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home : top news : top news May 22, 2015

8/21/2014 8:30:00 AM
Judge Affirms Sanborn Manslaughter Conviction
Craig Sanborn
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Craig Sanborn

Robert Blechl
Staff Writer

LANCASTER, N.H. -- A Coos Superior Court judge has rejected the latest attempt by Black Mag's Craig Sanborn to set aside his October conviction for manslaughter.

In June, Sanborn, through his attorney, Mark Sisti, claimed the credibility and testimony of a material witness for the state is in doubt because the witness allegedly embellished his military record and Sanborn is therefore entitled to a new trial.

That motion, however, was denied Aug. 7 by Judge Peter Bornstein, who ruled the defendant is at fault for failing to obtain the military service record before trial and the evidence on which Sanborn bases his motion is "simply not material" to the case.

The witness, a principal of the larger, Florida-based gunpowder firm with which Sanborn entered into a manufacturing contract, gave trial testimony stating Sanborn knew that his Colebrook plant that exploded in May 2010, killing two employees, was deficient in size and scope.

In his order, Bornstein states Sisti was able to effectively cross-examine the witness concerning his educational background and military service and effectively challenge his credibility during closing arguments, even without the military record and a subsequent letter regarding it.

"In his closing argument, defense counsel convincingly challenged [the witnesses's] credibility, exhorting the jury to reject [his] testimony because, in defense counsel's words, [the witness] was a 'despicable individual' who was 'selling snake oil,'" wrote the judge.

Of the military service record, Bornstein said the witness's profile for the court that summarizes the record "tends to corroborate at least some of the claims [and] not impeach them."

"The court finds that the defendant ... has not shown that the evidence on which he relies is of such a character that a different result will probably be reached at another trial," concluded Bornstein. "[The witness's] testimony was corroborated by other evidence and the other evidence presented by the state was compelling."

The judge also added, "In this case, there is no evidence the prosecutor knowingly used false testimony to obtain a conviction."

Sanborn, 65, of Maidstone, was convicted after a Coos jury found him guilty of recklessly engaging in the manufacture, testing and storage of explosive material that resulted in the 2010 blast and fire at his Black Mag gunpowder manufacturing plant that killed Jesse Kennett, 49, of Stratford, and Donald Kendall, 56, of Colebrook.

During the trial that saw more than 30 witnesses for the state, Coos prosecutors argued Sanborn knew how to make his plant safe, but was motivated by greed and did not use any money from a $300,000 advance he received from the manufacturing contract to implement safety measures.

Sanborn, sentenced to 10 to 20 years in state prison, has appealed his conviction to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which could hear the case later this year.

In a separate case in Maine, Sanborn faces up to 20 years in federal prison after a jury in April convicted him on a felony count of wire fraud for filing false invoices for equipment never received for another munitions plant he had opened there.

Sentencing has not yet been handed down in that case.

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