Book protester asks for delay for his trial

CIRCUIT COURT — The local man accused of disorderly conduct for his actions at a Gilford School Board meeting has asked for a continuance in his trial that is scheduled for Monday at 1 p.m. in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division.

William Baer, through his attorney Mark Sisti, said in his motion filed yesterday that Gilford Police Prosecutor Eric Bredbury agreed to the continuance that was requested because Sisti is scheduled to appear in a different court in a different jurisdiction on that day.

As of yesterday, 4th Circuit Court Presiding Judge Jim Carroll has not ruled on the motion.

Baer faces three Class B misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct — each of which offers a different theory of the alleged crime.

Baer is accused of verbally interrupting a speaker at a contentious Gilford School Board meeting where he and some other parents objected to the assigned reading of the novel "Nineteen Minutes" by N.H. author Jodi Picoult.

Baer specifically said he was offended by particularly sexually graphic passages in the book but what he really wanted to see was a change in the school policy that required parents to "opt in" if a teacher chooses to assign a specific book in a class. At a subsequent meeting, the School Board adopted the requested policy.

At the meeting, Baer requested School Board Chair Sue Allen read the passage aloud but she refused. A short time later Baer objected to a statement made by the next speaker, Joe Wernig, calling it "absurd". When Allen insisted that Baer had already had his opportunity to speak — each person was limited to two minutes — and now it was someone else's turn, Baer kept talking.

When Gilford Lt. Jim Leach went over to Baer and asked him to leave the room, Baer said, "why don't you have me arrested, that's a real civics lesson." It was unclear if Leach was acting on his own authority or whether Allen has asked him to remove Baer.

After a brief exchange, Leach escorted Baer from the room, handcuffed him, and took him to the Gilford Police Station in the back of a cruiser. Baer was released on personal recognizance bail.