NASHUA - A registered sex offender was released on personal recognizance Tuesday while facing a probation violation and possible child pornography charges.
Craig Driscoll, 28, formerly of 9 Mark St., Nashua, was found drinking with two teenage girls in Wilton in July, and probation officers found pornography and suspected child pornography in his home in August, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
“The state has some very serious concerns about Mr. Driscoll being out on bail,” given his record, said Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Paula Philbrook, adding later, “The state has serious concerns about possible threats of violence that he may have made in the past.”
Driscoll is on probation as a result of a 2006 conviction for felony sexual assault charges, stemming from a 2005 case in which he was accused of raping a 14-year-old Manchester girl and threatening her with a gun and knife.
Driscoll pleaded guilty to two felony sexual assault charges, and was sentenced Oct. 16, 2006, to 12 months in jail, followed by five years on probation. He also was required to register as a sex offender and complete a long-term sexual offender treatment program.
Philbrook said she offered the plea bargain in 2006 because the girl had become too anxious to testify against Driscoll and was frustrated by delays in bringing the case to trial.
“Eventually, this victim didn’t feel prepared to go forward mentally and emotionally,” Philbrook said during a hearing Tuesday.
Driscoll served his jail time, and was free on probation July 6, when Wilton police found him in the company of two girls, ages 17 and 16, all of them drinking, according to probation officer Jason Berry. Berry filed a probation violation charge against Driscoll, and Driscoll was released on personal recognizance pending a hearing, which was scheduled for next month.
In early August, however, probation officers received an anonymous letter, which appeared to have been written by a girl, tipping them off that they should check Driscoll’s home, Philbrook said. The writer claimed to believe that Driscoll would harm or even kill her if he knew she had provided information on him, and she used a fictitious name, Philbrook said.
Berry searched Driscoll’s home Aug. 8 and found pornography on his computer, as well as images suspected to be child pornography on a disc taped to the bottom of his desk, Philbrook said.
Driscoll had been jailed since then and was scheduled for a probation violation hearing Tuesday before Judge William Groff in Hillsborough County Superior Court.
Philbrook was unable to share evidence of the probation violations stemming from the alleged pornography because police are still investigating, she said. The law requires that police confirm the identity of the children in the alleged child pornography before they can file criminal charges, she noted.
Philbrook said police have sent the suspected child pornography to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to see if the victims can be identified and are having Driscoll’s computer analyzed, a process that often takes up to a year, due to a backlog at the state crime lab.
Philbrook did not divulge any details of the Aug. 8 search to Driscoll’s lawyer, public defender James Quay.
Quay protested that it was unfair and unconstitutional to have a probation violation hearing without divulging the evidence, and equally wrong to jail Driscoll without a hearing.
“They’re holding him on charges that they’re not going to give me discovery. That’s just not fair . . . They can’t do that,” Quay said.
Philbrook noted that it was only a probation violation case at this point, not a fresh criminal case. She conceded, however, that she couldn’t prosecute the violations without disclosing police reports and offered to withdraw the newer probation violations for the time being.
Philbrook urged Groff to increase Driscoll’s bail to $50,000, however, and require him to check in daily with probation officers if released.
“I’m stopping this right now,” Groff said as Philbrook was explaining.
“When you charge him, I will hold him,” Groff said. “The man is free on his own bail.”
Philbrook said later she was “very disappointed in the outcome” of the hearing.
“This should not have happened,” she said.
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This article appears in the August 15 2008 issue of New Hampshire Business Review