Former New Hampshire Deputy Sheriff Accused of Sexually Assaulting 6 Inmates

A former New Hampshire sheriff's deputy was indicted Thursday on charges of sexual abuse involving six inmates, according to court documents.

Ernest Justin Blanchette, a 36-year-old former deputy with the Belknap County Sheriff's Office, is accused of raping female inmates over whom he had authority and forcing inmates to have sex with each other while he watched.

"This was a person who was entrusted with the care and transport of these inmates, and he breached that trust," said Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen.

Blanchette is charged with nine counts of aggravated felonious sex assault. According to court documents, Blanchette assaulted the victims while driving a transport van between different locations, including to dentist appointments and family court, between February of 2013 and September of 2014.

He is accused of bringing the victims to secluded areas to assault them.

In some cases, Blanchette unlocked at least one victim's handcuffs, according to the documents. In one case, he allegedly gave an inmate a handcuff key.

"What we have shown here is we are willing to investigate any allegations of a crime whether the criminal is a standard defendant or the criminal is law enforcement officer," Guldbrandsen said.

Necn also tracked down court documents in Franklin that show Blanchette's wife filed for a restraining order in October of 2015. She wrote a long letter to the court that describes domestic violence and her concern for Blanchette's mental stability.

A woman answered the door at Blanchette's last known address in Franklin. She wouldn't disclose her relationship to the defendant, but said, "I have absolutely no comment."

Guldbrandsen calls the situation troubling as these charges play in to the public's distrust of police.

"It adds to the perception of law enforcement officers being corrupt," she acknowledged. "But in the state of New Hampshire, we have outstanding law enforcement officers, and I really see this as an aberration."

Blanchette resigned from the Belknap County Sheriff's Office last year. He's being held on $100,000 cash bail until his cases go to trial.

Blanchette faces 10 to 20 years behind bars for each of the nine felony charges against him.

It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney.

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