KEENE — A Winchester man convicted of a pattern of felony sexual assaults on a teenage girl five years ago has been granted a new trial by the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
Gregory Collins, 46, was sentenced in September 2009 to no more than 20 years and no less than 10 in state prison.
Prosecutors allege Collins performed several sex acts on a girl he knew between April and November of 2007 in Winchester.
In 2009 he was tried on three counts of pattern aggravated felonious sexual assault, four counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault by individual acts, and one count of misdemeanor sexual assault.
The girl, who was 14 at the time of the alleged abuse, testified during the 2009 trial that Collins assaulted her “probably almost every week,” according to the April 18 New Hampshire Supreme Court opinion.
In its opinion, the court found that Collins did not receive a fair trial since his former attorney, Lisa Wellman-Ally, failed to object to testimony from an expert witness, the girl’s therapist.
During the 2009 trial, the therapist, Robert Fusco, testified he has 42 years of experience treating seriously traumatized abused and neglected children.
He testified that the complainant’s behaviors “fit perfectly into the same kind of behavioral symptoms that we would see for a child who had been sexually abused.”
Fusco testified that, as a result of the girl’s January 2008 disclosure to him about the 2007 sexual assaults, he realized that “we were no longer dealing with ... a major depressive disorder,” but rather a post-traumatic stress disorder on a child who had allegedly been sexually abused.
Fusco also testified, without an objection from the defense, that the girl’s disclosure “was the missing piece,” in his treatment of her.
The court said, “In effect, Fusco was allowed to opine that the complainant was a victim of child sexual abuse. Her behaviors, he testified, “fit perfectly” with those of a child sexual abuse victim. After the complainant disclosed the sexual assaults, Fusco diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder caused by alleged sexual abuse.”
The court said his testimony constitutes a “clear example of the type of unreliable evidence that we have held should be excluded from criminal trials.”
The court said the defense’s failure to object to the testimony undermined Collins’ constitutional right to a fair trial.
On Thursday, New Hampshire assistant attorney general Nicholas Cort, who argued against the motion for a rehearing, said he has no plans to submit a motion for reconsideration to the Supreme Court, so the case will be remanded back to the Cheshire County Superior Court in Keene.