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Man Convicted of Sexual Assault Without Church Testimony

07/27/2001
Associated Press Newswires
Copyright 2001. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

NASHUA, N.H. (AP) - A Hollis man has been convicted of molesting twin sisters although his apparent admission to church elders could not be used in the trial.

A jury deliberated two hours Tuesday before convicting Gregory Blackstock, 45, in Hillsborough County Superior Court of three counts of rape. He already was serving a five- to 10-year sentence for sexually assaulting a 9-year-old East Kingston girl in that town.

Blackstock's lawyers have moved to have the latest verdict set aside. No date has been set for a hearing on the motion or sentencing.

"We're fairly confident that the verdict will be set aside," defense lawyer Paul Garrity said. "The evidence was insufficient to support the verdict. "I think the judge will take a close look at it."

Assistant County Attorney Roger Chadwick said prosecutors believed the evidence supported the charges.

"Obviously, we're very satisfied," Chadwick said.

He said it was "a tremendous relief for me given the work that went into the case to see the jurors believe these girls, who were so courageous to get up and testify."

The girls, now 10, testified in open court.

More charges are pending against Blackstock in an unrelated case. He was accused of sexually assaulting a Hollis girl, who is now in her teens, between 1989 and 1996. A trial has been scheduled in October.

Judge William Groff ruled that Blackstock can't be sentenced under the state's "three strike's" law although he was convicted of three counts of rape. However, he could face an enhanced minimum sentence of 15 years for each charge because of his earlier conviction in Rockingham County.

Earlier, Groff found that elders in Blackstock's Jehovah's Witness congregation could not be made to testify about Blackstock's statements to them. He cited the "religious privilege" rule, which holds that religious leaders can't be required to disclose a confession or other statements made in confidence in their capacity as spiritual advisers. Prosecutors wanted to subpoena a minister and elders from Blackstock's congregation to testify about meetings at which they discussed the allegations.

Blackstock became acquainted with the girls' families while living in East Kingston and attending a Jehovah's Witness church there. He worked with the parents, and lived with the family for a period of time, Chadwick said during the trial.

The sisters' mother contacted her church elders after one of the girls disclosed the abuse, Chadwick said. One of the elders then contacted elders in the Hollis congregation.

Blackstock was accused of molesting the twins between October 1998 and June 1999 at his mother's home in Hollis.

The defense argued the girls' mother inadvertently misled them into making up the abuse charges by repeatedly questioning them and sharing with them her experience of sexual abuse.

The mother spoke to the girls in general terms when she began to have concerns about Blackstock's relationship with them, Chadwick said. When she read them a children's story about sexual abuse - "No-No the Little Seal" - the girls confided to her about the abuse, Chadwick said.

"She did what any mother would do," Chadwick said, adding later, "I'm glad the jury found that acceptable."

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