Hanscom sex assault trial gets underway

Attorney Thomas Gleason delivers his opening statement Wednesday morning to the jury in the sexual-assault trial of his client, Hudson resident Christopher Hanscom. Judge Charles Temple listens from the bench. Testimony is scheduled to resume Thursday in Hillsborough County Superior Court South.

NASHUA – Prosecutors and defense attorneys in the Christopher Hanscom sexual assault trial seem to agree on the events that led to Hanscom going to the alleged victim’s Nashua apartment on a winter afternoon some 15 months ago.

Hanscom, 34, of 2B Boyd Road in Hudson, faces two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, which are extended term felonies, and six counts of simple assault, Class A misdemeanors. His trial began Wednesday morning in Hillsborough County Superior Court South.

The two sides agree that Hanscom met the alleged victim through their church, which some describe as a fledgling fundamentalist Christian parish that holds services in a high school gym. The two began exchanging messages on Facebook and later, via the Messenger program, and eventually agreed to meet for coffee and conversation.

The parties also agree the alleged victim suggested they meet at her apartment, after Hanscom reportedly told her the bright lights in a public setting would likely aggravate his eye problem, and force him to wear sunglasses.

The only other element of the events of Feb. 4, 2017 that the sides don’t dispute is that a sexual encounter took place between the two, and Hanscom left the apartment shortly thereafter.

That leaves the part about the circumstances of that sexual encounter – which is where prosecutors and the defense veer sharply in opposite directions.

Central to the trial, which is scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. today in the Nashua court, is whether Hanscom sexually assaulted the woman, allegedly using physical force and ignoring her repeated pleas and orders to stop, as the prosecution argues, or if the two engaged in consensual sex, as Hanscom and his attorney contend.

The charges, on which officials indicted Hanscom in June, accuse him of “engaging in sexual penetration with an adult female through the application of physical force or violence or superior strength, and without the free consent of the alleged victim … for grabbing the victim’s hair, pushing her down on a couch, kissing her and grabbing her hips …,” the indictments state.

The woman, 25, knew Hanscom only as a “volunteer leader” at their church when she responded to a Facebook post requesting assistance in setting up for a church service, according to Assistant County Attorney Lin Li, who is prosecuting the case with Assistant County Attorney Cassie Devine.

Hanscom had posted the request on the church’s Facebook account, Li said. Soon, the two began exchanging occasional Facebook messages, which eventually evolved into conversations through Messenger.

Shortly after Hanscom arrived at the woman’s apartment for coffee late the afternoon of Feb. 4, the two were “chatting on the couch, about life, about music … “ when she got up to put on some music, Li told jurors in her opening statement.

Hanscom allegedly came up behind her, “grabbed her hair, and kissed her on the neck,” Li said. The alleged victim “said ‘no, no … this is not appropriate,'” at which time Hanscom allegedly grabbed the woman’s hair again, and reportedly said “you like to be teased.”

Li said the two ended up on a couch, and described a struggle in which she said the woman “fought really hard … tried to push him off” as Hanscom allegedly tried to pull down her pants.

After about 15 minutes, Li said, and to which the woman later testified, she decided to “stop pushing back” in hopes Hanscom “will be done and leave.”

“I was scared. Absolutely terrified,” the alleged victim told Devine during questioning. She said she worried “it could get worse” if “I kept fighting back.”

“How many times do you think you said ‘no,’ or something like it?” Devine asked.

“More than a dozen,” the woman responded.

As Hanscom left, she said, he said something along the lines of “you’re not going to tell anyone, right?” she testified. Asked why she didn’t go to a hospital or contact police right away, the woman said she “needed to regain control of myself … I wasn’t ready.” The thought of being examined at a hospital and “reliving it right away” terrified her, she said.

But Hanscom’s attorney, Thomas Gleason, during his cross-examination focused heavily on the timing, and nature of the Messenger conversations. He said in his opening statement that the first contact the two allegedly had was when the woman got up to put on music.

Hanscom “started rubbing her shoulders … she responded by turning around and kissing him,” Gleason told the jury.

“Then they went to the couch … eventually they had intercourse on the couch,” he added.

“Mr. Hanscom will tell you this was purely consensual. There was no resistance,” Gleason told the jury. “In terms of what went on (afterward), they had a brief conversation, he hugged her, she hugged him back, then he left.”

The next thing Hanscom knew, Gleason said, police were knocking at his door at 7 a.m., nearly a week later.

“You will hear that (Hanscom) wandered from his marriage, which he’s completely guilty of,” Gleason said to jurors. “But what he’s not guilty of is what the state charged him with.

“He’s an innocent man, who hasn’t done what the state says he did.”