Rochester police officer's sex assault trial delayed for a year after COVID disrupts jury

Illnesses in two jurors have resulted in the trial of Rochester police officer Randy Smith being rescheduled for December 2022.

Smith, 35, of Rochester, is charged with four counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, stemming from an alleged felony assault involving one woman, identified only by initials. The charges carry a potential sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison.

Smith's trial was expected to begin Nov. 29.

Susan Warner, spokesperson for New Hampshire Judicial Branch, said a jury was picked for the case in early November.

Rochester police officer Randy Smith, 35, is facing four charges of aggravated felonious sexual assault.
Rochester police officer Randy Smith, 35, is facing four charges of aggravated felonious sexual assault.

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"Fourteen jurors were seated," Warner said. "The morning of the first day of trial two jurors were excused, one with a COVID positive child, and the other with flu-like symptoms."

Warner said both the defense and the prosecution determined it would not be feasible to proceed with 12 jurors, because they were concerned over the course of a five-day trial, another juror might need to be excused.

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"The prosecutor was consulted and indicated they did not want to risk the possibility that the victim might have to testify twice," Warner said. "Both parties requested the trial be continued, understanding the next available trial date would be December 2022."

The charges against Rochester police officer Randy Smith

Smith was indicted by a Rockingham County grand jury in August 2020. Jury selection was stalled until November as courts are backlogged due to the restrictions of COVID-19.

Smith, who joined the Rochester police in 2007, is on unpaid administrative leave and free on bail awaiting trial, according to police Capt. Todd Pinkham.

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An indictment indicates the grand jury found the case warrants a trial. Two of the indictments allege Smith sexually assaulted the woman between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2017. One count alleges he used his superior physical strength, and the second count states he used an element of surprise, before she could flee or resist.

Two other indictments allege that on March 19, 2019, Smith forcefully held the woman down and used his hands to touch her sexually and to tug at her clothing. The second count is similar and also indicates she tried to say no to him.

While Smith lives in Rochester and worked as a police officer there, the case was reviewed by Rockingham County Attorney Pat Conway’s staff.

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“The Strafford County Attorney, Tom Velardi, felt there was a conflict and asked us to review the case,” Conway said in an earlier interview. “We reviewed the case and determined there was sufficient cause to charge Mr. Smith via a direct indictment. Sexual assault charges are always very concerning. We want to do all we can to protect the victim and we will pursue the charges to the best of our ability.”

In August, Rochester Police Chief Paul Toussaint said because Smith had tried cases in Strafford County, Velardi wanted to avoid any hint of conflict.

Tim Black, attorney for Smith, could not be immediately reached for comment.

This article originally appeared on Fosters Daily Democrat: COVID delays sex assault trial of Rochester NH police officer