As New Hampshire Democrats remain silent about one of their own sitting in jail on stalking charges, the state’s leading victim advocacy group is speaking out.
State Rep. Stacie Laughton (D-Nashua) is currently being held without bail in Manchester’s Valley Street Jail on grounds she presents an ongoing danger to the public as well as the victim of her stalking and harassment. Laughton had already been found guilty of stalking the same Hudson woman named in the current complaint. The charges go back to at least 2019 before Laughton was elected as New Hampshire’s first transgender state representative.
Incoming House Democratic Caucus leader Rep. Matt Wilhelm and state party chair Ray Buckley have both refused to condemn Laughton’s behavior or respond to multiple requests for comment about her arrest.
But the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (NHCADSV) is speaking out.
“We are extremely concerned by the numerous charges filed against Rep. Laughton. It is critical that individuals that hold positions of power be held accountable when they cause harm. There is no place in the New Hampshire legislature for those who perpetrate abuse,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, NHCADSV director of public affairs. “Stalking is rooted in a pattern of behavior intended to cause fear in the victim and can have long-term impacts on a survivor. Stalking is a very serious crime that has the potential to escalate to physical and even lethal violence,” Grady Sexton said.
One reason for the Democratic Party’s silence, critics said, was the GOP’s extremely narrow 198-201 majority in the House. As a result, every vote will count at Wednesday’s Organization Day session when representatives are sworn in and leadership positions are settled. Laughton’s vote could decide which party has a majority.
Democrats are also mounting a major campaign to oust current Secretary of State Dave Scanlan in favor of former State Sen. Melanie Levesque (D-Brookline).
Could Laughton leave jail to cast a vote on the floor of the State House? Under New Hampshire’s Constitution, state representatives cannot be stopped from attending House sessions and police are prohibited from arresting representatives en route to the legislature.
“Democrats could solve this problem by announcing in advance they will refuse to seat Laughton,” said Rep. Ross Berry (R-Manchester). “But they haven’t, which means they care more about politics than protecting women.”
Laughton is accused of repeatedly violating orders to leave a Hudson woman alone as well as charges of stalking, criminal defamation, and making false 911 calls. Laughton is already facing jail time after pleading no contest last summer to charges of making false 911 calls about the same victim. Prosecutors have told the court they plan to ask for the imposition of the suspended nine-month sentence brought in that case.
She is scheduled for a hearing in Nashua District Court on Dec. 22, during which she could enter into a plea agreement to resolve her case. Even if she misses Organization Day, Laughton would be free to serve in the House once she is released as she is not currently charged with any felonies.
Laughton won a seat for state representative in 2012 but was forced to resign soon after her 2008 credit card fraud arrest became public. Despite pressure from the Democratic Party, Laughton tried to run again to fill the seat in a special election after her resignation. That bid was cut short when it was deemed she was legally ineligible for office at the time since she was still technically serving her suspended sentence for the felony credit card fraud case.