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No More Delays in Second Woodburn Abuse Trial

Coos Superior Court Judge Peter Bornstein rejected a last-minute attempt to delay former state Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn’s second domestic abuse trial.

Woodburn’s attorney, Mark Sisti, asked for a delay weeks before the March 12 trial is set to start so that he could attend to his duties as the Gilmanton Town Moderator. Gilmanton’s annual town elections are also slated for March 12.

In his order denying the delay request, Bornstein wrote Sisti knew about the conflict for several months and should have said something earlier. He wrote that Sisti’s “eleventh-hour” request fails to show any good cause for rescheduling.

“Defense counsel likely knew or should have known at least eight months ago that the 2024 Gilmanton town meeting was scheduled for March 12, 2024, inasmuch as the date of annual town meetings in New Hampshire is prescribed by statute,” Bornstein wrote.

As moderator, Sisti is required to oversee elections in Gilmanton, and to make sure the vote totals are certified after polls close. While New Hampshire law allows a moderator to appoint a substitute moderator, Sisti would not tell NHJournal how he planned to cover the trial and the election.

“Of course, I will be at the trial,” Sisti said in an email response to NHJournal. “I have already taken care of the election situation…all is fine.”

Gilmanton Town Clerk Elise Smith told NHJournal it is her understanding that Sisti will open the polls at 7 a.m., then take a “long lunch” before coming back in time to oversee the end of the vote. Sisti is a top attorney in New Hampshire, and Election Day conflicts have happened before.

“This is not the first time this has happened with Moderator Mark Sisti,” Smith said.

Now that Sisti is prepared to pull double duty on March 12, the way is clear for Woodburn to finally return to court for his second trial on the simple assault and domestic violence charges.

Woodburn was originally charged in August 2018 while he served as Minority Leader in the state Senate. He ignored months of pressure to resign and won the 2018 Democratic primary even as the charges swirled. Woodburn went on to lose the general election to an obscure Republican opponent.

Woodburn was convicted in 2021 after a trial, but those convictions were overturned last year by the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

The state Supreme Court ruled Woodburn was entitled to a new trial because he was not allowed to use a self-defense argument in the original proceedings.

The simple assault and domestic violence convictions stem from Woodburn’s violent actions against a woman he was romantically involved with at the time. According to court records, Woodburn struggled over a phone, and he bit her hand. In another incident on Christmas Eve 2017, Woodburn kicked the door of the woman’s house when she refused to let him enter. He had previously kicked her clothes dryer, breaking the appliance.

Woodburn was also convicted in 2021 on two counts of criminal mischief in the same case. He’s facing 30 days in jail on those convictions. He is currently free, pending another appeal.