A judge on Thursday rejected a proposed plea deal for a Swanzey man accused of confining his girlfriend and a young child to a bedroom overnight.
“I’m not gonna accept the sentence,” Cheshire County Superior Court Judge David W. Ruoff said at the end of a 10-minute hearing. “Some cases just need to go to trial. I think this is one of them.”
The agreement reached by the case’s prosecutor and an attorney for Michael J. Grant, 33, involved a two-year jail sentence with the possibility of release on electronic monitoring after a year, as well as a suspended sentence and a requirement to obtain a psychological evaluation.
Grant is charged with two felonies — criminal restraint and reckless conduct — as well as misdemeanor counts of domestic violence–false imprisonment, reckless conduct–domestic violence and endangering the welfare of a child.
He has been held without bail at the Cheshire County jail since his May 10 arrest.
Prosecutors allege Grant chained his girlfriend to a bed and confined her to the bedroom overnight while he went to work. They also claim an 8-year-old boy, whom Grant knew, was locked in the room with her.
Assistant Cheshire County Attorney Kerry O’Neill said the boy told a school counselor what was happening.
According to an affidavit written by Swanzey police Lt. Joseph DiRusso, the N.H. Division for Children, Youth and Families notified police on May 9 of the boy’s statements. Officers went to Grant’s residence in Swanzey that night — a single-family house with bedrooms rented by several different tenants — and found his bedroom locked from the outside, according to the affidavit.
After speaking to a woman through the door, police pried the door open and saw her chained to the bed by her ankle, DiRusso wrote. The boy was in the room sleeping but wasn’t restrained, according to the affidavit, which says a bucket had been left on the floor, apparently as a toilet.
The woman told police Grant confined her to the room when he left but “would not cooperate much more with an investigation,” DiRusso wrote.
In court Thursday, Ruoff said the two-page affidavit conveys a “very perplexing picture” and asked the attorneys to justify the proposed sentence.
“Chaining someone to a bed is very, very serious,” the judge said. “So is there an issue with the case?”
O’Neill, the prosecutor, said the case is complicated, and the woman has not been cooperative with police. But O’Neill said her understanding is that Grant was accusing the woman of cheating and she agreed to be chained.
“This is a very controlling defendant, I think,” O’Neill said.
After rejecting the plea deal, Ruoff left the courtroom and did not further explain his reasoning.
In an abusive, controlling relationship, a person may submit to something like being confined in a room, but that doesn’t mean it’s voluntary, said Linda Douglas, a trauma-informed services specialist at the N.H. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, a statewide advocacy and prevention group.
“Someone who is capable of tying their partner to the bed and locking them in the bedroom is certainly capable of a whole lot more,” Douglas said in an interview Thursday, after a reporter gave her a summary of the case.
That fear can get a partner to acquiesce, even without overt threats or physical force, she said. “That’s what coercive control is all about.”
For similar reasons, domestic-violence survivors can be reluctant to cooperate with police, Douglas said.
Domestic violence often goes unreported because victims fear reprisal or want to protect the perpetrator, among other reasons, according to a 2017 report from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.