Defense tries to have evidence tossed in child sex assault case
By JAMES A. KIMBLE Union Leader Correspondent
Defense lawyer Robert Watkins (left) questioned Plaistow Detective George Wickson about his own criminal charges pending in Rockingham County Superior Court.
JAMES A. KIMBLE
BRENTWOOD — A Plaistow detective charged with criminal threatening and simple assault was challenged in court on Friday about his role in arresting a Massachusetts sex offender accused of molesting a young girl inside a Walmart store.
Detective George Wickson was among the Plaistow detectives who investigated Ronald Beausoleil, 34, of Haverhill, Mass., for allegedly assaulting a 9-year-old girl at the Route 125 store on March 10.
Defense lawyer Robert Watkins argued that evidence leading to Beausoleil's arrest should be thrown out of court.
Watkins questioned Wickson about his actions leading to Beausoleil's arrest and his own legal troubles, now pending in Rockingham County Superior Court.
Wickson, 40, was indicted by a grand jury in October on charges accusing him of holding a knife to the neck of a 22-year-old man in Newton, groping a 21-year-old woman and throwing a beer at another woman during an off-duty incident in May. Wickson has been suspended without pay.
"Prior to your appearance here today, did you have any discussion with the state about any benefit involving in that case?" Watkins asked the suspended detective.
"No, I am not gaining any benefit," Wickson said.
Wickson, a Plaistow police officer for 13 years, could face similar questions by defense lawyers in local courtrooms if prosecutors decide to call him as a witness to the cases he participated in.
He was called to testify on Friday because the defense is challenging the detective's decision to show the young girl only a single photo of a man believed to be Beausoleil taken from store surveillance footage.
Police generally show a photo lineup of several suspects to avoid suggesting a suspect to a victim or witness, Watkins said.
"Children inherently want to please adults and want to be cooperative," Watkins said.
Wickson testified that he was off-duty when first called to the Route 125 Walmart for a report of a girl being sexually assaulted inside the store.
The girl was taken to Lawrence General Hospital following the assault. Wickson briefly questioned her at the hospital and showed her a photograph he had taken from store surveillance footage.
Asked why he showed a single photograph, Wickson testified, "The nature of this case — a child being touched in an open department store — kind of concerned me. And I wanted to make sure if we were looking for somebody, we could work toward identifying somebody."
Registered sex offender
Assistant County Attorney Jennifer Kunsch said to Judge N. William Delker that the defense failed to meet its legal burden to demonstrate how exactly Beausoleil's rights were violated when Wickson showed a photograph of only one suspect to the girl. "The investigation is trying to rule out a suspect and identify who this person is on camera," she said.
Delker is expected to decide on the evidence prior to Beausoleil's trial, set to begin on Nov. 18.
Beausoleil, a registered sex offender in Massachusetts, faces charges of aggravated felonious sexual assault and felonious sexual assault in the case.
He is expected to go on trial for a similar case in January. He was indicted on a charge of indecent exposure for an alleged encounter with a young girl at a Walmart in Salem on Sept. 21, 2011. Salem police arrested Beausoleil after he was charged in the Plaistow case earlier this year.