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Second Man Pleads to NHPR Vandalism

It’s just the beginning for the prosecution as a Seabrook man pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy to harass New Hampshire Public Radio, becoming the second suspect to change pleas, according to court records.

The case is seemingly connected to reporting NHPR did on sexual assault allegations involving former Granite Recovery Center CEO Eric Spofford. Lead NHPR reporter Lauren Chooljian and NHPR News Director Dan Barrick were among the victims of the vandalism.

Michael Waselchuck, 36, of Seabrook, agreed to plead to federal charges last week for conspiracy to commit stalking through interstate travel and the use of a facility of interstate commerce. His co-conspirator, Tucker Cockerline, 32, of Salem, pleaded guilty to identical charges in December.

That leaves pending cases against two suspects in the conspiracy: Keenan Saniatan, 36, of Nashua, and the alleged organizer, Eric Labarge, 46, of Nashua.

Labarge is the long-time associate of Spofford’s who allegedly initiated the vandalism and harassment plans after NHPR’s stories about Spofford were first published. Spofford has denied any connection to the vandalism, just as he’s denied the sexual assault allegations. 

All four men are being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts. According to prosecutors, Labarge solicited Cockerline to vandalize one of the victim’s former homes in Hanover in April 2022. Cockerline allegedly spray-painted the word “C*NT” in large red letters on the front door and allegedly threw a brick through an exterior window of the home.

Later in that same month, Saniatan allegedly agreed to vandalize another victim’s home in Concord and the home of the first victim’s parents in Hampstead. Saniatan allegedly spray-painted the same offensive word in large red letters on the front door and threw a large rock at the exterior of the Concord home. Saniatan allegedly threw a softball-sized rock through a front exterior window of the first victim’s parents’ home and once again spray-painted the profanity in large red letters, this time on a garage door.

In May 2022, Labarge allegedly solicited Cockerline to vandalize the parent’s home in Hampstead again, as well as the first victim’s home in Melrose, Mass. Cockerline, in turn, allegedly recruited Waselchuck. Cockerline allegedly spraypainted the word “C*NT” in large red letters on one of the garage doors of the Hampstead home and left a brick on the ground near the front door. Several hours later, Waselchuck allegedly threw a brick through an exterior window of the Melrose home and painted the phrase “JUST THE BEGINNING” in large red letters on the front of the house.

Spofford is not charged with any alleged role in the vandalism. His adamant denial of Chooljian’s reporting on the sexual assault allegations resulted in a doomed defamation lawsuit. Last month, Rockingham Superior Court Judge Daniel St. Hilaire finally dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, meaning Spofford cannot file a new complaint in the matter. 

NHPR Must Turn Over Spofford Notes Despite Vandalism Case

Even if Eric Spofford is charged as part of the vandalism conspiracy targeting New Hampshire Public Radio reporter Lauren Chooljian, he still has the right to sue the broadcaster for defamation, according to Rockingham Superior Court Judge Daniel St. Hilaire. 

This week’s ruling was a setback for NHPR, which sought to head off Spofford’s attempt to revive the defamation lawsuit. Spofford maintains NHPR and Chooljian were reckless in reporting allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual assault against him.

The public broadcaster argued Spofford’s connection to Eric Labarge and the alleged criminal conspiracy showed his bad faith in the lawsuit. They wanted the court to end his quest to see Chooljian’s work product.

Spofford’s associate, Labarge, 46, was charged this month for allegedly conspiring to vandalize the homes of Chooljian, NHPR journalist Dan Barrick, and their families. Larbarge allegedly coordinated the vandalism with co-defendants Tucker Cockerline, 32, of Salem; Michael Waselchuck, 35, of Seabrook; and Keenan Saniatan, 36, of Nashua.

Labarge, himself the owner of several recovery centers, is described by prosecutors as Spofford’s “close personal associate.”

St. Hilaire denied NHPR’s request to prevent Spofford from accessing Chooljian’s notes and interview transcripts for her story. For St. Hilaire, it was about the presumption of innocence.

“Even if charges were brought against Spofford directly, the Court is not convinced that would warrant reconsideration of the balance of interest in this case given the presumption of innocence at the core of our criminal justice system,” St. Hilaire wrote.

Spofford is not accused of taking part in the vandalism conspiracy himself. According to St. Hilaire, the available documents from the federal case don’t show he was even aware of the vandalism conspiracy.

St. Hilaire dismissed Spofford’s lawsuit this year, finding he had not provided the evidence in his 300-plus page complaint to back his claims. However, Spofford is being allowed to refile the complaint. For that, Spofford said he needs to see Chooljian’s notes and interview transcripts to find the evidence St. Hilaire found lacking the first time.

With the defamation case still open for now, NHPR has been broadcasting a new series by Chooljian, “The 13th Step.” The program focuses on her story of reporting on Spofford, the vandalism, and the lawsuit. It also looks at cases of sexual predators in recovery settings in other states.

Spofford has denied all wrongdoing alleged in Chooljian’s reporting. His lawsuit claimed Chooljian based her reporting on a biased source who was looking to hurt his reputation, ignored sources who contradicted the abuse narrative, and reported as fact things that never happened. 

According to Spofford’s lawsuit, Chooljian was looking for a #metoo scalp to bolster her resume, and she and the liberal-leaning NHPR targeted him because of his conservative views.

Spofford came to prominence as a recovery success story. He was an addict who got clean and started Granite Recover Centers to help others. His business grew as New Hampshire grappled with its opioid addiction crisis, and he became a leading voice on recovery initiatives. Spofford even counseled Gov. Chris Sununu on dealing with the opioid crisis.

Spofford sold Granite Recovery Centers for an undisclosed sum, thought to be in the millions, to a Texas-based company in 2021.

NHPR: Spofford Defamation Lawsuit About Retaliation

Now that federal prosecutors say former Granite Recovery CEO Eric Spofford is connected to the men who vandalized the homes of New Hampshire Public Radio journalists, the broadcaster wants to shut down his access to reporting notes and recordings.

“NHPR believes that this lawsuit was filed, not because Spofford’s claims have any conceivable merit, but instead to harass and retaliate against a news organization for its journalism,” wrote Sigmund Schutz, attorney for NHPR.

Spofford is trying to revive his lawsuit against NHPR for its reporting on allegations that he sexually harassed and assaulted women he encountered at the drug recovery centers. One of his arguments in the original 300-plus page lawsuit is that NHPR unfairly linked him to the vandalism at the journalists’ homes connected to the story.

However, federal prosecutors said last month Spofford has a connection to the three men charged for allegedly throwing bricks at and vandalizing the New Hampshire and Massachusetts homes of NHPR journalists Lauren Chooljian and Dan Barrick.

Tucker Cockerline, 32, of Salem, N.H., Michael Waselchuck, 35, of Seabrook, N.H., Hampshire, and Keenan Saniatan, 36, of Nashua, N.H., are each charged with conspiring to commit stalking through interstate travel. According to prosecutors, the three suspects coordinated with an unnamed fourth man described as a “close personal associate” of Spofford.

“Given that Spofford has been linked to criminal activity designed to punish NHPR personnel for exercising their First Amendment rights, NHPR Defendants submit that the time for giving him the benefit of the doubt has passed,” Schutz wrote.

Spofford’s lawsuit was dismissed this year by Rockingham Superior Court Judge Daniel St. Hilaire, who ruled Spofford failed to show any evidence the broadcaster acted with malice in its reporting. St. Hilaire gave Spofford time to refile his lawsuit if he could come up with such evidence and further ordered that he can have access to NHPR’s reporting notes and recordings. 

Schutz wants St. Hilaire to vacate the order for the discovery, cutting off Spofford’s access to the material. Short of that, Schutz wants Spofford to pay all the costs associated with compiling the information. That is at least $50,000, including attorney fees.

Spofford’s attorney, Michael Strauss, argues his client is not charged with any wrongdoing in the vandalism, and the federal case does not state he coordinated the crimes. His only demerit is having a relationship with the unnamed and uncharged subject who allegedly coordinated the vandalism.

“The government, however, has neither charged Eric nor even alleged that he knew about or participated in the conspiracy,” Strauss wrote. “The allegations about Eric instead are limited to his relationship with an uncharged subject who, separately, the government alleges has suspiciously timed phone calls with two of the (criminal) defendants,” Strauss wrote. 

Taking away Spofford’s access to the NHPR reporting materials would set a bad legal precedent in civil lawsuits, Strauss wrote. Civil litigants would be emboldened to pursue sanctions against opposing parties based on third-party allegations, Strauss wrote.

The identity of the unnamed subject and Spofford associate who allegedly coordinated the attacks remains protected from the public. However, NHJournal first reported in March that Spofford associate Eric Labarge, 44, was investigated as a suspect in at least one of the New Hampshire incidents. 

Labarge is himself a recovering addict and the owner of the Starting Point Recovery centers.

Labarge has not been charged by any law enforcement agency in the vandalism cases. He has a criminal history that includes violence against women and attempted murder. He is also currently awaiting trial on charges of assaulting a man in Manchester. That assault took place days after the last vandalism attack in May, and the alleged victim was a man who had been a resident at a Starting Point center, according to court records. 

Previously, Spofford has acknowledged his relationship with Labarge.

Labarge is now scheduled for trial in September in the Hillsborough Superior Court — North in Manchester on the assault charge.

Vandalism Suspect Tied to Spofford Remains Cloaked

With three men charged for vandalizing the homes of NHPR journalists in Massachusetts, the alleged link to former Granite Recovery Center CEO Eric Spofford is being hidden by authorities.

But NH Journal readers already know the identity of at least one close Spofford associate investigated as a potential suspect, Hollis resident and recovery center owner Eric Labarge.

Federal prosecutors aren’t yet naming the fourth man tied to the vandalism, though prosecutors claim someone in Spofford’s circle coordinated with the three vandals.

Last week, Tucker Cockerline, 32, of Salem, N.H., Michael Waselchuck, 35, of Seabrook, N.H., and Keenan Saniatan, 36, of Nashua, N.H., were each charged in the United States District Court in Boston with conspiring to commit stalking through interstate travel for allegedly vandalizing the New Hampshire and Massachusetts homes of NHPR reporter Lauren Chooljian and her family, according to prosecutors.

Chooljian, NHPR News Director Dan Barrick, and others had their homes vandalized last year, about a month after Chooljian’s explosive story accusing Spofford of sexual harassment and sexual assault against women who were either clients or employees at Spofford’s Granite Recovery Centers.

Prosecutors linked Chooljian’s story to the motive for the vandalism. While the statement on the charges leaves out the names of the NHPR victims and Spofford, the identities are clear from the context and facts made public.

“According to the charging document, after a year-long investigation, an NHPR journalist (Victim 1) published an article in March 2022 detailing allegations of sexual and other misconduct by a former New Hampshire businessperson, identified in the charging document as Subject 1,” prosecutors state. “Another NHPR journalist (Victim 2) also contributed to the article, which appeared on NHPR’s website during and after March 2022. After that, it is alleged that Cockerline, Waselchuck, and Saniatan conspired with each other and with at least one other individual – allegedly identified as a close personal associate of Subject 1 — to retaliate against NHPR and Victims 1 and 2 by vandalizing the victims’ homes with bricks and large rocks, as well as spray-painting lewd and threatening language on the homes’ exteriors.”

Though the identity of the person close to Spofford who conspired with the three suspects is not being revealed, NHJournal first reported in March that Spofford associate, Labarge, is linked to at least one of the New Hampshire incidents. 

Labarge, 44, is himself a recovering addict and the owner of the Starting Point Recovery centers.

Labarge has not been charged by any law enforcement agency in the vandalism cases. He has a criminal history that includes violence against women and attempted murder. He is also currently awaiting trial on charges of assaulting a man in Manchester. That assault took place days after the last vandalism attack in May of last year, and the alleged victim was a man who had been a resident at a Starting Point center, according to court records. 

Spofford’s attorney, Michael Strauss, declined to comment on the arrests of the three suspects and their possible connection to Spofford last week. Previously, Spofford has acknowledged his relationship with Labarge.

“I worked closely with Eric Labarge to help him overcome his addiction in the early days of his sobriety,” Spofford said. “I’ve had the opportunity to watch him grow through the ups and downs of recovery for almost 10 years. He’s done great things for the recovery community, and I believe he will continue to for years to come.”

Labarge was set for trial in the Manchester assault case last month, but that was delayed due to his attorney Charles Keefe’s vacation plans. Court documents indicated last month Labarge and Keefe would use the extra time to negotiate a possible resolution to the case.

Disgraced Dem Woodburn Stays Free For Now

Former Democratic leader Jeffrey Woodburn won’t have to start serving jail time yet, despite convictions for criminal mischief stemming from allegations of domestic violence.

The one-time state Senate Minority Leader from Coös County plans to appeal his criminal mischief sentence while preparing for a new domestic violence trial. In March, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled he did not get a fair trial the first time and reversed the domestic violence convictions but let the criminal mischief charges stand.

Last week, Coös Superior Court Judge Peter Bornstein gave Woodburn until July 14 to file his sentence appeal for the criminal mischief charges. The new domestic violence trial is set for next spring. 

Woodburn was originally sentenced to two years in jail with all but 60 days suspended. 

Woodburn allegedly bit his then-girlfriend during a brawl after a Christmas party in 2017. Days later, he allegedly kicked the door to the woman’s house when she refused to let him inside. Earlier that year, in August 2017, he reportedly kicked her clothes drying, breaking the appliance, according to court records.

Woodburn has been fighting the charges for years, becoming a recurring headline for state Democrats. Woodburn was formally charged in August 2018 but still ran for reelection in the face of calls for his resignation. He won the Democratic primary but lost in the general election that year. 

Woodburn’s appearance in the news again as he fights the convictions coincides with news stories of other New Hampshire Democrats linked to violence against women.

Former State Rep. Stacie Laughton (D-Nashua) ended up in jail for weeks after the 2022 midterm elections on charges of stalking a woman and her family. State Democrats, desperate to edge out the House GOP’s razor-thin majority, stayed silent about Laughton for nearly a month. Democratic leaders only called for Laughton’s resignation when it became clear they would not have the majority with or without the Nashua seat.

Democratic U.S. Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen burned political capital backing President Joe Biden’s judicial nomination of lawyer Michael Delaney. Sexual assault victims, including Chessy Prout, opposed Delaney. Prout was a 15-year-old sexual assault victim who sued the elite St. Paul’s private school in Concord. Delaney, who represented the school, used his expertise in court to strip the teen girl of her anonymity.

Delaney’s nomination was finally torpedoed in May after weeks of heavy criticism from victims and advocates, but not before Hassan and Shaheen endorsed him.

NHPR to Air New Spofford Allegations, Leaving Out Spofford Interview

New Hampshire Public Radio is taking another shot at former Granite State Recover CEO Eric Spofford with a planned podcast making new allegations of sexual misconduct. But the show won’t include Spofford’s side of the story.

The new production, coming out in early June, includes a story from an anonymous woman who claims she sent Spofford “intimate photos of herself” sometime in 2009 after he asked, according to court records.

“NHPR’s reporting apparently also will feature a new anonymous accuser—who was neither a patient nor employee, and who for apparently the first time ever and with no indication of corroboration—alleges Eric, in 2009 (14 years ago), requested that she send him ‘intimate photos of herself – and she [allegedly] did,’” wrote Michael Strauss, Spofford’s attorney.

Spofford is challenging the order dismissing his defamation lawsuit against NHPR for its story published last year alleging he sexually harassed and assaulted women using his position as the founder of the drug addiction recovery centers. He is currently seeking more time to file a new complaint in the case. NHPR is fighting that motion in court.

According to Strauss’s latest filing, Spofford offered to sit down with NHPR reporter Lauren Chooljian for a no-holds-barred interview ahead of the new podcast. But the liberal media organization wasn’t interested.

“When Chooljian sprung NHPR’s plan for a new podcast series on Eric and requested he answer, effectively, 12 multi-part interrogatories, Eric offered NHPR and Chooljian something better: An in-person, unlimited-in-scope interview with him, on just two conditions: (i) Eric would be permitted to record the interview, and (ii) NHPR would publish, contemporaneously with and as part of the podcast series, the complete unedited version of the interview. NHPR refused,” Strauss wrote.

Rockingham Superior Court Judge Daniel St. Hilaire ruled in NHPR’s favor in March, stating Spofford failed to show that anyone at NHPR engaged in malice when reporting about the sexual assault allegations, despite the claims of bias and shoddy reporting in the lawsuit. Spofford maintains he never engaged in the sexual misconduct alleged in NHPR’s coverage.

Spofford claimed in his original lawsuit that Chooljian targeted him because of his Republican politics, and the public broadcaster used the story to raise money from donors.

“Chooljian viewed Eric as her opportunity to ascend the journalism ranks. To Chooljian, a #MeToo-styled report about a white male, Republican donor, and bold and successful businessman, who made money in the substance use disorder treatment business, had all the markings of a career-defining piece,” the lawsuit states.

In subsequent filings, Spofford went on to allege Chooljian relied on biased sources, like his ex-wife with whom he was engaged in a bitter custody dispute, and reported on nonexistent facts, such as a Snapchat photo of his penis sent to one victim. Spofford claims the photo does not exist and that Chooljian never saw the photo before reporting on it.

According to the filings, Chooljian and the station ignored witnesses who contradicted the story and refused to run statements that Spofford believed cleared him. 

Spofford Demands Reporter’s Notes, Says Lawsuit Isn’t Over

In a sign the lawsuit accusing New Hampshire Public Radio of #metoo inspired defamation isn’t over yet, former Granite Recovery Centers CEO Eric Spofford is demanding access to evidence, including reporter Laura Chooljian’s notes.

Spofford claims NHPR ruined his life when it broadcast stories about his alleged sexual abuse of women connected to his drug-action recovery centers. Spofford says those stories were based on statements from openly biased sources and used phantom evidence that did not exist.

Rockingham Superior Court Judge Daniel St. Hilaire sided with the public broadcaster in dismissing Spofford’s lawsuit last week, finding that he failed to establish that anyone at NHPR engaged in malice when reporting about the sexual assault allegations. 

That dismissal, however, gave Spofford 30 days to amend his lawsuit to keep the complaint against NHPR alive in court. On Wednesday, Spofford’s attorney Michael Stauss filed a motion for evidence and a delay in the deadline to refile the lawsuit with an amended complaint that lays out evidence of malice.

“Because the New Hampshire Constitution entitles Eric to his day in court to hold the NHPR Defendants accountable for defaming him, he should be given a fair opportunity to sufficiently allege actual malice,” Strauss wrote.

Spofford wants any recording Chooljian made with the sources she used for the story, any emails she sent to NHPR colleagues about the credibility of those sources, and her reporting notes from the story. The also is also seeking recordings, notes, and communications between Chooljian and Amy Cloutier, formerly Amy Anagnost, who is Spofford’s ex-girlfriend. 

Spofford maintains the stories the sources told were not only false, but Chooljian likely knew there were problems with the sources and reported the accusations anyway. Getting access to the recordings, notes, and communications will allow him to show NHPR broadcast the story with a disregard for the truth, according to the motion.

St. Hilarie ruled Spofford’s complaint needs to show ‘clearer indicia’ of a reckless disregard for the truth to show NHPR acted with malice.

“If this story, as the NHPR Defendants have ardently claimed, were meticulously investigated and reported, then this discovery would only serve to enhance their defense. If, alternatively, the NHPR Defendants knew or recklessly disregarded the falsity of their reporting, then this discovery would fairly enable Eric to allege, with the ‘clearer indicia’ desired by the court, their actual malice,” Strauss wrote.

Spofford has claimed in court records that Cloutier/Anagnost made up the story as part of an effort to hurt him during a contested child custody issue. According to court records, she served as a major source for Chooljian and connected her with other sources as part of her scheme to harm Spofford.

“The NHPR Defendants relied on Amy and the sources she cherry-picked for Chooljian, despite her obvious unreliability (after years of long-term recovery from alcoholism and addiction, she has relapsed, and that relapse occurred at or around when she started as a source for the NHPR Defendants) and notwithstanding her known and unmistakable bias against and ill-will toward Eric as reflected in publicly available records,” Strauss wrote in a motion filed last year.

Spofford claims the liberal-leaning NHPR targeted him because he built a politically-connected profile with Granite Recovery Centers. As the drug abuse recovery centers became the largest recovery facilities in New Hampshire, Spofford even counseled Gov. Chris Sununu on the response to New Hampshire’s opined epidemic.

Last year, Spofford sold Granite Recovery Centers to BayMark Health Services, a Texas-based treatment company. The sale price wasn’t disclosed.

 

Hassan, Shaheen Stand By Judicial Nominee Despite Criticism Over Role in Sex Assault Case

Democratic U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan continue to support the nomination of Michael A. Delaney to serve on the federal bench. This despite a brutal Senate hearing focused on his demand that an underage sexual assault victim be stripped of her anonymity in a case against St. Paul’s School.

Delaney, nominated by President Joe Biden to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, was introduced to the Senate Judiciary Committee by the two New Hampshire Democrats. In a statement praising his nomination last month the senators wrote, “Michael Delaney is exceedingly qualified to serve as a judge…We believe he is well suited for this role and would serve honorably – we urge the Senate to confirm him swiftly.”

The Republicans on the committee had a different view.

“I’m astounded you’ve been nominated,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) “People who put sexual assault victims through this kind of torture shouldn’t sit on the bench.”

At issue is Delaney’s work on behalf of the elite Concord prep school in the alleged sexual assault case brought by Chessy Prout. St. Paul School student Owen Labrie was convicted of assaulting her during the school’s annual “Senior Salute,” a school ritual in which senior boys solicit sex from freshman girls. Labrie denied the rape charge but admitted in court he bragged to friends that he had sex with the then-15-year-old Prout.

The elite Episcopalian boarding school, which counts former Sec. of State John Kerry among its graduates, has been rocked with a series of sexual assault allegations in recent years

Chessy’s parents Alex and Susan Prout filed a civil lawsuit after Labrie’s conviction on statutory rape and other charges, arguing the school failed to “meet its most basic obligation to protect the children entrusted to its care.” They also claimed school administrators knew about the “Senior Salute” tradition. Delaney represented the school in the civil suit which St. Paul’s settled for an undisclosed amount in 2018.

The family claimed Delaney used a request that the court out the victim by name as a threat to intimidate her from participating in the lawsuit. During his hearing, Delaney denied ever asking the court to take that step. However, when confronted by Sen. Ted Cruz acknowledged he did ask the court to strip Chessy of her anonymity, but only if the case went all the way to trial.

“This hearing isn’t going very well for you,” Cruz told the nominee. “There’s a reason why virtually every Democrat has skipped this hearing. They’re embarrassed about this nomination.” Only two of the 11 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee attended.

Several Republican senators read from a letter sent to the committee by Chessy Prout.

“Michael Delaney is not ethically qualified to sit on the bench,” Prout wrote. “A lawyer who practices victim intimidation is doing nothing for the greater good of the community; he stands in the way of justice and furthermore keeps his community in a toxic cycle of harm and silence.”

She isn’t alone in opposing Delaney’s nomination. Monika Johnson Hostler and Terri Poore with the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence said Delaney’s efforts on behalf of St. Paul’s School promoted the culture of silence on the elite campus by attempting to silence victims.

“When Mr. Delaney represented St. Paul’s School in a lawsuit brought by a minor survivor, he made a proactive motion to make the minor survivor’s name public. We find this deeply problematic both in terms of the impact on the particular survivor as well as the message it sends to survivors in general. We are trying to create a culture where survivors feel encouraged to seek healing and justice. This type of motion does the opposite,” Johnson Hostler and Poore wrote to the Committee.

The hearing had no impact on the New Hampshire congressional delegation, which continued to support Delaney.

Delaney, former legal counsel to Democratic Gov. John Lynch and a former New Hampshire attorney general, is currently director and Chair of the Litigation Department of McLane Middleton, one of the state’s premier law firms. He is also a regular contributor to New Hampshire Democratic politicians.

While neither Shaheen nor Hassan sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee, they have been outspoken about the past behavior of previous federal court nominees — when they were Republicans. Hassan gave a scathing speech on the floor of the Senate opposing the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court.

“Any individual nominated to the court must be subject to scrutiny on the totality of their record, their temperament, and their past actions,” Hassan said in 2018. “Yet – throughout the process of this nomination, my colleagues in the majority have made clear that they will stop at nothing to get Judge Kavanaugh on the court. No matter his record. No matter his temperament. No matter his character.”

Shaheen, when voting against Kavanaugh’s nomination, said all victims of sexual assault deserve better treatment.

“These wounds are real. The wounds are raw. And it is incumbent on all of us in this body, regardless of where you stand on Brett Kavanaugh; it’s incumbent on all of us to not deepen those scars by diminishing the pain of these women as political theatre. This is not political theater, and it should not be viewed through a partisan lens,” Shaheen said.

Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas are also a “no comment” on Delaney’s nomination.

The allegations against Kavanaugh — including the claim he ran a secret “gang rape” club while in high school — have proven to be unfounded.

GOP operative Chuck McGee said the apparent lack of Democratic opposition to Delaney’s nomination exposes the hypocrisy in the party. Democrats are only willing to stand with women and sexual assault survivors when it’s politically convenient, he said.

“Are (Shaheen and Hassan) going to stand on party lines or do the right thing and stand with the voices of the survivors,” McGee said.

McGee, the father of three daughters, said New Hampshire voters have a right to know what Hassan and Shaheen are thinking when it comes to Delaney’s nomination and if they will take a stand with survivors or not.

“Let’s really make it count when we say we’re going to support victims of sex assault, not just when it is convenient,” McGee said.

Spofford’s Attorney Tells Judge NHPR Engaged in ‘Reckless Disregard’ of Facts

Despite hundreds of pages of evidence already submitted by Granite State Recovery founder Eric Spofford’s legal team, New Hampshire Public Radio says none of it adds up to malice, the key component for a defamation case.

“Zero plus zero still equals zero,” said Sigmund Schutz, NHPR’s attorney during Tuesday’s hearing in Rockingham Superior Court.

Spofford filed the defamation lawsuit against NHPR in October, claiming the public radio station ruined his life and career when it reported a story in which three women accused him of sexual harassment and assault. NHPR is trying to get the case dismissed before it can go to trial, arguing that Spofford aims to silence any critic who might come forward against him.

“This kind of lawsuit has a real chilling effect,” Schutz said. “The objective of this litigation is that just by filing, win or lose, is to silence critics,” Schutz said.

Howard Cooper, representing Spofford, said a trial is needed so a jury can weigh in on the radio station’s reporting, which he characterized as reckless at best.

“This case is about the intentional ignoring of the facts pre, during, and post-publication,” Cooper said. “There is no constitutional value in defamatory speech, and there is no chilling effect by requiring the media not to make up facts.”

Schutz said NHPR reporter Lauren Chooljian thoroughly reported, corroborated, and documented the story, which was published online in March, and the subject of over-the-air broadcast reports and podcasts. In the story, a former Granite State Recovery client and two former employees alleged they were harassed. The employees alleged that they were sexually assaulted.

At no point did NHPR report that Spofford was guilty of any crime when it laid out the women’s story, Schutz said. Schutz said that Spofford was given ample opportunity to comment on the story as it was being reported, and his denials of the accusations were reported.

“(Spofford) can deny the accusations are true, but he can’t deny that the accusations were made,” Schutz said.

But Cooper claimed NHPR’s reporting process is dubious, leaving out key details and using suspect sources to corroborate the story it wanted to tell.

In one instance, NHPR reported Spofford sent pictures of his penis to one of the women using Snap Chat, despite the reporter never seeing the photos for herself. She relied on claims from the alleged victims.

“That is so outrageous and improbable, no responsible news organization or reporter would have reported that,” Cooper said.

Another breach in NHPR’s reporting happened when former Granite State Recovery Human Resources Director Lynsie Miterer called Chooljian after one part of the story aired to correct her reporting on one of the accusations of sexual assault. Cooper said Chooljian reacted with hostility and never used any of the information from Miterer that challenged the reporting.

There is also the matter of the third alleged victim, known in the story as Employee B. NHPR reported Employee B claimed she was sexually assaulted by Spofford, but Chooljian never spoke to that woman. Instead, the reporter spoke to other people who claimed to have corroborating information.

“They should not have reported that,” Cooper said.

Cooper said the totality of the evidence already gathered shows sources who were ignored when they contradicted NHPR’s storyline, and weak corroboration, was used to push a narrative. All of it, he said, adds up to a case that needs to go to trial.

“This story never should have been published, reporters knew or recklessly disregarded facts that were staring them in the face and given to them,” Cooper said.

Judge Dan St. Hilaire will now consider the arguments from both sides. He is expected to make a ruling sometime in the next 30 days. If he finds for Spofford, NHPR would find itself before a jury to defend how it reports the news.

Dartmouth Dem ‘Influencer’ Settles Lawsuit Over Rape Allegations

Progressive social media star and former Dartmouth College student Jack Cocchiarella is settling the lawsuit he brought against one-time classmate Nathan Kim over allegations that Cocchiarella was a serial rapist. 

Lawyers for Cocchiarella and Kim informed the United States District Court in Concord last month they had reached an agreement through mediation sessions in December. The sides now have until Jan. 20 to file the settlement agreement in the federal court, which would include a stipulation that the case be dismissed.

The lawsuit accused Kim of spreading stories online that Cocchiarella raped and sexually assaulted women while he was a student at the Ivy League school. Cocchiarella has denied all accusations of sexual impropriety.

Cocchiarella claims Kim started an online harassment campaign using anonymous accounts on various social media platforms accusing Cocchiarella of rape.

“Kim individually and in concert with others has continued to propagate and publish the false statements and lies that Jack is a ‘rapist,’ ‘raped his classmates,’ ‘raped 6 women,’ ‘raped 8 women,’ ‘raped unconscious girls,’ and is ‘getting away with rape,’” the lawsuit stated.

The negative attention stirred by Kim’s posts threatened Cocchiarella’s lucrative political work, tarnished his reputation as he transfers to Columbia University, and even caused threats according to the lawsuit.

“To this day, Jack lives in fear for his life and safety as a result of the false statements and lies being spread by Kim,” the lawsuit states.

Cocchiarella’s attorney, Susan Stone, told NH Journal in August her client is innocent of any sexual violence.

“To be clear, Jack has never been accused of sexual assault and he has never been subject of a criminal or Title IX campus investigation,” Stone wrote in a letter to NH Journal. “He vehemently denies that he was subject to those allegations.”

The lawsuit claimed Kim’s harassment started after Cocchiarella confronted Congressman Madison Cawthorn when the North Carolina Republican appeared at Dartmouth College along with congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt.

Cocchiarella’s video of his confrontation with Cawthorn went viral and helped propel the student into a progressive influencer. Cocchiarella used his online fame to get high-profile political consulting jobs with Democrats like Florida’s Charlie Crist and Georgia’s Marcus Flowers.

According to a report in the Free Beacon, Crist’s campaign paid Cocchiarella’s consulting firm $2,250 for digital consulting. It got another $40,000 from the Flowers campaign. 

Cocchiarella also appeared on a YouTube television show for the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump political action committee founded by alleged sexual predator John Weaver. Cocchiarella was on the show to plug his own political podcast, Zoomed In.

Accusations against Cocchiarella came to light in August, when NHJournal spoke to one woman who claimed to have been harassed by the rising political star. The woman said Cocchiarella sexually harassed her and inappropriately touched her, earning Cocchiarella a letter from Dartmouth’s Title IX Office laying out a disciplinary course of action, and threatening further sanctions if Cocchiarella did not comply. The copy obtained by NHJournal included Cocchiarella’s apparent signature.

His behavior deteriorated over the course of a few weeks into stalking-type behavior and included unwanted touching, she said.

“What was scary is he said a lot of really misogynistic things,” she said.

The woman said Cocchiarella used his reputation as a progressive, feminist-ally in order to get close. At the same time, his actions frightened her, she said.

“How does he have this platform as a feminist?” she asked.

While NHJournal was reporting the story in August, the Dartmouth College Democrats Twitter account published a tweet claiming Cocchiarella was kicked out of the club in 2021 when several allegations became known on campus. The club later deleted that tweet, but a source familiar with the matter confirmed Cocchiarella had been expelled from the club over the allegations.

The club later published a follow-up disavowing any use of the tweet about Cocchiarella.

Cocchiarella has denied all wrongdoing and further claims he has never been investigated by Dartmouth’s Title IX Office.