By MEGHAN PIERCE
KEENE — A former Marlow police chief was sentenced to 25 to 60 years in prison on three counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault in Cheshire County Superior Court on Friday afternoon.
Robert Chambers, 65, of Swanzey, stood trial in May on charges accusing him of assaulting a girl between 1994 and 2000, starting when the victim was 9 years old. He was convicted of four counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault charges at the May jury trial, but during the sentencing hearing Friday, judge David Ruoff chose not to sentence him on one after Chamber’s defense attorneys said the charge was too similar to another.
The charge was a pattern of aggravated felonious sexual assault oral sex. Assistant Cheshire County Attorney Keith Clouatre said outside of the courtroom Friday a pattern of sexual assault cannot be charged for a more than 5-year-period, which this was so Chambers was charged with two counts of it. Clouatre said Ruoff was concerned about double jeopardy and was erring on the safe side.
Chambers denied the charges during the trial and defense attorney Meredith Lugo said they were fabricated during closing arguments of the trial. In court Friday Lugo said Chambers continues to deny the charges and would not be giving a statement during sentencing.
During the trial Clouatre said Chambers groomed the victim from the age of seven, and though she wasn’t old enough to give consent, he made the victim feel that she was complicit in the sex acts which started with touching and escalated to intercourse over the years of abuse.
A statement from the victim was read at the hearing Friday by a victim’s advocate in which the woman, now 32, said she has spent the past 25 years of her life in fear because of the abuse.
“This kind of abuse is one that destroys its victims. It destroys their confidence. it destroys their dignity and it destroys their childhood. My life has been devastated because of the actions of Mr. Chambers. Mr. Chamber started to abuse me when I was just 7-years-old. I was too young to understand the types of manipulation I was subjected to. I was too young to understand it was wrong. I was terrified, sacred and embarrassed. At first I was able to easily shrug it off and go back to my Barbies and cartoons. Later on it began to impact my life in other areas, including my school work and grades, my lack of participation in social events, teams and clubs.”
Clouatre asked Ruoff to sentence Chambers to 25 to 60 years.
Lugo asked Ruoff for a lighter sentence based on Chambers’ age, 65, and health concerns.
“I can tell you in this case I was moved by the very compelling victim impact statement and the statement of her husband,” Ruoff said. “The way the victim describes it she’ll never get out of this and that the last 25 years have been something she has been in a prison for, so I find it fitting that the state asked for 25 years and I think that’s an appropriate sentence.”
Ruoff said he will leave it up to the parole officials at the prison to release him on medical parole if that is the case.
“Because I just couldn’t go with a sentence that is any less than the one I am going to impose,” Ruoff said.
Lugo also raised concerns that as a former law enforcement officer and a convicted sex offender, Chambers would be a target of other inmates in prison.
Clouatre said after sentencing that Chambers would likely be held at the state prison in Berlin, which is specifically for sex offenders.