The first openly transgender person elected to public office in New Hampshire has been jailed on charges related to stalking a victim who had a protective order against him. Stacie Laughton’s arrest comes just days after he was re-elected to the New Hampshire House as a Democrat.
Laughton, born Barry Charles Laughton Jr., was arrested on November 12 after his most recent violation of a stalking order that had been placed against him by an unidentified woman in his community in July. Laughton, 38, had contacted the victim over social media.
According to the Hudson Police Department, this is not the first time Laughton has violated his restraining order. In August, Laughton had similarly attempted to make contact with the victim, and was arrested in September for the violation. He was released from custody shortly after.
There was virtually no media coverage of his September arrest, which likely meant voters were unaware of it ahead of the November 8 elections, during which Laughton ran for re-election as a Libertarian Democrat candidate in Nashua’s 4th Ward.
Laughton placed second out of four candidates, securing him a seat in the House of Representatives. New Hampshire has the largest state House in the country with 400 representatives, and all three top finishers in the race took seats.
In addition to his recent stalking order violations, Laughton is on bail for a 2021 arrest in which he was charged with misusing the Nashua 911 emergency system.
Between May and July 2021, he sent seven texts to Nashua 911, prompting police officers to respond to his address. On each occasion, they determined there was no emergency. At the time, Laughton denied sending the texts and claimed that he was being “spoofed” by an unknown perpetrator.
He also complained that media coverage of the arrest was making him look bad.
Laughton was first elected to the New Hampshire legislature in 2012 and became the first openly transgender individual to hold office in the state, but withdrew before taking office when it was revealed that he had served four months in prison in 2008 on a felony conviction for identity and credit card fraud and falsifying physical evidence.
“If I lived in the district, I would be extremely disappointed to learn, just days after the election, that my neighborhood was going to be represented by a person that only four years ago was convicted of a felony charge involving conspiracy and fraud and served time in prison,” Republican representative Pete Silva told media.
A special election was announced for Laughton’s seat after his 2012 resignation and he signed up to run for it again, but state officials then determined that he was ineligible because of the ten-year suspended sentence he had been handed in the 2008 fraud case. New Hampshire law forbids a convicted felon from seeking or holding public office from the time of his sentence until his final discharge.
Laughton filed to run for the same office two years later, but the state Ballot Commission again ruled him to be ineligible until the suspended sentence had been fully discharged.
In 2015, Laughton was arrested for making a bomb threat to the Southern New Hampshire Medical Center. He was charged after leaving another hospital where he had been treated for bipolar disorder. He confessed to making the threat but blamed it on a mental health episode.
“I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone. It was totally out of character for me,” Laughton stated. He was initially charged with making a false report of explosives, but a judge reduced the charge to a misdemeanor and sentenced him to a six-month suspended jail term.
In 2019, after becoming eligible to run for office again, Laughton led a successful campaign to be a Nashua Ward 4 selectman. The next year he also won a two-year term to the state legislature in the same ward.
The protective order Laughton violated was issued in July, months before both the September Democratic primaries and last week’s midterm elections. This indicates state and local Democrats were likely aware of Laughton’s history, but did not take action.
While most of his fellow New Hampshire Democrats have remained silent on his latest legal troubles, Representative Timothy Horrigan of Durham actively defended Laughton on Twitter.
“[For what it’s worth], Rep. Laughton is a lifelong Granite Stater. She’s gotten into a lot of trouble over the years & she keeps getting into trouble. But she’s basically a good person. She’s not violent or abusive, or harmful to anyone but herself,” Horrigan said, using feminine pronouns to refer to Laughton.
New Hampshire Republican legislator Di Lothrop, co-chair of the Nashua Republican Committee, was critical of the state’s Democratic party for supporting an elected official with ongoing mental health issues.
“She has a huge problem. She’s been through this before, she’s been in prison. Obviously, the lesson wasn’t learned,” Lothrop said, using feminine pronouns to refer to Laughton.
“How can she dedicate her time and energy to the voters who she is supposed to represent? She’s unfit,” Lothrop continued. “It’s abominable, and it’s an embarrassment to Nashua to have her go up to Concord and represent,” Lothrop commented to the New Hampshire Journal.
House Democratic Majority Leader David Cote said that Laughton “is entitled to the due process and presumption of innocence afforded to all accused persons” under the Constitutions of the United States and the State of New Hampshire.
“I have full confidence that New Hampshire’s judicial system will take appropriate and swift actions to protect the rights of the accused and any victims,” Cote said.
The Clerk of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, Paul Smith, has noted that there is no mechanism in place to remove a legislator who has been charged with a crime: “There are no rules. There is no automatic process for expulsion.”
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