July 9, 2019
- Issue: Did the Court err in finding the State presented sufficient evidence that the defendant intentionally violated the court’s order.
The Town owned a nature preserve accessed by a deeded right-of-way over the defendant’s land that had narrowed because the defendant had placed items there. The court ordered the defendant to remove the debris. At various points from September of 2015 to September 2016, upon the Town’s filing a motion, the court found the defendant in contempt of that order. After being found in contempt a third time, the defendant was charged and found guilty of criminal contempt. On appeal, the defendant argued the State did not introduce sufficient evidence that proved he violated the original order or that he acted with the requisite intent.
When circumstantial evidence is introduced for intent, the court “must consider whether the circumstances presented are consistent with guilt and inconsistent, on the whole, with any reasonable hypothesis of innocence” (State v. Germain, 165 N.H. at 362). The Court is not persuaded that the State failed to meet its burden to provide sufficient evidence to prove that the defendant’s actions on May 16, 2016 violated the January 2016 order and that the defendant acted with the requisite intent in the charge for indirect criminal contempt. Intent for criminal contempt is “purposeful,” subjective and can be established by circumstantial evidence. State v. Thomas, 168 N.H 589, 601 (2016); Linsky, 117 N.H. at 875. The defendant knew an order existed, and a police video shows the defendant failing to comply with the order when he physically interfered with debris removal. No rational trier of fact looking at the totality of the evidence in the most favorable light to the State could not have found beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s “subjective, conscious object was to violate the January 2016 order.” RSA 262:2, II(a); Germain, 165 N.H. at 362. Therefore, the Court held the evidence was sufficient to prove the defendant had violated the January 2016 order.
Gordon J. MacDonald, attorney general, (Susan P. McGinnis, senior assistant attorney general, on the brief and orally) for the State. Eric S. Wolpin, assistant appellate defender, of Concord, on the brief and Anthony Naro, public defender, orally, for the defendant.