CONWAY — Carroll County Attorney Michaela Andruzzi on Tuesday filed charges of “special felony” aggravated felonious sexual assault and misdemeanor sexual assault against a Jackson teen.
The Conway Police Department log from Feb. 26-March 1 shows that Riley Hayes, 18, of Jackson was charged with felonious sexual assault when the victim was “physically helpless” and that the age difference between Hayes and the alleged victim is less than three years.
The log indicates Hayes was arrested at the Conway Police Station on Feb. 26 just before 4 p.m. Carroll County Superior Court paperwork shows Hayes turned 18 the day before the arrest, and the date of alleged offense was Oct. 17, 2020. Hayes was released on personal recognizance.
The aggravated felonious sexual assault criminal complaint that Andruzzi filed alleges that Hayes assaulted (a 15-year-old at the time) person “when (the alleged victim) was physically helpless to resist.”
The alleged inability of the victim to resist is the listed aggravating factor. The fact it is listed as a “special felony” means Andruzzi may be seeking an extended term of imprisonment, since when asked about it she referred a reporter to RSA 651:6 “Extended term of Imprisonment” in the New Hampshire Statutes.
“I can’t comment on a pending case other than to point to public information,” said Andruzzi.
The statute that describes extended imprisonment says that any felony committed under a prescribed list of circumstances comes with a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.
The Sun asked Andruzzi if she could clarify the grounds on which she filed the special felony charge.
Andruzzi responded: “I cannot comment on our strategy or legal theories of the case.”
The misdemeanor charge alleges Hayes assaulted a victim who was between the ages of 13 and 15. Class A misdemeanors carry a penalty of a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
With respect to why police waited until Hayes turned 18 to file charges, Conway Police Chief Chris Mattei declined to answer the question; however, Randy Hawkes, the executive director of the New Hampshire Public Defender, said police have legal authority to do that or else seek to certify an underage defender as an adult.
The Sun asked Mattei about the situation with the window of time between the date of the alleged crime and when Hayes turned 18.
“I would refer you to legal counsel on this question,” said Mattei in an email on March 5.
New Hampshire Public Defender is a Concord-based non-profit that provides legal counsel to people accused of crimes. Hawkes said he’s been the director or seven or eight years and has been practicing law for 28 years. The office has 125-30 attorneys covering all 10 New Hampshire counties.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Hawkes said the reason police waited to charge Hayes was “probably simply a matter of the juvenile involved here was not an immediate threat to the public and they could wait.
“He probably turned 18 within a short period of time, and they just chose to charge to charge him as an adult and to not have to go through the certification process,” Hawkes said.
He said the statute that controls this situation is RSA 169-B:4. He said if a juvenile commits an offense under 18, most of the time, a delinquency petition would be filed and a case would begin in family court. If the crime is serious, the prosecution could go through a certification process to move the case into adult court.
Under RSA 169-B:4 VII, after a defendant or a juvenile turns 18, he or she can be “charged, tried and convicted and sentenced in adult court,” said Hawkes.
The RSA says: “In any instance in which the statute of limitations has not tolled and no juvenile petition has been filed based upon acts committed before the minor’s 18th birthday, the state may proceed against the person in the criminal justice system after that person’s 18th birthday.”
Hawkes said it’s possible to move a case involving an 18-year-old suspect to family court before the suspect turns 19.
‘”Even after 18, a kid could be brought into family court by petition between his 18th and 19th year,” said Hawkes.
The certification process is laid out in RSA 169-B:24, said Hawkes. He said factors that the family court looks at in determining whether a young suspect’s case is transferred to Superior Court include the nature of the offense, the age of any co-defendants, the maturity of the juvenile and the need to protect the public.
“If the family court decides that it should be transferred to adult court, the Superior Court would have to accept that transfer,” said Hawkes.
He added that “there is a presumption of transfer if the offense is murder, attempted murder, first-degree assault, aggravated sexual assault, things like that.”
Typically, law enforcement has up to six years to bring a felony charge, said Hawkes, adding that when it comes to sexual assault, the charge can be brought up to 22 years after a juvenile victim turns 18.
“The bigger question of all these situations, in my view, is the consideration of adolescent brain development,” said Hawkes. “Adolescent defendants may have less criminal culpability than adult counterparts. That’s what the latest neuroscience says.”
Asked if age at the time of the offense would be considered at sentencing, Hawkes replied that it would be a “key factor.”
Youths can be sentenced to the Sununu Youth Center while they are minors under 18. The family court may have authority over a juvenile offender until age 21 under some circumstances. Also the court, in some circumstances, may send an offender to a county correctional facility after the person turns 18, the law says.
Juvenile sentences are usually weighted toward rehabilitation and their cases are dealt with in private. But adult cases are public and adults may be sent to state prison. Adults can be sentenced to 15 years in prison for felonious sexual assault.
Hayes has an arraignment scheduled in Superior Court on April 8.
Deputy County Attorney Steven Briden said that because of COVID-19, arraignments are being scheduled 45 days out from the arrest if the suspect isn’t ordered held.
Reached by phone March 1, Hayes said he had no comment.
According to court documents filed March 8, Hayes is being represented by Robin Melone of Wadleigh, Starr & Peters, PLLC of Manchester and Leslie Gill of Gill & Sculimbrene PLLC of Nashua.
Starting Point has a 24/7/365 support line for victims of domestic and sexual violence and stalking, and for families and friends of victims. To speak with an advocate, call (800) 336-3795 or chatline on the web at resourceconnect.com/sp/chat. All calls are confidential.