LANCASTER — Former state Sen. Jeff Woodburn was sentenced Tuesday to 60 days in the Coos County House of Corrections following his conviction in May on three domestic violence-related misdemeanor charges.
Woodburn says he plans an appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
If he does not appeal his conviction, Judge Peter Bornstein ordered Woodburn to surrender on Aug. 13 to serve his sentence.
Woodburn, who represented District 1 from 2012-18, was found guilty of domestic violence/simple assault for biting the victim and on two counts of criminal mischief for kicking in the door of the victim’s house and for damaging her clothes dryer.
The main issue at the sentencing hearing was whether Woodburn, a Democrat from Whitefield who at one time was the state Senate’s minority leader, would serve time behind bars.
Woodburn, represented by lawyer Donna Jean Brown, asked for an entirely suspended sentence. Bornstein said that after hearing and considering all motions, testimony and statements from the victim, as well as Woodburn, he agreed with the state’s recommendation.
On Aug. 2, 2018, the Attorney General charged Woodburn with two counts of simple assault for throwing a cup of water in the victim’s face a year earlier and for hitting her in the stomach on Dec. 24, 2017.
He was also charged with two counts of simple assault and two counts of domestic violence for biting the victim on her left hand on Dec. 15, 2017 and on her right forearm on or about June 10, 2018.
Woodburn was further charged with trespass and two counts of criminal mischief for kicking and damaging the victim’s clothes dryer on Aug. 10, 2017 and for kicking in the door to her residence on Dec. 24, 2017.
Geoffrey W.R. Ward, senior assistant attorney general, told Bornstein the state wanted Woodburn to be sentenced to serve 12 months in jail, all but 30 days suspended for two years, on both the domestic violence/simple assault biting conviction and for criminal mischief for breaking the door.
In aggregate, Woodburn would serve 60 days, Ward said, and asked that Woodburn get a 12-month suspended sentence for damaging the dryer.
While saying Woodburn’s age, lack of a criminal record and “meritorious public service” were mitigating factors in sentencing, Ward said aggravating factors included Woodburn’s lack of remorse and recasting himself as the victim.
Lynda Ruel, director of the Attorney General’s Victim/Witness Assistance Unit, read an impact statement from the victim.
During his trial, the victim testified that Woodburn hoped to become governor and, in expectation of that, he gave her a document detailing how she should behave in public with him.
In her opening remark, the victim explained that her absence in Bornstein’s courtroom was “because my privacy has been violated throughout this process,” most recently when she was photographed at Woodburn’s trial and identified in a news article.
She pointed out that two of the crimes Woodburn was convicted of occurred at her home, while the third was in a vehicle with him when “Mr. Woodburn bit my hand.”
“This bite caused some of the most intense pain I have ever endured,” said the victim, adding that Woodburn advised her that she could cover up the bruise with makeup.
She said Woodburn retaliated against her and used his position as an elected official to intimidate her.
Brown said it was rare in her experience that a first-time offender would be sentenced to jail time. She presented the court with letter from Woodburn’s two ex-wives and his current girlfriend, all of whom, said Brown, wrote that they had not been victims of domestic violence.
Woodburn and the victim had a “toxic relationship,” said Brown, which had consequences for each of them.
When Woodburn addressed the court, he began with an acknowledgment that he “failed” the victim, although he didn’t say her name, as well as the community and himself.
“I let anger get the best of me,” he said, adding “The truth is I did some but not all of the bad things I was accused of.” He closed by saying he felt “shame and remorse.”
Ward said Woodburn’s statements were self-serving and that in them, “he took no responsibility” for his actions.
“He continues not to ‘get it,’ your honor,” said Ward.
Moments after Bornstein imposed sentenced upon him, Woodburn called the conditions “unprecedented,” and when asked whether he intended to appeal his convictions, he replied “that’s the plan.”
Brown said “there’s evidence that hasn’t come out” at Woodburn’s trial that will come out in an appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Former state senator sentenced to 60 days in jail for conviction on domestic-violence related charges