OSSIPEE — A Carroll County Superior Court judge ruled an elderly jail inmate incarcerated on domestic violence convictions may serve his sentence from home since the jail superintendent doubts he can keep him safe from COVID-19.
Terrance Perkins, 73, was found guilty Oct. 23, 2019, of two felony charges related to using a gun to threaten his wife, Yvonne Perkins, and minor grandchild in Tamworth in a 2016 incident.
Judge Amy Ignatius in November gave Perkins a yearlong jail sentence and suspended prison sentence of five to 10 years.
In January, Perkins was indicted for assaulting a female corrections officer in December while he was at the Carroll County jail. He was before Ignatius last Friday for the emergency hearing, which the Sun covered by phone.
Toward the end of the hourlong hearing, Ignatius agreed with jail superintendent Jason Henry, who said he could not ensure Perkins' safety from the virus in custody.
"This isn't about sympathy to Mr. Perkins," said Ignatius. "This isn't about feeling he should get special treatment. It has to do with the overall facility and the management of that facility in a way that's safe for everyone."
Ignatius' order said Perkins should be placed on administrative home confinement (to his house) with monitoring and said he must stay at home unless that inappropriate for medical reasons. She also ordered that any guns seized from him by Tamworth police remain in police custody.
Guns at the Perkins' residence belonging to Yvonne Perkins also will be held to prevent Terrance Perkins from having access to them.
According to Carroll County Attorney Michaela Andruzzi, Yvonne Perkins had asked Tamworth police to release the guns to her (Yvonne Perkins).
Ignatius said Terrance Perkins may be returned to jail to finish the balance of his sentence as soon as the threat from COVID-19 passes.
Andruzzi said Yvonne Perkins wanted her husband to be quarantined and clear of any COVID-19 risk before returning home.
In November, Yvonne Pekins said that they both have a number of medical conditions and they rely on each other to stay healthy. She said if her husband were to be incarcerated she would like it to be in Ossipee rather than at more distant prisons.
Aaron Greenlee of Richey and Greenlee in Laconia had filed a motion for Perkins' early release last Tuesday. It cited Perkins' health, age and gender as risk factors for the coronavirus, adding that Perkins had up to a 40 percent chance of dying if he contracted it.
The next day, Henry wrote an affidavit to support it.
"In my professional opinion, it is necessary for inmate Terrance Perkins to be released forthwith from incarceration due to his high risk of mortality should he contract COVID-19," said Henry in his affidavit.
"In my professional opinion, there are not adequate means of reliably protecting Terrence Perkins within the Carroll County House of Corrections, from exposure to or contracting COVID-19 should COVID-19 become present in this facility."
Henry also said the virus could be present in the jail for "some time" before it's discovered.
As of Monday morning, Perkins was still incarcerated, but Henry told the Sun it would be at least a few days before Perkins could be sent home.
Henry said he had "no choice" but to bring the issue to the court.
During last Friday's hearing, Greenlee (appearing by phone) said Henry attempted to have Perkins transferred to Merrimack House of Corrections because it has more medical resources, but Merrimack returned Perkins to Carroll County because they couldn't protect him from the virus or treat him if he gets sick.
"Rapper (Tekashi 6ix9ine) was released yesterday from federal prison and his only aggravating factor for COVID-19 is asthma," said Greenlee. "He's not in an advanced age group. He doesn't have underlying heart issues. He (Tekashi 6ix9ine) doesn't have any other underlying health concerns that place him in a greater risk besides asthma. Mr. Perkins falls in about every advanced risk categories that there is."
In response to Perkins' request to serve his sentence at home, County Andruzzi, who appeared in court in person, argued that there was no law change or emergency order that said inmates like Perkins should be released. Andruzzi said because of the alleged assault on the corrections officer, she will be asking the court to impose the five to 10 years of prison time.
"I believe the acts that Mr. Perkins was convicted of are violent in nature," said Andruzzi, adding she was concerned about Perkins' "obsession" with guns.
"I think the fact that he picked up a new felony change and that felony charge was against a female is very disturbing to me," she said of the alleged assault on the corrections officer.
However, Greenlee said Henry told him "it was not a big deal" and Henry still believed Perkins should be sent home.
The judge agreed.
"What's changed here is the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 epidemic," said Ignatius, adding that a hearing on the motion to impose prison time and the resolution of the new case still have to be dealt with.
At Monday's COVID-19 update press conference, Gov. Chris Sununu said the judge and the jail made that decision and the governor's office had nothing to do with it.
"It's concerning," said Sununu who didn't have details on the case. "You would hope that judge used the best judgement in that call but on the surface of it, it's very alarming."
Sununu said public safety has to be the priority.
"You don't want a pattern of this type of thing where you are letting folks out," said the governor.
The North Conway non-profit organization Starting Point: Services for Victims of Domestic & Sexual Violence released a statement last Friday criticizing the judge's decision.
According to Stating Point, over 50 percent of homicide cases in New Hampshire are domestic violence-related.
“What occurred in Carroll County this afternoon is of great concern to those of us at Starting Point, Deborah Weinstein, executive director of Starting Point.
"It is bad policy that should not be repeated. No one who is a violent offender and who carries this level of risk should be given any sort of early release.
"This reckless decision sends a message to victims that their rights and safety are less important than those of the criminals that commit violence and abuse."
Starting Point has trained advocates available 24/7 to meet the needs of victims of domestic and sexual violence and stalking in Carroll County. Anyone in need of support or information may call (800) 336-3795.