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Ex-congressional hopeful in NH faces trial on falsifying evidence charge
Missing Candidate N 4816717
Acting County Attorney Tom Verlardi delivers the state's opening statements in the trial State vs. Gary Dodds which got underway in Strafford County Superior Court in Dover, New Hampshire on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008. - photo by Associated Press
    DOVER, N.H. — Then-congressional candidate Gary Dodds soaked his feet in cold water as part of a ploy to drum up attention for his campaign by faking a story about getting lost after a car crash, a prosecutor charged Tuesday.
    Dodds claimed he waded across an icy river and spent the night in woods after crashing his car in a snowstorm, but physical and medical evidence shows otherwise, acting County Attorney Thomas Velardi said in his opening statement at Dodds’ trial.
    Defense lawyer J.P. Nadeau said the claim ‘‘defies all common sense.’’
    ‘‘This is a case about a man wrongfully accused of something so absurd a genius couldn’t plan it,’’ Nadeau said.
    Prosecutors say Dodds’ daylong disappearance in April 2006 was faked. He is charged with falsifying evidence, a felony, and misdemeanor charges of leaving the scene of an accident and causing false public alarm. He could be sentenced to seven years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.
    Prosecutors say Dodds had worrisome campaign debts and was facing a possible investigation by the Federal Election Commission at the time of the crash. They say he had taken out two mortgages on the family’s house to finance his campaign and the FEC was considering auditing the campaign’s finances.
    Nadeau has accused prosecutors of watching too many television crime shows.
    Dodds, 43, a businessman, struck a highway guardrail in Dover the evening of April 5, 2006, saying later that he swerved to avoid hitting a deer. He said he crossed the river and wandered in a forest during a chilly night.
    Dodds was found the next night, a mile from the crash scene under a pile of leaves, fading in and out of consciousness and missing a shoe. He led the jury to the scene Monday afternoon in preparation for the trial.
    Dodds was treated at Portsmouth Regional Hospital for what was described then as hypothermia, a concussion and frostbite. A hospital official said Dodds had ‘‘situational amnesia’’ and significant nerve damage to his feet. The official said blood tests provided no evidence of drug or alcohol use.
    Velardi said Tuesday that Dodds had ‘‘severe cold-related injury to his feet,’’ but neither frostbite nor hypothermia.
    Authorities estimate they spent $18,000 searching for Dodds with teams assisted by dogs and a helicopter.
    After a brief hospitalization and time off to recuperate, Dodds resumed campaigning, limping and walking with a cane. Never considered a contender, Dodds placed third in the four-way Democratic primary, losing to Carol Shea-Porter, who defeated Republican Rep. Jeb Bradley in the general election.
    Judge Peter Fauver said Tuesday he may reconsider letting prosecutors introduce allegations he was having an affair at the time. Defense attorneys entered a motion Monday seeking to have the allegations barred from the court. Prosecutors say he may have spent part of the day he was missing with the woman.

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