Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn III is praising the office’s new assistance dog and others for work that ultimately led to the conviction of a 44-year-old man for child rape.
The dog, a 2-year-old black Labrador retriever named Chief, and his handler Samantha Dias helped a 10-year-old girl deal with her anxiety over testifying at trial, Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for the district attorney, said Tuesday.
Chief, whose work with children who are sexually and physically abused was featured in a Sun Chronicle story published April 30, began formally helping victims earlier this month.
During preparation for the trial, the 10-year-old girl was having difficulty talking about the sexual assaults and trauma she experienced, and “it was unclear whether she would even be able to testify at trial,” Miliote said.
Chief and Dias, who works for the district attorney’s office as a forensic interviewer, met with the victim, and during their time together the girl’s extreme anxiety subsided and she began to feel more confident in her ability to testify about the sexual assaults, Miliote said.
Less than two weeks ago, Lawrence Trahan of New Bedford was convicted of aggravated rape of a child and indecent assault and battery after a three-day jury trial in Fall River Superior Court, according to Miliote.
Trahan was sentenced by Judge Rene Dupuis to 15 to 20 years in prison followed by five years’ probation.
“I am pleased the jury held the defendant accountable for sexually abusing this young child,” Quinn said in a statement.
The district attorney said the victim was known to Trahan through his relationships with the victim’s mother, who supported the defendant during the trial.
“I commend the victim for her courage in disclosing the abuse and perseverance during delays in the case,” Quinn said.
In addition to Chief and Dias, Quinn praised his prosecutors, the New Bedford police and the staff at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Fall River. The center is where children throughout the county are interviewed about their experiences.
Chief’s primary duty is providing support to children during forensic interviews at the center. He was trained and paid for through a donation to the NEADS World Class Service Dogs, a non-profit agency located in Princeton.