NEWBURYPORT — A Topsfield Fair sausage vendor pleaded not guilty yesterday to a single rape charge after allegedly sexually assaulting a 30-year-old woman Monday night just as this year’s 11-day fair was coming to an end.
Paul Richard Carson, 44, of 3 McDuffee St., Rochester, N.H., is being held on $25,000 cash bail following his arraignment yesterday before Judge Peter Doyle in Ipswich District Court located in Newburyport. Essex County District Attorney prosecutor Annaliese Wolfe originally asked that bail be set at $50,000 due to the serious nature of the crime.
Carson is expected back in the State Street courthouse on Nov. 8 for a probable cause hearing, according to Essex County District Attorney spokeswoman Carrie Kimball Monahan.
According to the report of Topsfield police officer Joseph DeBernardo, the victim was walking down a dark alley close to a row of bathrooms by the Ferris wheel around 10:30 p.m. when the suspect grabbed her and slammed her head against the exterior of the bathroom.
The suspect, who according to the victim smelled of alcohol, then forcefully covered her mouth with his hand and threatened to kill her if she screamed. He then proceeded to pull down her pants and sexually assault her as she struggled. The victim then told police Carson announced he was going to rape her and that she was going to like it. He then dropped his pants to his ankles and attempted to rape her, covering her mouth once again.
The victim continued struggling until the suspect uncovered her mouth and pulled up his pants. Carson then leaned closer to the victim and announced he would kill her if she talked to police about the attack. It appears the sight of several young children and their parents may have frightened the suspect as well, according to the report.
Soon after the alleged attack, the victim ran into the bathroom and locked herself in a stall. When another woman in the restroom checked on the victim to see if she was all right, the victim told her of the attack. It was that woman who notified police, beginning a search of the area for the man fitting the description offered by the victim.
The victim described the suspect as roughly 5 feet 10 inches tall with shaggy sideburns and messy brown hair, wearing a cream-colored cowboy hat, a dark blue or black shirt, blue jeans and a Topsfield Fair identification card hanging from his neck. Carson, who matched the description offered by the victim, minus the cowboy hat, was picked up by police minutes later in between the bathroom and the Rabbit Building.
Carson denied attacking the woman, saying he was smoking a cigarette and calling his girlfriend at the time of the alleged incident. Police were allowed by the suspect to search his trailer and quickly found a cream-colored cowboy hat. At the station, police discovered the suspect had an outstanding warrant for his arrest by a Wisconsin police department based on an unpaid traffic violation.
According to the victim, the suspect had first spotted her earlier in the evening while she was on the midway. As she walked by, he examined her from head to toe. Upon passing the suspect’s booth a second time, he again stared at her. The victim said she was to be picked up by her father near the Route 97 exit, near Carson’s sausage booth, around 11 p.m.
Topsfield police Sgt. Richard Lebel said incidents among fairground vendors and ride operators have happened in the past, adding the department has investigated sexual assaults at the fair as well. But to his knowledge, he couldn’t recall the last time his department investigated a rape charge stemming from the fair.
“Anytime there’s any type of sexual assault, it’s disturbing because you have victims,” Lebel said.
The Topsfield Fair poses a major logistical challenge for local law enforcement who work with state police and officers from several nearby departments. Each year, police make several arrests for drug possession and distribution, domestic assault and battery and multiple traffic violations, officials said. Just prior to Carson’s arraignment yesterday, another Topsfield Fair vendor was arraigned for allegedly selling Vicodin tablets inside the fairgrounds.
Topsfield Fair spokesman David Thomson said he couldn’t comment on the alleged rape, calling it an ongoing police matter. When asked if there had been any prior incidents involving vendors and the general public, Thomson said he didn’t know of any since he first started working for the fair three years ago.
“The fair is 194 years old, so there may have been,” Thomson added.