was filed under protective order, but then filed in a defense motion, which has since been sealed. Ward also made clear there is a new investigation going on relative to the photo.
“There’s an ongoing criminal investigation with respect to the dissemination of the image we discussed,” Ward said.
The hearing in Coos County Superior Court Thursday was supposed to hear motions in the case in preparation for trial July 31. A jury has already been selected.
But Judge Peter Bornstein gave both sides 10 days each to file pleadings relative to disqualifying Brown and more time to file redacted motions as opposed to fully sealed motions.
After both sides brief the disqualification of Brown question, Bornstein said he would schedule a hearing on the matter. No new trial date was set.
Woodburn was a state senator when he was charged last August with nine misdemeanor counts, including two domestic violence and four simple assault charges. Jacobs was then Coos County Democratic Chair and a candidate for county treasurer. Woodburn and Jacobs both lost their election.
Bornstein said he hasn’t decided what motions should be sealed. Reporters from InDepthNH.org, the Berlin Sun and the Caledonian Record filed a joint motion to unseal the documents, but that won’t be heard until the state has time to respond to the joint motion.
Woodburn was clearly disappointed by the delay.
“I just want to tell my side of the story,” Woodburn said.
He said the state was doing all it could to make that not happen, but he declined to comment beyond that.
Brown objected to the motion to disqualify her and said her research showed support for her position that she has no conflict of interest. She also said Woodburn wasn’t relinquishing his right to a fair trial.
Ward said only four people could have disseminated the photo – the state, the alleged victim, Brown or Woodburn. And he said it wasn’t the first two.
Ward said filing the motion to remove Brown was necessary to protect the integrity of any conviction on appeal. After the hearing he said he didn’t know if there were other cases in which the state tried to remove the defendant’s lawyer.
“The state didn’t raise this issue lightly,” Ward said. “We are duty bound to raise this.”