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Legal loopholes: Frustrating, but necessary

October 23. 2017 9:22PM

Holding our government to the letter of the law can be incredibly frustrating.

Former Belknap County deputy sheriff Ernest “Justin” Blanchette was transporting a prisoner to the New Hampshire State Prison for Women when he coerced her into having sex. Blanchette faced four other charges of forcing female inmates into having sex with him.

Blanchette was convicted of sexual assault, but the New Hampshire Supreme Court threw out the conviction because the statute under which Blanchette was tried specifically applies to defendants employed by correctional facilities coercing prisoners in their care. Blanchette was not a corrections employee. Last week, a court tossed four other indictments for similar assaults.

This seems a gross miscarriage of justice, and for Blanchette’s victims, it certainly is. But the courts were right to hold prosecutors to the letter of the law.

That law should change. Both corrections and law enforcement personnel should face criminal charges if they coerce sexual favors from those in their custody.

As in a case in Dover where authorities missed by one day a deadline to seize $14,000 in cash from a crime scene, courts must uphold the law as it is written. If we start bending the rules, even in such obvious cases, we open ourselves up to legal chaos.

Blanchette should be in prison for his actions, but stretching the law is not worth the price.

Crime, law and justice Politics Editorial

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