Witness issue may lead to retrial of Danville man convicted of molesting girl
BRENTWOOD — A Danville man serving a 40- to 80-year prison sentence for sexually assaulting a young girl took a first step to upend his conviction due to a failure to disclose potentially favorable evidence during his 2006 trial.
The issue with Harold Baird’s conviction was discovered during an investigation into former Rockingham County Attorney James Reams. Reams was accused by the state of not disclosing that an employee had a potential credibility problem before she testified in Baird’s trial.
Reams, who denied any wrongdoing, briefly returned to office, then retired on June 17 after waging a months-long legal battle with state prosecutors. The state sought to remove Reams for alleged sexual harassment, ethical violations and management of an asset forfeiture account.
Baird, 78, requested a court-appointed attorney on July 22 through a court motion he wrote from state prison.
“I am destitute, and am desirous and deserving of adequate representation to ascertain my available relief,” Baird said in the motion.
Baird was convicted by a jury in March 2006 of aggravated felonious sexual assault for molesting a 5-year-old girl from China. Victim-witness advocate Tara Longo testified for the state at Baird’s trial to rebut claims by the defense that the victim’s testimony was coached.
State investigators said they discovered in 2013 that Longo lied on her resume when she was hired by the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office, but that her bosses allegedly failed to disclose that information to Baird’s lawyer. Longo left her position in January after spending two months on paid administrative leave.
If prosecutors are forced to retry Baird’s case, they may also be challenged with tracking down a victim who could be living more than 6,900 miles away. Baird knew the girl through her mother, who also hailed from China.
Baird has two prior sexual assault convictions from 1974 and 1990. He is serving an enhanced prison sentence due to his prior convictions.
Assistant County Attorney Jerome Blanchard responded on Monday to Baird’s request for a court-appointed lawyer.
Blanchard tried Baird in 2006. He said in court papers that during Baird’s trial, he did not know that, “the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office, specifically Jim Reams and Tom Reid, were in possession of potentially exculpatory information regarding Ms. Longo.”
“This information was never provided to (me), or the other prosecutors in the office,” Blanchard said in his response. “Because it was not known by undersigned counsel, it was not disclosed to the defendant.”
Blanchard said when he became aware of Longo’s potential credibility issue in the late fall of 2013, he called Baird’s former lawyer about the issue and referred him to the Attorney General’s Office.
The Attorney General’s Office was investigating Reams at the time and probing how many cases Longo may have testified in, according to interviews and records obtained by the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Blanchard did not raise any direct objection to Baird seeking an attorney, but said he should make a showing that he is unable to pay for his own lawyer before one is appointed.
The decision about providing Baird with a court-appointed attorney will ultimately be left up to a judge.