- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire’s Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a former gunpowder plant owner imprisoned over a deadly 2010 explosion.

Craig Sanborn, 66, of Maidstone, Vermont, was convicted after a 15-day trial in 2013 of two counts of manslaughter and two counts of negligent homicide. He was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison on the manslaughter counts.

The court on Friday rejected challenges to jury selection, evidence, the verdict and sentence.

Sanborn’s lawyer argued the conviction should be overturned because there were many potential causes for the blast, none of which the state proved. Attorney Mark Sisti argued that Sanborn’s convictions hinged on the state’s ability to pinpoint the cause of the blast that killed Donald Kendall, 56, of Colebrook, and Jesse Kennett, 49, of Stratford, at Sanborn’s Black Mag gunpowder plant in Colebrook.

The mid-day blast rattled buildings and sent plumes of black smoke into the air. Dozens of homes were evacuated, and firefighters couldn’t get close to the burning site for several hours because ammunition was exploding.

The state said Sanborn’s instructions to workers to load the grinding machines while they operated created the excessive gunpowder dust cloud that ignited and triggered subsequent explosions of buckets of gunpowder. Experts testified that Sanborn also ignored recommendations that the grinding machines be spaced farther apart and be “bunkered” to insulated them from one another. Prosecutors maintain Sanborn, a master electrician, used substandard wiring and did not provide for remote operation of the grinding machines.

“The state was required to prove, for each charged offense, that the defendant caused the prohibited result - the deaths of the two victims - not that he caused the explosion,” Justice Robert Lynn wrote in the unanimous ruling.

Assistant Attorney General Susan McGinnis argued in June that Sanborn “essentially set up a bomb here.”

The court also rejected Sisti’s argument that sentencing Sanborn on the more serious manslaughter convictions violated constitutional double jeopardy provisions. The justices said if he’d been sentenced on negligent homicide as well as manslaughter Sisti might have a viable claim, but that was not the case.

Sanborn also was convicted in 2014 of wire fraud for submitting $300,000 in false invoices to the town of Brownville, Maine, in connection with a munitions plant he was building there. A federal judge in Bangor, Maine, sentenced him in January to 28 months, which Sanborn will serve after completing his New Hampshire sentence. He was also ordered to pay $300,000 in restitution and $7,600 in fines.

Sisti said Friday he’s disappointed with the outcome of the appeal and is studying the ruling to determine any further avenues of appeal.

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