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Friday, September 5, 2014

Nashua courtroom outburst causes mistrial in rape case, lands man in jail

NASHUA – A judge sent a local man to jail for one day Wednesday, a week after his profanity and invective-laced rant in the middle of a rape trial forced a mistrial.

Victor Traverso appeared before Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Jacalyn Colburn Wednesday to answer for the outburst from the previous week during the trial of Aldo Batista Dos Santos. Colburn began the contempt hearing by summing what led to the outburst and what was shouted in the coutroom. ...

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NASHUA – A judge sent a local man to jail for one day Wednesday, a week after his profanity and invective-laced rant in the middle of a rape trial forced a mistrial.

Victor Traverso appeared before Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Jacalyn Colburn Wednesday to answer for the outburst from the previous week during the trial of Aldo Batista Dos Santos. Colburn began the contempt hearing by summing what led to the outburst and what was shouted in the coutroom.

Dos Santos’ lawyer, Timothy Bush, was cross-examining the alleged victim, a teenager, on Aug. 27, the second day of the trial, when Traverso stood up and began screaming at Bush and Dos Santos. Despite Colburn’s orders to stop, Traverso swore, called Bush a homosexual epithet and said he wished the attorney’s daughter was victimized, she said.

Traverso left the courtroom and, before court security officers could
execute Colburn’s order to detain him, left the court house. Colburn held a bench conference with the attorneys and granted Bush’s request to declare a mistrial, she said.

During the bench conference another court officer handed Colburn a note he had been drafting before the outburst outlining his concerns about Traverso’s comments during the testimony and fears that nearby jurors might be able to hear them, Colburn said.

Colburn said she issued express warnings, as had prosecutors, about courtroom decorum because of outbursts during pre-trial hearings.

On Wednesday, Traverso apologized and said he had not been prepared for how explicit the testimony would be. He said he meant to simply tell his brother he was leaving because he couldn’t take Bush’s line of questioning, which he said was an effort to confuse, berate, humiliate and bully the alleged victim. When Bush heard him and turned, Traverso admitted he “lost it.”

“My intentions when I stood up was to just get out of here. When he looked at me, I had to tell him how I felt,” he told Colburn Wednesday.

While he will pay less than some people who have disrupted trials and forced mistrials – the penalties to which can include significant jail time and a fine for the cost of the trial – Traverso will still pay dearly.

Colburn found Traverso in criminal contempt and sentenced him to a day in jail and up to $1,500, the expected cost to produce a transcript of the first two days of the trial, which lawyers will need when they begin anew in December. But the mistrial also means the alleged victim will have to testify all over again.

“You caused a lot of damage in this case,” Colburn said. “Your actions were outrageous. They were in defiance of the court’s authority and they were completely disrespectful.”

Traverso agreed.

“She’s my hero for just coming up here and doing this,” he said about the alleged victim. “I was out of control. I’m the first to admit that, but my out-of-control-ness hurt someone that I love.”

Dos Santos meanwhile will have to wait several months for his next day in court. He was accused in June 2013 of having sexual contact with a girl in Nashua and Hudson in October 2012 when she was 13 years old, police said.

He was charged then with two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and several lesser counts of sexual assault and felonious sexual assault, according to court documents.

The aggravated felonious sexual assault charges allege that Dos Santos was in a position of authority over the girl and that he used that authority to “coerce her to submit,” according to court documents.

Bush declined to comment citing the ongoing prosecution.

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