EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 12, 2013

Derry lawmaker fights assault conviction

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — DERRY — Rep. Frank Sapareto, R-Derry, has been convicted of assaulting two people during a domestic dispute a year ago.

But Sapareto said yesterday he was only trying to protect his former girlfriend from her angry son and has appealed the verdict to Superior Court, hoping it will be overturned by a jury.

“I know I did the right thing,” he said of his response. “I want to be (tried) in front of my peers.”

The longtime lawmaker said he intends to get legislation passed next session that would reduce the number of frivolous assault cases heard by the state’s courts. He also has served in the state Senate.

Sapareto, 53, of 14 Oxbow Lane was recently convicted on three simple assault charges in 10th Circuit Court in Derry. He was sentenced last week by Judge Robert Stephen, he said, to a suspended 30-day jail sentence. Sapareto must pay a $500 fine, receive an anger management evaluation and stay away from the victims.

Sapareto was arrested in May on the three Class A misdemeanors — each punishable by up to three years in jail — following an incident at the girlfriend’s Tyler Road home April 11, 2012.

He was charged with pushing the girlfriend’s adult son, then his sister when she intervened. Sapareto said yesterday that although he and the girlfriend are no longer together, they remain good friends and believe the case has been blown out of proportion.

Police were told Sapareto pushed his way into the home, shouted at the son and acted aggressively toward him, according to Derry police Capt. Vern Thomas. He was released on $1,500 personal recognizance.

Sapareto said he was especially upset when prosecutor Marcia Rosen requested he spend at least three days in jail. He said he does not have to pay the fine because the case is under appeal.

But Sapareto is concerned New Hampshire taxpayers are forced to pay the cost of prosecuting what he said are minor assault cases in which no one is injured each year. He said misdemeanor assault charges should be reduced to violations, which include no jail time, the equivalent of receiving a speeding ticket.

“My concern is that thousands and thousands of property taxpayers’ money is spent on these cases,” he said. “That makes me angry as a taxpayer.”

Sapareto said the state court system handled 8,417 misdemeanor assault cases last year. No one was seriously hurt in at least half of those cases, he said.

“This is what the trial attorneys make their money on,” he said.

Sapareto has served Rockingham County House Districts 5 and 6 since he was elected in 2008. He served in the Senate from 2002 to 2004, and in the House from 1997 to 2002.