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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Former Hudson man’s motion to dismiss sex assault charges denied

NASHUA – A former Hudson man accused of sexual assault against a young girl appeared in Hillsborough County Superior Court Thursday to ask a judge to dismiss the charges – a motion that was later denied.

Robert Joseph Manship, a retired U.S. Air Force sergeant, claimed in his motion to dismiss the charges that the state no longer has pieces of evidence crucial to his defense, calling it an act of negligence by the prosecution. But the judge presiding over the case saw it differently, saying that the missing records were only a small portion of the investigation that led to the charges against Manship, and that the court found no culpable neglect on the part of the state. ...

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NASHUA – A former Hudson man accused of sexual assault against a young girl appeared in Hillsborough County Superior Court Thursday to ask a judge to dismiss the charges – a motion that was later denied.

Robert Joseph Manship, a retired U.S. Air Force sergeant, claimed in his motion to dismiss the charges that the state no longer has pieces of evidence crucial to his defense, calling it an act of negligence by the prosecution. But the judge presiding over the case saw it differently, saying that the missing records were only a small portion of the investigation that led to the charges against Manship, and that the court found no culpable neglect on the part of the state.

Manship was indicted in April 2012, charged with felonious sexual assault and aggravated felonious sexual assault. He is accused of having inappropriate contact with a girl between 1994 and 1996 when she was under the age of 13.

He was arrested by U.S. Marshals at Los Angeles International Airport in August after leaving the country for the Philippines years earlier. United States authorities worked with other federal and international law enforcement agencies to capture Manship.

Hudson police first investigated Manship in 1995 after a report from a worker with the state Department of Child and Family Services. During that investigation, Manship denied the charges, but did admit to having inappropriate contact with the girl in another jurisdiction, according to court documents.

Hudson police closed their investigation without charging Manship, and did not reopen the case until 2009, when police re-interviewed Manship’s daughter about the alleged abuse.

Manship’s motion to dismiss the charges, filed in November by his attorneys, focuses on missing records from DCYF regarding the allegations made against Manship and reports of their conversations with his daughter.

According to court documents, DCYF told police and the attorneys involved in the case that all files that originated prior to certain dates had been “purged,” in accordance with federal law.

“There are few cases of more import in our criminal justice system than those concerning the sexual abuse of children,” the motion to dismiss reads. “One can and should rightly expect that these cases will be handled with the utmost care and professionalism. Nothing explains, then, why (police) and DCYF each failed to properly safeguard the results of their initial investigation into these matters: an investigation that resulted in Mr. Manship’s being cleared of the charges in this case.”

The motion argues that the missing records could hurt Manship’s case, since memories can change overtime, and the statements given by Manship’s family this year could differ greatly from the statements made during the initial investigation.

The lack of record of these initial interviews, the motion states, could hinder Manship’s defense, and rises to the level of culpable negligence.

“This concerns the very basis of these allegations: the version of events given by both (his daughter) and Mr. Manship himself, at the time they occurred,” the documents state. “There is no substitute for these versions. They cannot be replaced with anybody’s present recollection of what they were.”

The state prosecutor handling the case, Assistant County Attorney Kent Smith, argued against Manship’s motion in court documents, saying that there was no negligence related to the purging of the DCYF records. Not only was the agency acting in accordance with the law, at the time the earlier investigation was done, a decision was made not to go forward with the prosecution of Manship, Smith writes in court documents.

Smith’s motion argues against Manship’s assertions that charges were not filed because the sexual assault did not occur.

“There are numerous other reasons why a prosecution can be delayed, such as the age or the victims or their reluctance to testify against a close relative,” the court documents state. “The DCYF records that were compiled at the time were purged in accordance with applicable law. It should be noted that Mr. Manship also had access to these records before they were purged.”

Furthermore, Smith states in court documents, the information Manship’s motion claims is “irretrievably lost” is available through other sources, including testimony from individuals involved in the case and police reports.

The case is currently scheduled to begin jury selection on Jan. 7, 2013.

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