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Bizarre Trial Begins in N.H.

Amid all the weighty talk of stimulus-this and Iraq-that, Capitol Briefing would like to pause and draw your attention to one of the more bizarre political trials in recent memory, kicking off today up in Dover, N.H.

On trial -- Gary Dodds, a businessman and Democratic candidate in 2006 for the House seat now held by Carol Shea-Porter (D). Dodds is charged with falsifying evidence and leaving the scene of an accident.

On the night of April 5, 2006, when he was in the thick of a competitive Democratic primary against Shea-Porter and others, Dodds drove into a highway guardrail under unclear circumstances (he told police he had swerved to miss a deer). Then things got strange.

Dodds was found in the woods the next day, buried under a pile of leaves a mile from his abandoned car. He claimed that he had wandered from the scene in a daze and waded across a freezing river, causing frostbite in his feet.

But the prosecution plans to tell a different story -- alleging that Dodds staged the accident, hid out for hours and even soaked his feet in cold water to induce frostbite -- all to bring attention to his campaign. Prosecutors also wanted to argue in court that Dodds was having an affair with a former campaign aide, with whom they allege he hid during his disappearance, but the judge ruled Monday they could not bring up this angle at trial.

That's not all. To quote Foster's Daily Democrat: "Dodds allegedly believed publicity garnered from the accident would increase the visibility of his campaign, allowing him to pay back multiple mortgages he took out without telling his wife and avoid any further investigation from the Federal Election Commission, which had already contacted his campaign and indicated it was contemplating an audit of discrepancies in campaign finance reports, according to past motions by the state."

Dodds, of course, denies everything, and both his defense lawyer and the prosecution have listed dozens of potential witnesses they could summon over the coming weeks. Capitol Briefing will keep you posted.

By Ben Pershing  |  January 29, 2008; 12:31 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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