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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Newly elected Nashua representative Laughton a convicted felon

NASHUA – Newly elected state representative Stacie Laughton, a Gate City Democrat, has been getting national attention since her win earlier this month, which made her the first openly transgender elected official in the state.

But this weekend, that attention turned negative after a story in the Laconia Daily Sun revealed that Laughton served four months in jail in 2008 on felony charges of conspiracy to commit credit card fraud. ...

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NASHUA – Newly elected state representative Stacie Laughton, a Gate City Democrat, has been getting national attention since her win earlier this month, which made her the first openly transgender elected official in the state.

But this weekend, that attention turned negative after a story in the Laconia Daily Sun revealed that Laughton served four months in jail in 2008 on felony charges of conspiracy to commit credit card fraud.

While Laughton declined to talk to The Telegraph on Saturday afternoon, saying she had been advised not to comment on the situation, she did take to Facebook to address the news.

“I am sorry for the people that can’t let my past go,” she wrote on her public Facebook page. “I have made mistakes just like everyone else. No one is perfect. I don’t want to talk about my past nor do I care about my past. I live for today and my future. If you want to talk about me please by all means do so. At least your (sic) leaving someone else alone. That is all I have to say about it.”

Laughton, elected as a selectman in the Gate City in 2011, was chosen Nov. 6 as one of three lawmakers to represent Hillsborough County House District 31, beating out two Republicans – Richard Heitmiller and Elizabeth Van Twuyver – for the position.

According to state law, convicted felons can run for public office as long as they are not still incarcerated and have successfully completed any court-ordered probation.

Laughton, who is transgender – meaning she was born male but identifies as female – was convicted of a felony in 2008 while living in Laconia under the name Barry Charles Jr.

According to information from the Laconia Daily Sun, Laughton was no stranger to Laconia police.

In addition to the conspiracy to commit fraud charges, Laughton was charged with slashing the tires of a neighbor’s car in 2006. The same year, Laughton reportedly admitted that she faked illness to gain an ambulance ride for herself and her now ex-wife, Lisa Laughton, also a Gate City selectman, from Weirs Beach back toward their home.

Laughton moved to Laconia from Nashua, where she was raised, in 2003. She ran for public office, under the name Barry Charles Jr., multiple times while living in the city, including runs for the City Council, School Board and a state representative seat.

Laughton’s felony conviction stems from a 2007 incident, the Laconia Daily Sun reported Saturday, when Laughton and her ex-wife reportedly opened a credit card in a former neighbor’s name, using it to purchase electronics and pay bills.

Laughton was indicted on one felony count of conspiracy to commit fraudulent use of a credit card; one count of conspiracy to commit identity fraud; and one count of falsifying physical evidence, for disposing two computers, two cellphones and a printer after learning of the police investigation.

On July 29, 2008, she pleaded guilty to the three charges and after receiving suspended sentences, served about four months in the Belknap County House of Corrections, according to the Laconia Daily Sun.

She remained on probation until Nov. 22, 2010, and was ordered to pay $1,991 in restitution, which she is still paying, the newspaper reported.

Nashua Democratic City Committee Chairman David Tencza said he had not heard about Laughton’s felony conviction until the news came out on Saturday. He said he expects no one else in the local political scene did either.

“It didn’t come out throughout the campaign, and there were plenty of reports published about her, it was not as if she flew below the radar,” he said. “It is a surprise. I think it’s a surprise to both sides. If the Republicans knew about this, I’m sure they would have brought it up and made it a campaign issue.”

Whether the conviction will impact Laughton’s ability to serve her constituents, Tencza said, is hard to know.

“I think time will have to tell,” he said.

Although Laughton declined to speak with The Telegraph, she did talk with Nashua Patch on Saturday morning, saying that she knew she would have to address her felony conviction at some point, but that she did not believe it would keep her from representing her constituents.

“They elected me to do a job and that job, I’m going to do with honor and with valor, regardless of what’s in my past. My past doesn’t define me,” Laughton told Nashua Patch. “Legally, I can still serve, and I’m going to continue to move forward as I have been … if for some reason it prohibits me from serving, then I’ll have to resign. But for now, I have no plan to resign.”

Danielle Curtis can be reached at 594-6557 or dcurtis@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Curtis on Twitter Telegraph_DC).