Plaistow lawyer found not guilty on all charges in sex assault case
Jurors returned their decision for Lawrence Buswell, 53, just minutes following a three-day trial in Rockingham County Superior Court. Buswell faced two counts of felonious sexual assault.
Defense lawyer Lincoln Soldati blamed county prosecutors with assembling a shoddy investigation against his client that did not scrutinize the teen's claims.
“If the County Attorney's Office had done its job, they would have known not to bring this case forward,” Soldati said following Thursday's verdict.
Soldati, a former Strafford County Attorney, said he was “angered” by the lack of investigation and due diligence done prior to the trial.
“You have an obligation as a prosecutor to the defendant, the general public and victims,” Soldati said. “This case really did anger me.”
Prosecutors said the alleged assault happened while the teen was staying with his family at Country Shore campground in Kingston, a business owned by Buswell's parents.
Assistant County Attorney Lisa Cirulli told jurors that the teen had no motive to invent a story about being sexually assaulted by Buswell, a man he got along with.
But Soldati argued that county prosecutors failed to vet photographs provided by the defense that called into question the teen's account or pursue other evidence during the investigation.
A Kingston police detective testified that he was told not to subpoena text messages that the victim exchanged with Buswell – an avenue that might have produced more evidence about the case.
While being questioned by the defense, Kingston police Detective Christopher LeBrecque confirmed he never pursued obtaining text messages between the teen and Buswell on the advice from the Rockingham County Attorney's Office.
“(He) sent texts to Larry. You were going to get a subpoena,” Soldati said to LeBrecque.
“I was advised it was not necessary,” LeBrecque responded.
LeBrecque, the lead investigator in the case, also acknowledged while being questioned by the defense that he had no specialized training on how to investigate sexual assault cases.
Buswell took the stand in his own defense on Wednesday, saying he never had sex with the teen between July 1 and July 31, 2011.
While prosecutors suggested Buswell's veracity was in question, he was never asked directly about the alleged sexual assault, his denial or whether he ever had sexual contact with the teenager at any other time.
The teen told jurors he drank vodka supplied by Buswell, and was sexually assaulted by him while the two were aboard his boat on Country Pond in Kingston sometime in July 2011. The alleged victim said he had just come in from a swim and was getting toweled off by Buswell when the alleged assault began.
Soldati argued that the teen first claimed he was assaulted in 2010 at age 14 inside Buswell's camp, but later said the assault happened a year later on the boat.
The defense handed over to prosecutors three photos taken by one of a Buswell's daughters showing the victim and Buswell riding in the boat together. The teen is driving Buswell's boat while speaking to him.
The defense argued that the photos – taken during the early evening of July 23, 2011 – contradicts the victim's narrative that he was alone with Buswell on the boat at the time of the alleged assault.
Cirulli said the victim never gave a specific date of the assault. She said jurors could find that the assault happened on other days in July 2011.
Thursday's verdict marks the end to one of two cases Buswell is facing in superior court. He is expected to plead guilty later this month to four counts of misdemeanor vehicular assault.
Buswell allegedly caused a fatal boat crash that killed 54-year-old Erick Eskeland, of Merrimack. Eskeland was piloting his Sea Ray boat with his family aboard on the night of May 26, 2012 before it was struck by Buswell's boat around 11:30 p.m., prosecutors said.
Buswell was indicted on charges of negligent homicide and three counts of second-degree assault. He will spend half of a 12-month county jail sentence behind bars if a judge approves the deal.