PELHAM — State Rep. Eric Schleien, who represents Pelham and Hudson, pleaded guilty Friday to assaulting a 16-year-old girl, four months after a judge rejected an initial plea that he didn't think matched the severity of the crime.
Judge William Delker said in Rockingham Superior Court that "new information has come to light," allowing him to accept the new agreement in good faith. Details of the new information were not discussed.
Schleien and Assistant County Attorney Melissa Failes agreed to a capped sentence of a year in the House of Corrections, half of which would be suspended based on good behavior. Following 30 days in the House of Corrections, Schleien would be eligible to serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest.
The capped sentence only means that Schleien, 30, will not be given a harsher punishment than was presented to the judge Friday. At a yet-to-be scheduled hearing, Schleien's newly appointed attorney Robin Melone will argue for a lighter sentence.
An additional count of simple assault and another count of sexual assault remained unprosecuted as part of the plea.
Schleien, who is not running for re-election after two terms in the House of Representatives, will serve until Dec. 4 at midnight. New state representatives are sworn in the following day.
As of press time Friday, Schleien had not announced whether he'd resign, nor was it clear if he'd be required to. The Speaker of the House at the time of Scheliene's arrest was Shawn Jasper, who said the accusations were being taken very seriously, and that if Schleien was convicted, he hoped a resignation would follow.
In June, Judge Delker described the “misuse of authority” and “power differential” in the case as deeply disturbing.
“This type of behavior cannot be condoned,” he said, expressing that the alleged crimes are worthy of incarceration.
Fales provided the court with the victim’s recollection of meeting Schleien on two occasions, noting that she did not appear in court or provide a victim impact statement out of fear that her identity would become widely-known and it would negatively impact her future.
The victim, a 16-year-old student visiting New Hampshire to study politics at Phillips Exeter Academy during the summer of 2016, was said to have met Schleien at an Exeter coffee shop.
According to statements made in court, Schleien noticed a political sticker on the girl’s laptop and struck up a conversation.
The two exchanged phone numbers, texted and planned a time for Schleien to pick her up from the school, Fales said. She said they went to Portsmouth, walked around a park and ate at a downtown restaurant.
Fales said the victim texted a friend while she was there to express that she was uncomfortable.
“The victim was under the impression that this would be to learn about the New Hampshire legislature,” Fales said.
Schleien, however, “spoke about sexual fantasies, his sexual preferences, prior sexual experiences and sexual things he would like to do to her,” according to the prosecutor.
The victim told Schleien she “didn’t engage in sexual situations” with people she just met, Fales said.
The two eventually made their way back to the parking garage to Schleien’s car, where the assault took place.
The victim claims Schleien grabbed her hand and sucked on her fingers. Fales said the victim did not tell him to stop out of fear.
Schleien attempted to kiss her, to which the teenage girl responded by stopping him and telling him that she needed to get back to Phillips Exeter Academy, according to Fales.
The victim later told police that Schleien started driving, but she told him to stop the car as soon as she recognized her surroundings. She walked back to school, she said, where she reported the situation to school officials and police that night.
The victim did not appear in court Friday, or for any of Schleien's appearances in the case. Fales said previously that she had been in touch with the girl, who was only disappointed that Schleien's sentence did not require him to register as a sex offender.