LANCASTER — The domestic violence case against outgoing state Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield, is being moved from District Court in Haverhill to Coos County Superior Court in Lancaster, by agreement of both parties, according to a Nov. 26 order by Judge Thomas A. Rappa Jr.
Rappa also ruled on several pre-trial motions regarding access to evidence, whether the alleged victim — former Coos County Democratic Committee Chair Emily Jacobs — can have counsel at trial and whether certain filings should be closed to public view.
The judge’s order also contains a statement by Jacobs’ attorney, Patricia LaFrance, that suggests someone in the State House triggered the investigation into Woodburn.
“Attorney LaFrance argued that her client did not initiate contact with the police,” the order states. “She argued that the investigation started based on an inquiry from the General Court.”
LaFrance explained that she was addressing accusations that her client had run to police to extract revenge.
“As I argued in my objection and to the court during the Oct. 15 hearing, I was counter-acting the intimation by defense that my client ran to the police,” she said. “My understanding was that leaders in the legislature had raised their concerns with the Attorney General’s office. They then contacted me (once I began representing the victim) and arranged for her to come in to give a statement.
“This was all to rebut the defense claim that my client ran to the police to get back at the defendant because he had broken things off with her.”
On the question of whether Woodburn’s pleadings should be sealed, the judge said they are “permeated with quotes from confidential records” and will remain out of public view until the court rules otherwise.
Rappa said he would review the records of counseling sessions involving Woodburn and Jacobs before deciding what is permissible in the trial.
Rappa’s order states that LaFrance’s only role in the case moving forward is to represent her client’s interests in dealing with prosecutors, and ordered that she file no further pleadings in the case until further notice.
LaFrance had argued that there is some precedent for victims of domestic violence to be represented in criminal proceedings against alleged perpetrators, and that at times the interests of the state and the alleged victim are not the same.
Woodburn was arrested in August on four counts of simple assault, two counts of domestic violence, two counts of criminal mischief and one count of criminal trespass. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, each of which is a misdemeanor, and plans to claim self-defense.
The state alleges that between August 2017 and June, Woodburn on separate occasions bit Jacobs on the hand and forearm; struck her with his hand in the face and stomach; and that he kicked in the locked door to her home.
Woodburn stepped down as Senate Minority Leader after the charges were filed and failed in his bid for re-election earlier this month.
He claims to be a victim of retribution after ending a three-year relationship with Jacobs, to whom he was engaged, while she has produced photographic evidence to support allegations of abuse.
Woodburn has pressed hard for public proceedings and disclosure of documents in the case, while the state has sought to keep documents under seal and hearings behind closed doors.