» Criminal Defense

Victory on Appeal: Cruelty to Animals Conviction Reversed on Appeal

On March 30, 2023, in State v. Tufano, a case briefed and orally argued by Ted Lothstein, the NH Supreme Court reversed a conviction for cruelty to animals arising out of a very unusual fact pattern. The accused was seen by neighbors in a manufactured home park spraying water into a large plastic bin. Inside the bin, was a Havahart trap. Inside the trap, was a very vocal cat. A neighbor saw this happening, confronted the accused about it, but did nothing. But a few days later, another neighbor told him that the accused had a history of trapping cats, and that she had confronted him about it years prior. The neighbors went to the police and eventually, our client was charged with Cruelty to Animals and brought to trial. The case in the lower court. In the jury trial, Mr. Tufano was skillfully represented by former counsel Stephen Brown of Rochester, NH. But over Attorney Brown's objection, the prosecutor was allowed to introduce evidence that according to the neighbors, the accused had a history of trapping cats, which one witness described as "a history of being hostile towards cats." But the NH Supreme Court reversed, finding that this evidence was precluded under NH Rule of Evidence 404(b), which prevents the introduction of “propensity” or character evidence. This rule says that a prosecutor, or a party in a civil case, cannot introduce evidence that the defendant or opposing party committed a similar crime in the past, and then argue: He did it before, he must have done it again. Rule 404(b) is critical to ensure a fair trial. The prohibition on the use of character evidence to prove a person's propensity to commit crimes or propensity to do bad things is a critical legal principle of equal importance in civil and criminal cases. There are exceptions of course, like a serial killer who commits his murder in a unique manner, such that evidence of his past crimes helps identify him as the perpetrator. The exceptions apply when the evidence is admissible for a purpose other than propensity, such as, in our example, to prove identity. But otherwise, all of us can appreciate the purpose of this rule: We have all made mistakes at some point in our past, but we don't think that our mistakes should define us forever. But more importantly, propensity evidence leads to wrongful convictions, because even if the evidence is thin, the jury may convict out of fear they will let a person "get away with it again." Accused Hired Ted Lothstein and Lothstein Guerriero, PLLC for his Appeal. On appeal, Mr. Tufano hired Ted Lothstein and our firm to represent him before the NH Supreme Court. This is common in our practice: A person will be represented by another lawyer or firm in the trial court, and then we handle the appeal. A new lawyer on appeal can see things from a different perspective. And of course on top of that, we are highly experienced, having handled well over a hundred appeals in State and federal courts. Ted Lothstein prepared the brief, and presented oral argument, which you can listen to here. You can read Attorney Lothstein's brief here: 2022-03-14-Tufano-FINAL BRIEF Victory on Appeal. On March 30, 2023, the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a published opinion, reversing (overturning) Mr. Tufano's conviction. The court held that the lower court's ruling allowing the prosecution to use propensity evidence to prove guilt was "clearly untenable", even taking into account the substantial discretion allowed to lower courts in making rulings on evidence. The ruling inflicted prejudice, meaning that the unfairly-admitted evidence influenced the jury's decision. And the court rejected the prosecution argument for "harmless error" - the argument that other evidence of guilt was overwhelming. It was not. Our firm has now had at least 78 published decisions in State and Federal appellate courts, and dozens of appellate victories, far more than most law firms in NH. Click here to learn more about our firm's appellate litigation practice. Click here to learn more about Ted Lothstein, who has co-chaired the NH Bar's Appellate Litigation seminar several times in recent years. Read More

New Trial, then Dismissal, for Therapist Wrongfully Accused

10/12/2018: In our most recent and perhaps our greatest victory, we won an appeal granting a new trial to a beloved and esteemed therapist wrongfully accused of sexual assault by a client. On October 12, 2018, the New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld a critical victory we had already won in the Superior Court - a victory that freed a therapist from prison who had been wrongfully accused of sexual assault by a client, and cleared his name. The Court held that the Superior Court was right to vacate the jury verdicts and sentences, and grant a new trial, for the therapist because juror bias infected the proceedings, resulting in an unfair trial. On October 17, 2018, the Merrimack County Attorney's Office issued a press release, announcing the State would not bring the case to trial again. Instead, the State dismissed the charges. Read More about Dr. Afshar's Case Read More

Drug Felony Reduced to Misdemeanor, No Jail Time

Our client was charged with Attempted Sale of Narcotic Drugs, a class B felony, based on an undercover investigation by the NH State Police. An affidavit filed with the Court alleged that client had agreed to sell narcotic drugs to an undercover informant supervised by the Drug Task Force, took the money for the drugs, but then fled and never supplied the drugs. Client retained Ted Lothstein of Lothstein Guerriero, PLLC. After negotiation, we were able to secure a plea to a misdemeanor theft, with a jail sentence that was fully suspended, conditioned on payment of $500 restitution to the NH Drug Task Force. In March, 2016, Judge Tucker of the Merrimack County Superior Court accepted the plea agreement. For client, this meant no felony conviction, no jail time, no probation. A very good outcome! Read More

Selling Drugs at Plymouth State, No Jail Time

Grafton County Superior Court, N. Haverhill, NH. Client, a student at Plymouth State University, was prosecuted after selling drugs to an undercover officer just off campus. The Grafton County Attorney's Office argued that client should serve 6 months in jail. In May, 2016, Attorney Ted Lothstein successfully argued that that because client had no prior record, had graduated from college, and had secured a good job, the Court should put him on probation rather than sending him to jail. Read More

Freed from Prison - Juror Misconduct

On March 28, 2017, the Merrimack County Superior Court granted a 54-page Motion for New Trial that we filed on behalf of a client who had been convicted of Aggravated Felonious Sexual Assault and sent to prison. This victory resulted in the immediate release of our client from prison. The victory also received widespread press coverage in the Concord Monitor, WMUR and other media outlets. For more details, and to access the press coverage, click here. Read More

Felony Arrest, No Felony Conviction, No Jail Time

In the 3d Circuit-District Division-Ossipee Court, the Moultonborough Police Department investigated Client and several others, accusing them of Burglary and Theft, for breaking into a commercial building and stealing items including bottles of alcoholic beverages. Client was also investigated for Criminal Mischief, for throwing eggs at cars in an unrelated incident on a different date. If convicted of Burglary, this young client would have become a convicted felon, and possibly gone to jail, with a ruinous impact on his future. Instead, Attorney Lothstein secured a plea to the class B misdemeanor of Criminal Trespass. This is the lowest-level misdemeanor in NH law - the only possible punishment is a fine. A second class B misdemeanor for Criminal Mischief was placed on file without a finding (no conviction). Client paid a fine, and paid restitution for damage to the commercial building and the vehicle that was struck by eggs. Because there was no felony conviction, no probation, and no suspended sentence, Client will be eligible for complete annulment of the record of arrest and conviction in just three years. The waiting period easily could have been as long as 10 years or more if he had been convicted of a felony, depending on the terms of the sentence. Read More

Client Charged with Assault Acted in Self Defense

Rockingham County Superior Court. The State charged Client with simple assault based on eyewitnesses, including an off-duty police officer, who swore that during a bar fight, Client walked up to a man already unconscious in the gutter and brutally stomped on the man’s head. Ted Lothstein argued that Client acted in self-defense, and that the eyewitnesses were mistaken. The jury acquitted Client of simple assault and convicted him of the violation-level offense mutual combat, and Client paid a small fine. Read More

Client Acquitted of Assault Based on Self-Defense Argument

Merrimack County Superior Court. The State charged Client with first degree assault based on a stabbing that occurred outside a restaurant/bar in Concord. Ted Lothstein argued that Client acted in self-defense, protecting himself from a drunken thug. The jury acquitted Client. Read More

Sexual Assault Charge Dropped

Strafford County Superior Court. The State charged Client with aggravated felonious sexual assault in the Strafford County Superior Court. The County Attorney gloated to the jury in his opening statement that this was the only adult rape case he could remember where there was a third-party eyewitness — another woman who claimed to have walked in on Client violently sexually assaulting his girlfriend. Ted Lothstein, through discovery proceedings, gained access to mental health records casting doubt on the eyewitness’s credibility, and used them during cross-examination of this supposedly-neutral eyewitness. At trial, even with both women testifying against Client, a divided jury could not reach a verdict, and the State later dropped the charge. Read More

Jury Acquits of Burglary Charge

Carroll County Superior Court. A Client on parole for a hotel burglary was charged with a hotel burglary. Ted Lothstein, during a deposition of a police chief, uncovered damaging information about the eyewitness’s credibility that had never been disclosed by the prosecution. The jury returned with an acquittal after just fifteen minutes deliberation. Upon finishing his sentences, Client now lives happily on Cape Cod with his family … and sends Lothstein a holiday card every year! Read More