By DAMIEN FISHER, InDepthNH.org
D.J. Bettencourt, New Hampshire’s Deputy Insurance Commissioner, was arrested Friday on a charge of domestic violence simple assault.
Bettencourt, 38, who was once New Hampshire’s youngest House majority leader, allegedly grabbed his wife during an incident in the early morning hours at the couple’s Salem home, according to court documents.
Bettencourt is also the former policy director for Gov. Chris Sununu, serving Sununu from 2017 to 2021. In 2021 he started at the state Insurance Department, getting paid $108,000 per year.
Sununu said in a statement that people should respect the family’s privacy at this time.
“It’s my understanding D.J. has been placed on administrative leave while we await further details. Shannon (Bettencourt) has publicly asked for privacy for her family at this time and we should respect her wishes,” Sununu said.
Michael Garrity, spokesman for Attorney General John Formella said: “(Bettencourt) has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of the criminal charges.”
Monica Venzke with the New Hampshire Democratic Party, called the allegations appalling.
“This despicable conduct by D.J. Bettencourt is appalling and disturbing, and Sununu has once again surrounded himself with allies who are violent against women,” Venzke said.
Shannon Bettencourt told the Eagle Tribune she still loves her husband:
“This is a deeply personal matter and especially for the benefit of our three young children, please respect our privacy at this time,” Shannon Bettencourt wrote in an email to the paper. “We do hope it’s clear when this process plays out, that it’s not as it may seem, and I support and love my husband.”
Bettencourt’s attorney Tony Sculimbrene said in an email that his client maintains his innocence:
“Mr. Bettencourt entered a plea of not guilty and maintains his innocence. He has been fully cooperative with the process and looks forward to resolving this matter in court. Out of respect for his family and to preserve the integrity of the justice system, Mr. Bettencourt will not be litigating this matter in the media or the court of public opinion.”
According to Salem Police Officer Mark Conway’s affidavit, police were called to the home at 1:45 a.m. Friday when Bettencourt became angry after reading a text on his wife’s phone. He went to the room where she was sleeping yelling about the message. He then assaulted his wife, according to the affidavit.
“Bettencourt grabbed her by both forearms and pulled her out of the bed yelling ‘what the (expletive) is this,’” Conway wrote.
Bettencourt kept yelling and told his wife he was going to break the phone, according to Conway. He then threw the phone into another room.
Shannon Bettencourt told police the couple is in counseling, and the message on the phone was a journal-entry she wrote to herself. D.J. Bettencourt denied grabbing his wife, and he told police she was the one who threw the phone.
“She stated he absolutely grabbed her by both forearms and pulled her out of the bed while yelling at her about the message on the phone,” Conway wrote. “She stated he never put his hands on her before and that is the reason she called police that night.”
Bettencourt was a rising GOP star and right-hand to the conservative former House Speaker Bill O’Brien, both known for a no-holds-barred style. His first stay in politics started in 2004 when he was first elected to the House at age 20 and became the youngest majority leader under O’Brien. His first act in politics ended with a scandal.
According to a Union Leader report: “Bettencourt agreed to resign after he admitted fabricating reports for a law school internship, according to the House Republican who was mentoring him (then-state Rep. Brandon Guida.) Guida said Bettencourt only showed up at his office for one day, ‘where he did approximately one hour of legal work.’ He (Guida) later discovered that Bettencourt had submitted ‘extremely detailed’ reports about that internship, including court hearings he supposedly attended, cases he worked on and interviews with clients.”
Bettencourt had posted photos of himself graduating from the University of New Hampshire law school onto his Facebook page, despite not actually graduating. At the time, Bettencourt told the Union Leader that there was a dispute about the documents Guida said he had falsified, and he hoped to resolve the matter.