Stacie Laughton does not deny her past – that she served four months in prison in 2008 on conspiracy to commit credit card fraud charges.
That story, published in the Nov. 24 Laconia Daily Sun, is true, Laughton said, during a phone interview Saturday morning.
"Yes it's true – I knew I was going to run into this," said Laughton, when asked this morning about the story.
Laughton said the situation leading up to her arrest "is complicated," and that the dispute with another woman that led to the felony conviction was, in part, "a set up."
She also said she does not want to resign her newly-elected state rep seat.
"They elected me to do a job and that job, I'm going to do with honor and with valor, regardless of what's in my past. My past doesn't define me," Laughton said.
Laughton, who is transgender – meaning she was born male but identifies as female – was charged and convicted in 2008 while living in Laconia under the name of Barry Charles Laughton Jr.
Laughton said today that she did not go about changing her identity or gender status to hide from her past.
"People will accuse me of trying to change my identity for this reason, but being a transgender female is who I have always been," said Laughton
According to the Laconia Sun story, Laughton's conviction stemmed from an incident involving a neighbor living at the same Church Street public housing complex where Laughton, then known as Barry Charles Laughton Jr., resided with then wife, Lisa Laughton.
Stacie Laughton eventually was indicted as Barry Charles Laughton Jr. on three charges – felony conspiracy to commit credit card fraud, falsifying physical evidence, and one count of falsifying physical evidence. She pleaded guilty to all three charges, but the sentences for two of the charges were suspended.
Laughton said she served four months of a 12 month sentence in the Belknap County House of Corrections for the felony conspiracy to commit fraudulent use of a credit card conviction, and was released from prison on Nov. 21, 2008.
She said she has not violated her probation, and is still paying restitution.
According to state law (RSA 607-A:2), a convicted felon can run for public office provided they are no longer incarcerated and have completed any court-ordered probation. [See pdf of NH Voting Code uploaded with this story.]
When asked about other run-ins with police mentioned in the Laconia Sun story, including calling for an ambulance as a way of getting a ride home from the annual Laconia fireworks, Laughton confirmed that incident, and said she had been treated and released for a medical condition, and charges in that case were dropped.
"In that case, the doctor violated Hippa laws," Laughton said.
"I've always been an easygoing person, even through all of the arrests and incarceration. I have a drive to serve people. I know, in the end, this will pass – as with anything, this will pass," Laughton said. "Laconia was such a terrible experience for me – it was emotionally, financially and legally draining – it was nothing but heartache for me," Laughton said.
Laughton is one of three Democrats elected in Ward 4 with 1,588 votes, beating out the two Republican candidates, Richard Heitmiller (732 votes) and Elizabeth Van Twuyver (754 votes).
"Legally, I can still serve, and I'm going to continue to move forward as I have been. I'm not going to steer around it. I decided if asked about it, I was going to be honest, and if for some reason it prohibits me from serving, then I'll have to resign. But for now, I have no plan to resign. The citizens of Nashua deserve good, competent representation," Laughton said.
"Everybody's got things in their past – I'm not proud of or particularly happy about mine – but there's nothing we can do about the past, except try to move forward," Laughton said.
When contacted over the weekend for comment, David Tencza, current chairman of the Nashua Democratic Committee, said he was surprised by the news, which he heard about for the first time Saturday.
He said he was also surprised that the news hadn't come out sooner, or been used against Laughton by Republicans, given the coverage of Laughton over the years by the Laconia paper.
"I've not spoken with Stacie about any of this, and at this point, it's not fair to comment publicly without speaking with her," Tencza said.
Laughton said she is determined to serve as a state representative, a status which will become official as of the December 5 swearing in ceremony. New Hampshire's citizen legislators are paid $200 per two-year term, with no per diem.
"I understand it's not going to look good – maybe the worst will have to come and I will have to resign my position," Laughton said. "I had already decided that once questioned about it, I would be up front and honest," Laughton said. "That's all I can do."