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April 4, 2013

Danville selectman returns to board

DANVILLE — Selectman Russell Harding has returned to the board while his assault case is still pending.

Harding, charged with assaulting a teenage boy, previously said he would continue to take his unpaid leave of absence until the case was resolved because he didn't want it to be a distraction.

But Harding returned in March for the town's Candidates Night and has attended two other meetings since, including one Monday, Selectmen's Chairman Shawn O'Neil said. Harding had not been to a meeting since September.

Harding, 35, was scheduled to appear in 10th Circuit Court in Plaistow on Feb. 21 for his trial on two misdemeanor simple assault charges. The trial was canceled when Harding's case was transferred to the Rockingham County attorney's office for further review.

Lawyers involved in the case met with the judge Tuesday, and Harding's trial in Rockingham Superior Court has been scheduled for the week of June 24.

If convicted, Harding could face a year in jail and a $2,000 fine for each assault charges. He has been free on $5,000 personal recognizance.

Harding was arrested by state police on charges he grabbed a teenage boy during Danville’s Movie Night on Aug. 18 and slammed his head against a table. The second-year selectman has pleaded not guilty, but admitted to a reporter he pushed the boy.

Harding said he pushed the teen the boy because he was trying to prevent him from damaging the town’s movie equipment.

Fellow selectmen say Harding's court case continues to be a distraction for the board and that he's been a passive member since his return, contributing little — if anything — to discussions.

"He's basically been sitting there and not doing anything," O'Neil said. "The board feels uncomfortable. I wish he would have just resigned before because he's a distraction."

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