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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hudson man found not guilty of sex assault

NASHUA – A Hudson man was found not guilty of raping, molesting and assaulting a young girl following a jury trial last week.

A Hillsborough County Superior Court jury returned eight not-guilty verdicts for Michael Kenney, 53, of 9 Chatham St., Hudson, on Monday, ending an eight-month ordeal that began when he was indicted last November. ...

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NASHUA – A Hudson man was found not guilty of raping, molesting and assaulting a young girl following a jury trial last week.

A Hillsborough County Superior Court jury returned eight not-guilty verdicts for Michael Kenney, 53, of 9 Chatham St., Hudson, on Monday, ending an eight-month ordeal that began when he was indicted last November.

A 14-year-old girl told police that Kenney had sexually assaulted her from 2006-11 at his home in Hudson beginning when she was 6 years old and continuing until she was 10 or 11. Kenney was charged with six counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and one count each of felonious sexual assault, indecent exposure and lewdness, second-degree assault and criminal threatening, according to court documents.

“Michael is incredibly relieved to have this matter behind him,” defense attorney Chuck Keefe said. “He looks forward to putting this matter behind him and moving on with his life.”

During his opening argument last week, Keefe told the 11 female and one male jurors that it was the second-degree assault allegation that pointed out the lack of logic in the victim’s accusations.

Kenney was accused of hitting the girl in the head with a wrench while in the basement of his home, raping her, and then holding a screwdriver to her throat while threatening to kill her if she told anyone.

“A wrench across the head of a 7 year old by a grown man,” Keefe said. “I guess she’s asking you to believe in miracles because that’s what must have happened for her to leave that with no apparent injury.”

Keefe said that argument was central to Kenney’s defense and that he thinks Kenney’s own testimony had a significant impact on jurors.

Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia LaFrance said sexual assault cases, particularly those without any physical evidence, are difficult to prosecute.

“In this case, there was no physical evidence and no confession, so it was just the testimony of the victim,” she said. “These cases are difficult, but I think that the victim stood up and testified against him will help the victim move forward.”

New Hampshire law does allow jurors to convict a defendant on sexual assault charges based only on a victim’s testimony and without any independent corroboration, LaFrance said.

Keefe said many of the girl’s statements to police and other investigators have changed repeatedly since they were first made, including when the abuse stopped and important details of certain alleged assaults. He also said other people in the home would have to have noticed evidence of the assaults.

“This girl wants people to believe her even though her story changes every time she tells it, as recently as yesterday,” Keefe said during his opening argument last week. “We’re left with her words. Words that change. Words that don’t make sense and words that aren’t supported by evidence.”

During her opening arguments, Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Nicole Thorspecken said the alleged victim was so young when the abuse started she didn’t know it was wrong. Later, she was scared, of Kenney and that no one would believe her.

“Sexual assaults are crimes of secrecy. There is only one witness to this secret life of Michael Kenney,” Thorspecken said. “She was only 6 years old when this started happening to her, and when she found out it was wrong, she was too scared.”

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).