DOVER, N.H. (AP) – A former congressional candidate was sentenced Monday to 20 days in jail and a year of home confinement for concocting what the judge called a “fairy tale” to explain his disappearance after a car crash.

The sentence was far less than the seven years in prison Gary Dodds could have received, but six days longer than the prosecutor sought. Judge Peter Fauver also scolded Dodds for trying to win over jurors by essentially calling the state’s law enforcement community a bunch of liars.

“You expected 12 members of the community, 12 of your peers, to believe that fairy tale … and in order to get them to believe that fiction and to accept that fiction as truth, you made a mockery of members of law enforcement who risked their lives and used their time – volunteer efforts, many of them – to come and try to find you,” the judge said.

Dodds, 43, of Rye, claimed he hit his head in the crash on the Spaulding Turnpike in April 2006 and nearly drowned in a nearby river before being found 27 hours later. But authorities were suspcious from the start – Dodds’ feet were purple and wet while the rest of him was dry – and prosecutors said he spent at least part of that time inside, soaking his feet in cold water to make it appear as if he had been outdoors.

He was convicted in February of falsifying evidence, causing a false public alarm and leaving the scene of the crash. Beyond the jail time, he was ordered Monday to repay the $20,500 the state spent looking for him and to perform 200 hours of community service. He will remain free while he appeals.

Dodds, who claims authorities charged him to cover up their bungled search and rescue efforts, spoke only briefly at the sentencing hearing. He asked the judge for leniency in light of his years of public service.

“I have spent an enormous amount of time in my adult life doing the people’s business, helping people in need, and when I was young, I needed that help,” he said. “That’s why I do it. Because I care.”

Despite having called some of his rescuers liars during the trial, Dodds respects the law enforcement community, his lawyer, J.P. Nadeau, said. He argued against jail time because he said Dodds has been punished enough.

“His reputation has been tarnished forever,” he said.

The prosecutor countered that it was Dodds who tried to tarnish the reputation of his rescuers in both his testimony and in media interviews after his conviction.

“You can’t call these men and women liars and come in here on the day of your sentencing and say, ‘I really didn’t mean it, I’m sorry, I really like law enforcement,”‘ said County Attorney Thomas Velardi. Velardi said Dodds acted like a “petulant child” after his conviction and delivered a “canned political speech” at his sentencing.

“Sometimes you have to live with what you say, and Gary Dodds has to live what he said during his trial and what he did on April 6, 2006,” he said.

Velardi, who has suggested Dodds faked his disapperance to attract attention to his campaign, said a short jail term was appropriate given the cost of incarceration.

“Quite frankly, the New Hampshire taxpayers have spent enough at the hands of Gary Dodds,” he said. “Their pockets were picked in his quest to make up a hero story.”

“We’re not looking for a pound of flesh here but the man needs to be held accountable,” he said.

Dodds was running for the Democratic nomination in the 1st Congressional District. Never considered a contender, he finished third in the four-way race. Winner Carol Shea-Porter defeated Republican incumbent Jeb Bradley in the general election.

AP-ES-03-31-08 1847EDT


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