Judge cancels hearing after outburst

Nashua police photo Dennis Higgins, 52, last known address, 1 Ayer Rd., Apt. 1, Nashua

NASHUA – Dennis Higgins Sr.’s loud, boisterous objection to a judge’s ruling to allow a victim impact statement to be read during his recent plea hearing prompted the judge to cancel the hearing and order his five cases be scheduled for trials.

Higgins, 53, formerly of Nashua but currently living at 9 Melendy Road in Hudson, faces charges ranging from burglary to assault and drug possession. The alleged offenses are spread across five separate cases from April 2016 to August 2018, according to his files at Hillsborough County Superior Court-South.

All five cases were scheduled to be addressed at the plea hearing, which, according to a notice filed by Higgins’s attorney Shea Sennett, would have resulted in Higgins being sentenced to a two-to-four-year sentence in State Prison, all deferred for two years, then suspended for one year.

The agreement called for Higgins to enter a plea of “true,” rather than “guilty,” under a so-called Alford plea, in which a defendant is not required to admit guilt.

But that arrangement went out the window moments before the hearing was scheduled to start.

Higgins apparently learned of Judge Charles Temple’s ruling allowing the statement to be read just as he and Sennett, along with First Assistant County Attorney Kent Smith, took their places at their respective tables.

“It’s nothing to do with her,” Higgins said to Sennett, apparently referring to the alleged victim of the assault with which Higgins was charged in 2016.

Higgins grew more animated as the two spoke, prompting Sennett to take the discussion into one of the conference rooms outside the courtroom.

Higgins could clearly be heard shouting for several minutes, during which time Temple issued his order canceling the hearing.

When Sennett and Higgins reentered the courtroom, Temple told him the hearing was off and that the clerk’s office would be scheduling his cases for separate jury trials.

Should Higgins decide in the meantime to pursue a plea deal, Temple wrote in his order, “this court will only accept guilty pleas on a naked plea basis,” which means the judge alone determines the defendant’s sentence.

Temple stated in the order that Higgins “refused to enter an Alford plea” after Temple granted the state’s request to admit the victim impact statement.

The first of Higgins’s five Superior Court cases was opened after his arrest April 21, 2016, when he was charged with one felony count of burglary, which accuses him of illegally entering a Nashua residence and “inflicting bodily injury on a female … by pushing her down the stairs, causing injuries to her head, back and arms,” the charge reads.

Higgins was next arrested in August 2016, charged with a felony count of possession of a controlled drug – subsequent offense.

Four months later, on Dec. 19, 2016, Nashua police took Higgins into custody on a felony charge of possession of a substance believed to be crystal meth.

His two most recent arrests, in March 2017 and on Aug. 16, each resulted in one felony count of possession of methamphetamines.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DeanS.