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Citing learning disorder, father seeks to revoke guilty plea for abusing children

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 10. 2017 8:09PM

MANCHESTER — The father sentenced to 15 years in prison for subjecting his children to putrid, deplorable living conditions returned to court Tuesday seeking to revoke his 6-month-old guilty plea.

The reason: a psychological evaluation said James Grenier may suffer from a language-based learning disorder.

“He was confused by the process,” said lawyer Robert Fojo, who noted the psychological evaluation was completed three days after the April 6 guilty plea and sentencing. “Often, people can’t recognize and diagnose themselves.”

Hillsborough County Superior Court-North Judge Gillian Abramson adjourned the brief hearing without making a decision.

Last November, Manchester police entered the Quirin Street home of James and Samantha Grenier and found their two children covered in feces and urine.

Their 4-year-old, naked son was restrained by a harness tied to a bunkbed under a blanket that smelled of human waste. Their 2-year-old daughter was shivering and naked in a crib, smeared with human waste.

When she sentenced Grenier, Abramson said the father tortured his children and treated his dog better than them.

In a court hearing on Tuesday, Abramson engaged in some heated exchanges with Fojo.

Every guilty plea is preceded by a colloquy, where a judge queries a defendant to make sure he is not impaired, coerced or otherwise incompetent to admit to a crime.

Abramson said no issue of a learning disorder came up during the colloquy in April, and she challenged Fojo to point it out. Fojo — at one point admonished for interrupting Abramson — said Grenier’s lawyer at the time, Paul Garrity, became aware of the matter only after the sentencing.

The prosecutor, Sarah Warecki, said Grenier wants to back out of a tough sentence that he didn’t expect when he pleaded guilty.

“This is much more likely a case of buyer’s remorse,” said Warecki, an assistant Hillsborough County attorney.

The examination was part of an independent family-court proceeding regarding the custody of the two children. The psychologist who examined Grenier, Richard Shulik of Londonderry, was in the courtroom on Tuesday ready to take the stand, but no testimony was taken.

Also present were Grenier’s family.

His mother, Ellen Grenier, said the sentence was unjust.

“He did not deserve that sentence. He had no criminal record, no criminal background,” she said in an interview. “Things do happen and nobody’s perfect.”

Last week, Abramson sentenced Samantha Grenier to 15 to 30 years in prison.

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