Charges vacated in heroin bust because deputy faces his own criminal charges

LACONIA — The arrest of a former sheriff's deputy has led to other cases being dropped or overturned.

County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen agreed to vacate the conviction of a Groton man who had pleaded guilty on June 3 to one misdemeanor count of being in control of a vehicle where drugs were being illegally kept because the arresting sheriff's deputy, Justin Blanchette, is facing an unrelated charge himself of raping a prisoner.

Steven Moore, 35, of Groton was one of three men found by Blanchette in the Opechee Park parking lot on Nov. 14, 2014. According to initial news accounts, Moore was accompanied by his brother Nicholas, who was never indicted, and Jack H. Lynch, 22, of Holderness.

According to the motion to vacate the charge against Moore, Guldbrandsen assented to the defense's request to vacate because she agreed that if the information about Blanchette's alleged actions and ultimate indictment had been known, Moore never would have pleaded guilty.

Moore's attorney also noted that he had been doing very well while on probation and was "doing a wonderful job of maintaining his sobriety." Belknap County Judge James O'Neill agreed to vacate Moore's guilty plea on Dec. 15.

Lynch was indicted for one special felony count of possession of a controlled drug – heroin. Although his trial was working its way through the system and there were some suppression arguments surrounding the towing of the car, Guldbrandsen dropped the case against him for the same reason – she couldn't put Blanchette on the stand as a police witness.

According to paperwork obtained from the Belknap County Superior Court, the case began when Blanchette noticed a car in the parking lot and said in his report that when the three male occupants noticed him, they began moving around and seemed to be hiding things.

As he approached the car and introduced himself, Blanchette said he noticed a cord wrapped around passenger Lynch's arm and later allegedly admitted he had put a needle underneath him. When Blanchette asked if there were any weapons in the car, he was allegedly told there was a knife.

Blanchette was indicted for one count of aggravated felonious sexual assault in October and is free on $5,000 cash bail. He is scheduled for a dispositional hearing on Jan. 12.

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Man seen pointing gun at road

LACONIA — The Laconia Police Department is looking for the public's help in identifying a man who allegedly pointed an AR-15 rifle toward the roadway while at Taco Bell, then left in his vehicle.
Officers made contact with a person fitting the description, who was detained and later released.
The Laconia Police continue to follow up on leads and ask that anyone who witnessed this incident contact the Laconia Police Department at 524-5257.
— Gail Ober

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Sanbornton's swap shop to reopen Dec. 26

SANBORNTON — The swap shop at the transfer station is expected to reopen the day after Christmas after an overwhelming majority of the 185 registered voters at the special Town Meeting last week voted to overturn the decision of the board of selectmen to close the swap shop and deny access to the metal pile.

Voters also decided to re-establish the Solid Waste Committee. But, a third proposal to require residents using the Transfer Station to display sticker on their vehicles as proof of their residency was rejected when questions arose about whether property owners who reside in other municipalities would be entitled to use the Transfer Station. Several speakers suggested the question be referred to the Solid Waste Committee.

In September, the selectmen, acting on the recommendation of Primex, the town's insurance carrier, voted unanimously to close the swap shop and prohibit picking the metal pile. Within two weeks a petition was circulating to convene a special Town Meeting to reverse the decision, which was submitted to the selectmen when they met in October. At a public meeting in November, one speaker after another challenged what they called misplaced or exaggerated concerns about liability, extolled the virtues of the swap shop and called for a special meeting to reverse the board's decision.

Lynn Chong, who was at the forefront of the effort to reopen the swap shop, said "I'm very happy that so many people came and acted in a cooperative spirit without any acrimony."

She stressed that the swap shop offered an effective and popular means of recycling, which reduces the cost of disposing of solid waste, as wel as plays a role in the social life of the community.

Likewise, Chong said that, despite the concerns of Primex, the metal pile can be managed safely and offered examples from a number of towns, including Meredith, where access is permitted.

Following the vote, Dave Nickerson, who chairs the selectboard, said the selectmen will discuss the implications of the vote when at their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday. Although he expected the swap shop to reopen promptly, he indicated that some improvements will be required to ensure public safety and efficient operations at the transfer station in light of the report by Primex.

"The question is: How are we going to do it and how are we going to pay for it?" he said, suggesting that an additional employee and a new building may be necessary at a cost of between $20,000 and $40,000. He also said that the board will consider adopting rules to protect those combing through the metal pile.

Meanwhile, town administrator Charles Smith said that seven candidates — Lynn Chong, Andy Sanborn, Robert White, Dave Swany, Jennifer Holt, Donna Schimming and Jeff Burns — have applied for the five positions on the Solid Waste Committee. He anticipated that the selectmen would make the appointments in January.

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