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James Perry, 37, arrives in Rockingham County Superior Court during his attempted kidnapping trial. A jury convicted him on Friday afternoon. (JAMES A. KIMBLE/Union Leader Correspondent)

Jury convicts Portsmouth man of kidnap attempt, restraint

BRENTWOOD - A Portsmouth man was found guilty of attempted kidnapping and criminal restraint on Friday afternoon for accosting a woman at gunpoint as she was getting out of her SUV in front of an Ocean State Job Lot store.

A jury returned guilty verdicts against James Perry, 37, roughly an after hour being handed the case in Rockingham County Superior Court. Perry shook hands with one of his lawyers and smiled before being taken back to the county jail by a deputy sheriff.

Judge N. William Delker revoked Perry's bail at the request of prosecutors pending his sentencing. Defense lawyers argued that a key piece of evidence against their client - a down-filled jacket found in the woods by a police dog - suggested that another perpetrator could have accosted the woman. Perry's DNA was found on the jacket along with a second "minor" sample, according to court testimony. Jurors ultimately rejected that argument.

"That's a great piece of evidence, but it's not only piece of evidence we have," Assistant County Attorney Patricia Conway argued during closing statements on Friday. Portsmouth police obtained photos of Perry wearing the jacket on his former girlfriend's Facebook account. The ex-girlfriend also testified that Perry admitted to her that he was the man police were looking for related to the Dec. 14 attack.

The incident triggered a massive police response to an area around store parking lot on Woodbury Avenue in Portsmouth that included a stretch of woods and a neighboring apartment complex. Perry was living nearby in the Gosling Meadows apartment complex with his girlfriend at the time, but he wasn't arrested until a month later.

Defense lawyer Anthony Naro suggested the ex-girlfriend's testimony was not reliable because her relationship with Perry was falling apart at the time.

Naro also argued that Susan Legsdin Faith, a state criminologist, should have been given additional DNA samples of other suspects by Portsmouth police to test on the jacket.

"Her science doesn't tell you who wore the jacket last," Naro said. "It doesn't tell you Mr. Perry wore it that week, that day, that month."

Katherine Booth, the victim in the case, was the first witness to testify and remained throughout the entire trial watching from the front of the court gallery. The three-day trial included testimony by Portsmouth police detectives, Auburn's police chief, who serves as the state's only police sketch artist, and a variety of eyewitnesses.

Delker denied Perry's bid for a mistrial on Friday afternoon after reviewing photographs turned over to police, but not shared with prosecutors or the defense. Lawyers learned about the additional photos from a man who testified Thursday about how he culled video images from a camera system his company installed at Gosling Meadows.

Perry is expected to be sentenced within the next 45 to 90 days. He faces up to 7 to 15 years in state prison.

jkimble@newstote.com

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