Lebanon Man Pleads Guilty in Sex Assault

Donald Hamel, 73, of Lebanon, right, and his public defender Adam Hescock, left, listen as one of the victims and her mother read a statement in Grafton County Superior Court Monday, August 4, 2014. Hamel was sentenced to between ten and 20 years in prison after changing his plea to guilty of sexually assaulting multiple minors. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Donald Hamel, 73, of Lebanon, right, and his public defender Adam Hescock, left, listen as one of the victims and her mother read a statement in Grafton County Superior Court Monday, August 4, 2014. Hamel was sentenced to between ten and 20 years in prison after changing his plea to guilty of sexually assaulting multiple minors. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

North Haverhill — A 73-year-old Lebanon man will spend at least 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting three young girls.

Donald S. Hamel pleaded guilty to six counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault on Monday in Grafton Superior Court and was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in the New Hampshire State Prison.

Hamel has been held in jail since May 2013 when his bail was set at $100,000 cash. He appeared in Grafton Superior Court in a T-shirt and jeans with his hands cuffed. Hamel will receive 432 days of pretrial confinement credit, meaning he will be eligible for parole when he is about 82 years old.

Two of the victims, including their parents, sat in the front row. One of the victims and her mother addressed the court.

As a general practice, the Valley News does not identify victims of sexual assault. The three victims were known to Hamel and all under the age of 15.

One victim spoke to the room while her father stood behind her and said Hamel made her feel small and worthless, adding that she wanted to tell someone about what was happening, but was worried others would be mad at her for sharing. Finally, she said she decided to tell her mother because she didn’t want Hamel to hurt anyone else.

“I know I’m not the one who did anything wrong. He is,” the young woman said.

When she finished speaking, Judge Peter Bornstein addressed the victim and said, “You demonstrated great voice and courage for speaking today.”

Assistant County Attorney Jack Bell gave the courtroom an account of how Hamel assaulted the girls. For two of the girls, the assaults happened over a period of time when they were between six or seven years old until they were about 12, and Hamel would touch them in the areas of their breasts and vaginas.

As for the third victim, Hamel engaged in similar behavior over the course of three years.

Hamel did not speak during the hearing, except for when the judge asked him questions directly. He appeared unemotional, often looking down at the bench in front of him or glancing into the gallery.

His conditions include that he cannot have contact with minors under the age of 16. During the hearing, Hamel’s public defender Adam Hescock asked that Hamel be allowed to have supervised contact with minors under the age of 16, arguing that Hamel has family members that age who he would like to have contact with.

Judge Bornstein denied that request: “If there is one person who shouldn’t be having contact with minors under 16, you’re it, sir,” Bornstein said to Hamel.

Hescock declined to comment after the hearing.

After the hearing, Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo said the county felt that the plea agreement was in the victims’ best interests because it will prevent the victims from having to testify at trial, and it assures that Hamel will be incarcerated until he’s in his 80s.

Bell said he would have likely looked at the case differently if Hamel was younger.

“But a 73-year-old man, this is pretty close to a life sentence for him,” Bell said.

Hamel also has two pending felony charges of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child in Windsor Superior Court dealing with two of the same victims. Windsor County State’s Attorney Michael Kainen said he had agreed that if Hamel took the 10 to 20 year sentence, then he would agree to keep Hamel’s sentence in Vermont to 10 years or less and run it concurrent to his New Hampshire sentence.

Five of the six counts that Hamel pleaded guilty to were pattern sexual assault charges.

Three charges of aggravated felonious sexual assault were dismissed because they were redundant, Bell said.

He was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison on four of the charges that will run concurrently, and the other two charges included suspended sentences of 10 to 20 years, which can be imposed for 10 years after his release from prison if he commits additional crimes.

Hamel must also complete a sex offender treatment program while in prison to be eligible for parole, Bell said, and Hamel cannot have contact with the victims.

Hamel had recently had a competency hearing on July 16, but the judge ultimately ruled that Hamel was competent to stand trial.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.