Former Democratic leader Jeffrey Woodburn, convicted of physically abusing his ex-fiancée, will represent himself next week as he seeks to reverse his case at a hearing before the state Supreme Court.
The hearing is set for Tuesday morning. Woodburn is expected to argue he was denied a fair trial because he could not accuse the victim of abuse for trying to take his phone.
Woodburn (D-Whitefield) was the Democrat’s Senate Minority Leader when he was charged in 2018 with nine counts of assaulting his former fiancée. Though he initially resigned as leader, Woodburn clung to his Senate seat for months and members of the Coos County Democratic Committee initially refused to ask him to step down.
The appeal stems from Coos Superior Court Judge Peter Bornstein’s ruling that Woodburn could not argue self-defense during the trial. Woodburn was originally charged with nine counts stemming from more than a year of abuse he reportedly directed at the victim.
The convictions are based on Woodburn’s violent actions related to three separate incidents, according to court records. The victim went on the record telling Bornstein that at one point during her many struggles with Woodburn she tried to grab his phone without permission. Bornstein stated in court the attempted grab did not rise to the level of behavior that allows for Woodburn’s self-defense claims.
In the lead-up to the trial, Woodburn leaked the name of the victim to the media by having his attorney, Donna Brown, send unredacted copies of sealed court records to members of the press.
“His lawyer proactively sent copies of unsealed documents to the media,” the alleged victim’s attorney—and former Hillsborough County prosecutor— Patricia LaFrance told NHJournal at the time. “I’ve never seen that in my 16 years as a prosecutor”
Woodburn was sentenced to two years in jail with all but 60 days suspended. He has been out on bail pending his appeal.
New Hampshire Democrats now have the specter of Woodburn’s domestic violence haunting them again a few weeks before the midterm elections. Representatives for the state Democratic Party did not respond to a request for comment.
Woodburn’s case came at a particularly problematic time for New Hampshire Democrats, during the hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. U.S. Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen both opposed the Trump nominee and used unfounded — and in some cases, ludicrous — allegations of sexual assault from Kavanaugh’s high school and college days as a reason to reject him. They were unwilling, however, to publicly criticize Woodburn until months after he was charged with a crime.
Woodburn won the Democratic nomination in 2018 but lost the general election.
The most egregious blow to the victim, critics say, came when a Woodburn paramour who smeared the victim as a “liar” and “sociopath” was given a leadership award by the Manchester Democrats organization.