BRENTWOOD — A Raymond man serving a minimum of a 20-year prison sentence for sexually assaulting a young girl, lost a bid to depose a victim advocate at the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office who resigned earlier this year following a state investigation.
Public defenders wanted to have Tara Longo’s role in the 2009 prosecution of Peter Eaton scrutinized, months after an attorney general’s investigation revealed she had a possible credibility problem.
Eaton, 39, is serving a 20- to 40-year prison term after a jury convicted him in November 2009 of aggravated felonious sexual assault. He sexually assaulted the girl beginning in December 2003 when she was age five, prosecutors said. The abuse lasted until June 2005.
Assistant County Attorney Jerome Blanchard said in court papers that the effort by the defense “is frivolous and is purely a fishing expedition and a witch hunt.”
Longo was among those who interviewed the victim as part of trial preparation.
Prosecutors who originally handled the case, decided to drop charges in 2006 against Eaton after the interview because they concluded the girl was unable to face Eaton in court and testify, prosecutor C. Scott Jordan said in a sworn affidavit.
“It was abundantly clear to both of us that she would be unable to testify about anything in front of the defendant,” said Jordan, who interviewed the victim with Longo.
Charges were brought forward again in 2008 and led to Eaton’s conviction by a jury.
Blanchard also argued that public defenders could not depose Longo, because there was no active case involving Eaton pending.
Eaton previously lost an appeal in 2011 and a motion for a new trial in 2012.
Judge N. William Delker agreed with prosecutors after reviewing arguments by Blanchard and Jordan’s affidavit.
“This kind of collateral attack on Ms. Longo’s credibility is not enough to reopen this matter,” Delker said in a court order.
Longo resigned from the county attorney’s office in January in the wake of a state attorney general’s investigation that probed the management of Rockingham County Attorney James Reams.
Longo had lied on her résumé and defense lawyers were never told about that information, according to the attorney general’s office. The information about Longo could have been used to question her credibility if she testified at a trial.
Reams 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.
The request by Eaton’s lawyers is the second case seeking post-trial relief because of Longo’s participation. A Danville man, serving a 40- to 80-year sentence, also recently asked a judge to appoint him a lawyer so he could explore upending his 2006 conviction because of Longo’s testimony at his trial.