Plea accepted in charges against oil company owner
NASHUA - The owner of a Hudson-based oil company was given a 90-day suspended prison sentence as part of a plea bargain after a sexual assault charge stemming from an alleged incident last year.
Frederick Fuller, of Manchester, appeared in Nashua's 9th Circuit Court early Wednesday morning, where he pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of simple assault. As part of the deal, the misdemeanor sexual assault charge was dropped.
According to Hudson Police Capt. William Avery, investigations into the charges began in late 2011, when a woman, then 29, submitted a formal complaint.
According to court documents, she alleged Fuller, then 63, grabbed her shoulders and "forcibly fondled" her during an incident in Hudson in July 2011.
Faced with a warrant charging him with one count of Class A misdemeanor sexual assault, Fuller turned himself in to the Hudson police April 19.
He was later released on $2,500 personal recognizance bail and in May, Fuller waived his arraignment and entered a not guilty plea to the initial charge.
Dressed in a dark gray suit, the executive of the Fred Fuller Oil Company spoke very little during his plea hearing on Tuesday, only answering "yes," in a low, raspy voice when Judge James Leary asked him if he understood the nature of the charges against him.
As a condition of the plea, Fuller's prison sentence will be suspended for two years, on the condition he avoid further legal troubles. He was also ordered to have no contact with his alleged victim, who was not present at Tuesday's hearing.
"I hope I don't see you again," Judge Leary told Fuller.
Based in Hudson, Fred Fuller Oil offers fuel services at several other locations, including Derry, Milford, Goffstown, Laconia, Northfield, Bridgewater and Moultonborough, according to the company website.
Fuller has had similar run-ins in the past.
In 2005, his company settled a $780,000 sexual harassment lawsuit after five of his former female employees alleged they were subjected to Fuller's unwanted groping and demands for sexual favors, as well as exposed to sexually explicit language and gestures in their workplace.
That settlement closed the case, which was heard in the U.S. District Court in Concord and was first filed in 1993 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of the alleged victims.
Company officials never admitted to wrongdoing in the settlement, but were nevertheless required to hire an independent agent to oversee sexual harassment complaints at Fuller Oil.