Convicted of domestic violence-related charges, former state senator argues for no jail time

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Sen. Jeffrey Woodburn

LANCASTER, NH — The state is asking a judge to sentence former New Hampshire Senator Jeffrey Woodburn to 60 days in jail on domestic violence and criminal mischief convictions; he is asking for no jail time.

After a jury trial in May in Coos County Superior Court, Woodburn, 55, of Whitefield was convicted on four charges involving three separate incidents over a five-month period.  Those included criminal mischief, for damaging a clothes dryer on Aug. 10, 2017; domestic violence and simple assault for biting then-fiancée Emily Jacobs’ hand on Dec. 15, 2017, and criminal mischief for kicking in Jacobs’ door on Christmas Eve 2017. 

The jury found him not guilty of five other charges, three on those same dates and two others – domestic violence and simple assault – that took place on June 9-10, 2018 when he allegedly bit Jacobs’ forearm.

Woodburn is to be sentenced on July 13, 2021, at 9 a.m. at the courthouse, 55 School St., Lancaster.

Woodburn was a Democratic state senator at the time of his arrest while Jacobs, a social worker, was chairman of the Coos County Democratic Committee.  She ran for county treasurer.

Both lost their elections.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey W.R. Ward is asking Judge Peter Bornstein to sentence Woodburn to a total of 60 days in jail.  On the simple assault, domestic violence charges, he is asking the judge to sentence Woodburn to 12 months in jail with all but 30 days suspended.  He is to have no contact with Jacobs or her immediate family and is to undergo a batterer’s evaluation and meaningfully comply with all recommended follow-up treatment and counseling, with proof provided to the court.

On the criminal mischief charges, the state is asking the court to sentence Woodburn to 12 months in jail on each, with all but 30 days suspended.  One of the 30-days sentences is to be consecutive to the simple assault sentence and the other, concurrent, bringing the total sentence to 60 days in jail.

Ward said the sentence is justified, particularly as a deterrent in order “to help deter others from committing similar crimes.”  He said the incidents began with the destruction of a clothes dryer, an act Woodburn tried to minimize and recast blame on the victim.  He sought to blame their “relationship dynamic” and urged Jacobs to “support [him] to avoid such situations.”  In doing that, Woodburn sought to create a cycle of victim self-blaming all too common in domestic violence situations which serve to perpetuate the abuser’s control over the victim, according to Ward.

He said the abuse continued with the hand-biting on Dec. 15, 2017, when Woodburn again blamed the victim for his anger.  Woodburn was threatening to leave the relationship and was using a cell phone to call a mutual friend for a ride, but Jacobs believed he was going to disparage her to her friend, according to Ward.  She reached for the phone and Woodburn clamped down on her hand with his teeth, causing excruciating pain and leaving a significant bruise on her hand, the prosecutor said.

The final incident of which Woodburn was convicted was for him kicking in the door of Jacobs’ residence on Christmas Eve, 2017.  

“While not a physical assault, it surely can be considered an escalation in the abuse, given the sanctity afforded one’s home by American legal jurisprudence,” Ward wrote.  “It is also clearly a significant act of abuse when viewed from the victim’s perspective.  The defendant’s ability to physically overpower a locked door and break into her home sent the clear message to the victim that there was no place in which she was safe from him.  As such, the crime for which the defendant was convicted is surely more than a mere property crime and can rightly be considered by the Court a further act of domestic abuse.”

In the defense’s sentencing memorandum, Attorney Donna J. Brown asked the judge to impose a suspended sentence.  She said Woodburn has no criminal record and at the time of his arrest he was a N.H. state senator.  After “intense media scrutiny” surrounding his arrest, she said he lost his bid for reelection in November 2018. 

He was employed as executive director of Counsel for Youth Chronic Conditions in Dover but, once arrested, he lost that job.  Since then, Brown said Woodburn has been unable to find employment at the same salary or benefits of his prior job.  He has worked at Cannon Mountain as a line cook and server and as a server and bartender at The Profile Club, both in Franconia.

Brown said it is important to carefully analyze the verdicts as compared to trial testimony.  Both Woodburn and Jacobs testified.

The defense attorney pointed out Woodburn admitted to some of the charges such as damaging the clothes dryer, biting Jacobs’ hand and kicking the door to her house but he denied all other charges. The jury convicted him on the charges he admitted to doing and found him not guilty on the others.

She said an analysis of the verdicts demonstrates that the jury credited Woodburn’s trial testimony and rejected Jacobs’.  

Ward, in asking for a jail sentence, says Woodburn’s public statements concerning the jury’s findings shows a lack of remorse on his part.

After the verdicts, Ward wrote in his sentencing memorandum, Woodburn was quoted by InDepthNH.org as stating, “They [the jury] believed me.  They didn’t believe her” and “In short, that [the jury’s verdicts] means they believed me.”  On his website, Woodburn wrote:  “It’s gratifying to be believed by the jury (convicted for what I admitted to and not guilty for the other five charges) but more important to be heard.  The process has revealed much—and will reveal more.”

Ward said those public statements make clear that Woodburn “does not appreciate the significance of being convicted of these crimes and further evince a complete lack of remorse or understanding of the impact of his criminal conduct.”

It is clear, Ward said, that Woodburn does not comprehend or appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct.

“The Court can endeavor to change that, by imposing a stand committed sentence and sending the clear message to this defendant that his criminal conduct was wrong, constituted domestic violence, and will not be tolerated in this state.  Unfortunately, to do otherwise likely would serve only to embolden the defendant (and perhaps others) in his misguided belief that the verdicts in this matter are a badge of honor,” the prosecutor wrote.