- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A New Hampshire judge’s intent to reduce the prison sentence he handed down days earlier in a child sex assault case has sparked outrage by prosecutors, police, victim advocates and the victim.

Carroll County Superior Court Judge David Garfunkel on Sept. 26 sentenced Joshua Baud of Wakefield to serve 7 1/2 years on two convictions of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl eight years ago. Four days later, Garfunkel told the prosecutor and defense attorney that he intends to reduce Baud’s sentence to six years at a hearing set for Oct. 7.

“I’m just appalled by it,” the victim’s mother told the Associated Press Friday. “I just think it’s very unfair. I don’t understand why he’s doing it.”

Garfunkel told lawyers Tuesday that the sentence was too harsh, according to prosecutors who were in court. A judicial branch spokeswoman said Garfunkel would not comment on a pending matter. Baud’s lawyer didn’t immediately return a call seeking.

Melissa Couture, executive director of North Conway-based Starting Point, said her agency has reached out to more than 500 constituents asking them to join a silent protest at the courthouse for Tuesday’s hearing.

“When we heard this we were just outraged,” Couture said. “This is a call to action.”

Carroll County Attorney Robin Gordon is objecting, saying the judge doesn’t have the authority to amend the sentence. She says it’s unfair to all involved.

“My concern is the process and what’s happened to the victim and her family,” Gordon said. “They went through a long process to get here and to have to come back and revisit this yet again is really unfair.”

The victim, now 15, testified at two trials. The first ended in a mistrial. Baud was tried again this year and a jury convicted him May 16. The victim and her mother both gave victim impact statements before Baud was sentenced.

“She was very emotional,” said Ossipee Det. Sergeant Robert King, who investigated the case. “This guy was a family friend that was entrusted to babysit and it’s a trust he violated in the utmost way.”

Veteran defense lawyers say Garfunkel likely has the authority to impose a lesser sentence.

“I don’t recall it every happening before,” said defense attorney Michael Ramsdell, a former prosecutor. “But I think he may have jurisdiction to do so. “

Defense attorney David Ruoff, also a former prosecutor, said he had a case in Rockingham County years ago in which the judge imposed a six-month sentence on a female habitual motor vehicle offender, only to bring her back that same afternoon and decrease the sentence to 30 days.

University of New Hampshire School of Law professor Albert “Buzz” Scherr said the reason people are so taken aback by Garfunkel’s move is because it happens so rarely.

“The good news is, the judge is thinking hard about it,” Scherr said. “The bad news is that it creates a lack of certainty and finality in the outcome.”

The victim’s mother, who said she wasn’t satisfied with the original sentence, plans to attend Tuesday’s hearing. She said a prosecutor told her the judge told lawyers this week that he went home after the sentencing and couldn’t sleep at night.

“Really?” the mother said. “My daughter can’t sleep at night either…She’s had a lot of anxiety. She’s got a lot of hurt.”

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