NORTH HAVERHILL — Moments before a jury was to hear opening arguments Tuesday in the trial of a Groton man who allegedly attempted to assault his father with “a large rock,” a judge granted the defendant’s motion to fire his current attorney and get a new one.
Appearing before Judge Peter Bornstein in Grafton County Superior Court, Michael A. Salsman, 44, of Sculptured Rocks Road, told Bornstein that in the seven days since a prior hearing, also before Bornstein, his relationship with Jeremiah Newhall, an attorney with the New Hampshire Public Defender’s office in Orford, had undergone a profound change.
“I definitely do not want attorney Newhall to represent me,” Salsman said, explaining that “I’ve asked him (Newhall) a hundred times for discovery” and also to file certain motions.
Ultimately, “I have no confidence in him” that Newhall would “fight” for his innocence, Salsman said.
Bornstein reminded Salsman that during the Feb. 5 hearing Salsman told the court he was satisfied with Newhall, who was the second public defender appointed by the court to represent Salsman since he was arrested last July 29.
A day earlier, according to indictments handed down in October by the Grafton County Grand Jury, Salsman attempted to commit first-degree assault, a Class A felony punishable by 7 1/2 to 15 years in prison, of his 73-year old father, William.
The indictment alleges that Salsman positioned himself “on a boulder above and facing” his father, who was lying on the ground near the boulder, and that he lifted a large rock with the intention of throwing or dropping it on William Salsman.
But Salsman lost his balance and and fell backward, preventing him from completing the crime of intentionally striking his father with the rock.
The grand jury also indicted Salsman on a Class B felony charge of domestic violence, punishable by 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison for holding the rock over his father and threatening him by saying ‘”Are you scared now? I’m going to kill you’ or words to that effect;” and two domestic violence misdemeanors, the first for allegedly striking his father in the head with a stick, causing a lump, and the second for striking him in the left shin with a gardening tool can causing “an open wound.”
Court documents say that at the time of the alleged assaults Salsman was intoxicated, having consumed alcohol earlier in the day at a fair in a neighboring community and had become increasingly belligerent as he drove home with his family.
Newhall, in filings with the court, observed that his then client had suffered a traumatic brain injury and also was taking medicine for several mental health illnesses.
On Tuesday, however, Newhall’s immediate concern was getting new counsel for Salsman.
“Mr. Salsman informed me this morning that I was fired,” Newhall told the court, adding that should Bornstein order the trial to proceed he needed time to speak with Salsman and his family members, several of whom were to be witnesses for both the state and defense.
Salsman confirmed to Bornstein that he refused to talk to Newhall, saying “I don’t trust him as an attorney, your honor,” especially in light of the very lengthy sentence he faced if convicted.
After a private discussion between Bornstein and Salsman, Bornstein granted Salsman’s motion to discharge Newhall but not before cautioning him that it could take up to six months to get his new attorney, who has yet to be appointed, up to speed.