DOVER, N.H. (AP) – Testimony in the trial of a former congressional candidate accused of faking his disappearance after a crash ended Friday with each side insisting the other’s version of events defied common sense.

Gary Dodds claims he suffered a head injury when he crashed off the Spaulding Turnpike two years ago and nearly drowned in a river before being rescued 27 hours later. But prosecutors say he spent part of that time soaking his feet in cold water to make it appear that he spent the night outdoors, all as part of a plot to boost his faltering campaign.

“What it boils down to is this: Gary Dodds, through a very simple method, altered the appearance of his feet,” County Attorney Thomas Velardi said during closing arguments. “He had a story that he was going to stick to. It would’ve been a heroic story. It would’ve been a great story – all the people who hadn’t heard of him before … really would’ve known who he was.”

Prosecutors allege that Dodds was desperate for money after having spent nearly double the amount his wife had agreed to and had taken out two mortgages to finance his campaign. But defense lawyers said bank records show that the mortgages were used to pay for property renovations.

“There was absolutely no motive for Mr. Dodds to have caused this accident. Think about it,” J.P. Nadeau said in his closing statement. “It defies common sense that anybody would intentionally crash their car into a guardrail.”

“What the state has done is they’ve taken innocent facts and infused them with dark and sinister meanings,” he said. “I’m going to ask you in my presentation not to let them get away with it.”

Velardi countered that it was the defense who presented the more preposterous scenario.

“Why is someone going to have a collision on Route 16, freak out, bolt from the scene … go across Spur Road, run by a bunch of houses and then run into a black river?” said Velardi, who also noted that once exiting the river, Dodds would have passed by a school and 60 condominiums before collapsing under a tree.

“You’d have to avoid human beings. You’re running into civilization left and right,” he said. “You ain’t in the Ozarks. You’re in a neighborhood in Dover, New Hampshire.”

He noted that except for his socks and shoes, Dodds was dry when he was rescued and that the first three emergency workers who examined him didn’t find any signs of head injury.

“He needs you to believe that he hit his head… because then he doesn’t have to remember anything after that,” he said. “He’s simply not accountable for anything after that.”

The prosecutor also implicated Dodds’ wife in the alleged plot, reminding jurors that while her husband was still missing, Cindy Dodds mentioned several elements of his story to police, including the possibility that he had swerved to miss a deer, hit his head and ended up in the river. Once at the river, she told an officer that she was surprised that the water was so far from the highway.

“Was it supposed to be closer?” Velardi asked. “Those are odd, interesting, coincidental statements.”

He also accused the couple of changing their stories about the campaign’s finances to imply that Cindy Dodds was upset with how much a campaign manager was spending rather than how much her husband had donated to the campaign.

“It’s this constant backtracking and rewriting of history, fixing things you don’t like,” said Velardi, who proceeded to recite the theme song from the 1970s show “The Facts of Life.”

“You can’t change some of these facts, you’ve just got to live with them,” he said. “These guys want to rewrite history, and when I say these guys, I mean Cindy and Gary Dodds.”

Nadeau, meanwhile, said the state ignored the fact that Dodds suffered from hypothermia, which he said would have been impossible had he been indoors soaking his feet. He argued that police brought charges against Dodds to cover up their bungled investigation. Aside from a few officers who searched the night of the crash, authorities did not launch a large scale search until the next morning.

“That’s what this case is about: putting the blame somewhere, because for this length of time, Mrs. Dodds and her friends were trying to find her husband while the police were not,” he said. “They didn’t take it seriously. That was a mistake, but that is no reason to charge Mr. Dodds.”

Jurors will begin deliberations Wednesday morning.

AP-ES-02-15-08 1835EST


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