Landlord's role, if any, in bust still focus of arguments in Governor's Island pot farm case

LACONIA — The former landlord of a local man who is accused of growing marijuana in a Governor's Island home has said she does not want to be deposed or testify about any role she may have played in the case.

Jennifer Truman, who lives in another state, owns the home at 47 Blueberry Hill Road where Corey LaPlante, 28, and Janelle Noftle, 24 were living when police from the N.H. Drug Task Force and Gilford raided the home in October of 2013.

As it stands now, LaPlante and Noftle each face separate charges of manufacturing marijuana and hashish with intent to distribute and possession of marijuana and hashish. Police recovered $33,000 in cash, marijuana, hashish, and six guns.

There is a motion to consolidate the cases but Belknap County Judge James O'Neill has yet to rule on it.

At issue in court yesterday was LaPlante's attorney Mark Sisti's inability to contact Truman or depose her as part of preparing for his client's defense. In a ruling issued two weeks ago, O'Neill denied LaPlante's motion to depose her, saying that Sisti hadn't exhausted all avenues for getting information from her.

Yesterday, Sisti told the court that Truman has hired a lawyer so now he can't contact her unless it is through her attorney. He has filed a motion asking O'Neill to reconsider his request to depose her.

Town property tax records indicate Truman receives her mail at a P. O. Box in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Sisti has argued that Truman was acting as an agent of the police when she made one of two trips to LaPlante's home last fall, that she brought a witness with her and was acting under the direction of the N.H. Drug Task Force.

Her observations included a water treatment facility, said Sisti, which was part of what led the drug task force to apply for a search warrant.

Sisti has filed a motion to suppress any evidence gathered during the search because of her role but, without access to her, he said he can't get any information.

The state, represented by Asst. Attorney General James Vara, has objected to Sisti's request to reconsider Truman's deposition.

Accompanying his objection was a portion of a interview held on May 1, 2014 with Truman, her attorney James Lafrance, Vara, and a member of the drug task force. The interview was held in Lafrance's Laconia office and Truman was teleconferenced in from an unknown location.

The conversation was held so Vara could learn why Truman was on the property and what she saw.

Truman told Vara that she went to the property to see some "wood rot" on the back deck and to see what landscaping needed to be done. She said she knocked on the door but neither LaPlante nor Noftle answered and she assumed they weren't home.

She said she walked around the back of the house to look at the deck. Once there, she said "she could smell a strong 'skunky' odor from an exhaust fan in the garage window."

Truman told Vera that although the sliding glass door had a curtain, the window next to it didn't so she was able to "see into the basement very easily." She said she observed some sort of water system in the basement.

She said she only entered the home later, after requesting a walk-through from LaPlante and Noftle. She said she gave them 24 hours notice. Truman said she was familiar with the odor of marijuana and said what she smelled was consistent, describing the odor as a "dead skunk" or "a lot of dead skunks all piled up together."

The man who accompanied Truman has said that he noticed the house was very clean but said his sense of smell wasn't very good.

During the teleconference, Truman told Vara she didn't meet the drug task force detective and had only spoken with him after her walk-through. The first time Truman said she met the detective was after the phone conversation and at the Gilford Police Department.

The May 1 conference call lasted about 10 minutes.

As part of his effort to keep his client off the stand, Lafrance also filed a motion objecting to O'Neill's reconsideration. He and Vara also asked O'Neill to keep Truman's address private because the alleged criminal behavior took place at her house and she could be considered a victim.

Lafrance said Truman has nothing to do with the alleged activities, is embarrassed that it allegedly happened on her property, and would have to travel a great distance to get to New Hampshire which would be an inconvenience.

He also said there is no evidence Truman was acting as an agent of law enforcement.

Sisti has asked that Truman's statement be stricken from the record. He argues Truman is a material witness, as is evidenced by her interview with police and her statement calls into question whether she trespassed on property rented "for the exclusive use of Corey LaPlante and Janelle Noftle."

He said Truman appeared to "roam (sic) around the residence without permission and without authority" and without knowing if LaPlante and Noftle were home.

The state has also asked for reciprocal discovery, saying it wants access to any and all witnessed Sisti may have identified who will testify at the suppression hearing.

He said this reciprocity is justified in order to "prevent the defense from withholding relevant discovery in order to ambush the state's witnesses on cross-examination at trial or at the motion to suppress."