Portsmouth man on trial for sexually assaulting disabled woman
BRENTWOOD — Prosecutors argued Wednesday that a Portsmouth man intentionally targeted a 27-year-old woman living in his apartment building and sexually assaulted her knowing that she was developmentally disabled.
Paul Fierley, 51, went on trial Wednesday on five counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault for having sex with the woman between Nov. 1 and Nov. 22, and allegedly knowing she was unable to give consent.
“He did so to satisfy his own selfish needs,” Assistant County Attorney Patricia Conway said during opening arguments in Rockingham County Superior Court.
Fierley and the woman both lived in separate units at the Feaster Apartments in Portsmouth.
Conway told jurors that the victim had lived on her own and held down two jobs, but was remarkably limited due to brain damage she suffered shortly after her birth.
“She can’t cook, can’t use a stove. She can’t drive. She doesn’t have a license,” Conway said. “She has a hard time grasping concepts.”
The woman’s mother and an aide visited on a daily basis, and Fierley made sure the two women were not around when he approached the woman and asked her to sleep over his apartment, according to Conway.
She argued that the woman was incapable of understanding, “the physical nature of sex and the consequences of sex such as pregnancy and disease.”
Public Defender Deanna Campbell argued that the victim does understand sex and is capable of making choices.
Campbell said the woman graduated from high school after taking special education classes, went to the prom with friends and even had boyfriends in the past.
Jurors heard testimony from the woman on Wednesday morning.
Conway asked the woman a series of questions about her two jobs, her life and knowing the difference between telling the truth and a lie before asking about the alleged assault.
Fierley faces up to 10 to 20 years in state prison on each of the charges if he is convicted.
He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges, and remains held at the Rockingham County jail on $25,000 bail.
Portsmouth police arrested Fierley in February after he left the state while under investigation. The U.S. Marshals Service found him in Canaan, Maine, and arrested him on a fugitive from justice warrant on Feb. 11.