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Judge orders county attorney to review personnel fire of Tilton police officer

LACONIA — Superior Court Judge James O'Neill ordered the Belknap County Attorney to review the personnel file of a Tilton Police corporal and turn over any exculpatory material to the defendant in a rape case investigated by him.

Det. Cpl. Matt Dawson's personnel file had been turned over to the court and the assistant county attorney interpreted the state law governing police officer's personnel files such that the court would conduct the private review.

O'Neill said his reading of the law is that the prosecutor has to make the determination if there is or isn't exculpatory information in his file and if she is unable to make the determination, then he will.

Exculpatory evidence is anything that is relevant to a case that could prove or disprove an alleged fact or otherwise shine light on a case. In the instance of a police officer, exculpatory evidence can also include anything in the officer's personnel file that could affect his or her credibility, even though by state law, a police officer's personnel file is confidential.

Dawson was one of the investigators in the case of Thomas Gardner who is accused of sexually assaulting a young disabled man who was in his care at the time.

Two weeks ago, Dawson appeared in Superior Court and invoked his right not the testify in the Gardner case for fear he would criminally implicate himself in a different matter.

Gardner is scheduled for trial in early June.

Though he is still being paid by the town of Tilton, Dawson has not been working since November.

Selectman's Chair Pat Consentino said yesterday that Dawson's status with the Tilton Police Department has been resolved in a non-public session of her board but because it is a personnel issue she cannot talk about it.

When asked if he would be returning to work she said she couldn't comment.

Consentino also said that Tilton Selectman Katherine Dawson, who is Matt Dawson's aunt, recused herself from any of the discussion or deliberations.

 
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