BRENTWOOD — Hudson state Rep. Eric Schleien was sentenced to six months in jail Friday after admitting that he kissed the hand of a 16-year-old Phillips Exeter Academy student who shared an interest in politics.
Rockingham County Superior Court Judge N. William Delker agreed with the prosecution’s request for a 12-month sentence with six months suspended on good behavior.
After spending 30 days in the Rockingham County jail, the 30-year-old Republican will be eligible for house arrest, meaning he could serve the remaining five months of his jail sentence in home confinement with an electronic monitoring bracelet.
Under the plea deal, county prosecutors dropped a sexual assault charge and another simple assault charge stemming from Schleien’s encounter with the teenager in Portsmouth on July 22, 2016.
Delker had rejected the first plea agreement in June because it had called for a one-year county jail term suspended for two years, meaning Schleien might not have to spend any time behind bars.
Schleien, who represented Hudson and Pelham, had refused to resign his elected position during the prosecution of his case and did not seek reelection this month.
Defense attorney Robin Melone, who recently began representing Schleien, said the case has ended his political career.
She argued for a lighter sentence, claiming that the victim wasn’t entirely truthful with some of her statements to authorities and that Schleien had no sexual intentions.
Melone, who asked the judge to suspend the entire 12-month sentence, said Schleien admitted to “non-consensual” kissing of the girl’s hand but didn’t sexually assault her or “commit any other acts upon her or against her will.”
Assistant County Attorney Melissa Fales insisted that jail time was warranted because Schleien was in a position of power.
“He was in a situation with this young woman where he was in a position of complete power. She had no power in this situation. She was 16 years old,” Fales said as she reminded the judge that Schleien was 28 at the time and serving as a state representative.
According to prosecutors, Schleien first met the teenager at an Exeter cafe, where they began chatting after he learned she was interested in politics. The girl was enrolled in a summer program at the school.
The two agreed to meet again, and it was during that second meeting when he drove her to Portsmouth where they ate at a restaurant and visited a park. It was during their visit that the teenager alleged she was assaulted.
Fales alleged that Schleien made sexual comments to the girl and eventually kissed her on the hand.
Melone disputed the claims that Schleien abused his power to gain access to a child and said he adamantly denied claims of any “vulgar propositioning.” She also claimed that it was not Schleien but the victim who had made sexual comments.
“There was no sexual assault. There was no abuse of power,” Melone said.
While Judge Delker admitted that it was difficult for him to determine the accuracy of the two versions of what happened that day, he said Schleien was still the adult and had a “responsibility to put the brakes” on the situation.
Even if the victim had started sexual conversations, Delker said Schleien had a responsibility to say “this shouldn’t be happening.”