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Alleged Northfield drug dealer pleads not guilty, held on high bail

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — A Northfield man arraigned Monday on charges that he sold heroin/fentanyl three times to a confidential informant working with the Tilton Police Department is being held on $50,000 cash only or $150,000 corporate surety after pleading not guilty in the Belknap County Superior Court.

08-06 Justin Gauthier

Justin Gauthier, 38, of 51 Diana Drive is charged with three counts of sales of narcotics in Tilton. Gauthier also faces one count of possession of narcotics and one count of possession with intent to sell narcotics in Merrimack County.

Affidavits obtained from the court said Gauthier allegedly made three sales to the same confidential informant from July 4 to 15. In two of the three purchases, the drugs field-tested positive for fentanyl.

During a warranted search of his home, police found one ounce of heroin, two ounces of methamphetamine, prescription pills, firearms, knives and $14,000 in cash.

Police said they learned of Gauthier's alleged activities after the confidential informant code-named Buttercup was arrested for shoplifting. Affidavits indicated he/she has four prior convictions for theft and one for drug possession.

After the third sale, police obtained permission from the Belknap County Attorney's Office to listen in on Buttercup and Gauthier during the alleged transactions.

Buttercup told police that Gauthier used to live at Three Maple Cottages but that he had moved to Northfield, and while he/she didn't know the address, he/she could take them there.

After the three sales, Tilton Police obtained a warrant for Gauthier's arrest. Police from Northfield and the New Hampshire State Police assisted.

In Superior Court Monday, Gauthier's attorney, Colin Sandiford, argued initially that his client didn't want his arraignment to be filmed by WMUR news and that he didn't want his photograph taken because it would make his client appear guilty and taint the jury pool.

Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen, who didn't object to photographs or filming, said that any potential future issues with a jury could be handled by questioning at trial. She said the state Right To Know law allows media to be present and to record or photograph the proceedings.

Presiding Justice James O'Neill ruled that Gauthier had not met his burden and that the media could stay and photograph and/or record the arraignment.

At that time, Gauthier, who had been sitting with his face in his hands, uncovered his face and participated in the arraignment.

Guldbrandsen argued for $50,000 cash bail only, saying two of the three sales were of fentanyl, which she said is a very dangerous drug that even in small amounts can cause death. She said he had two convictions in his past, which were a misdemeanor drug possession from 1999 and a recent resisting-arrest charge.

Sandiford said his client has always appeared for his court dates and that a drug possession from "last century" and a resisting-arrest charge didn't mean he is a danger to the community or himself.

He said Gauthier has a job at his father's flooring shop and had worked there for 23 years. He said he is the sole support for his child and needs to be able to work.

Sandiford added that any drugs that Gauthier allegedly had in his possession had been seized, so he could not be a danger to the community.

Both sides agreed that if Gauthier was to post bail, there would be a hearing to determine a source of the money.

Group protests urban patrol rifles grant

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — A small group of protesters gathered outside the Laconia City Hall last evening to protest the Laconia Police Department's request for a federal grant to equip all of its officers with urban patrol rifles.
The department has been awarded a federal grant of $15,714 by the Bureau of Justice Assistance for the purchase 15 of the semi-automatic, .223 caliber rifles, along with slings, magazines and other accessories.
Police have explained that rifles are only intended for use in the event of an active shooter situation or when police are confronted with a shooter similarly armed. They will be mounted between the seats of cruisers while on patrol and returned to the station when the patrol ends.
Marcus Chamberlain from Salisbury, who described himself as a Free Stater, said that he is opposed to the militarization of police and questioned why the police department thinks they need them when Laconia is regarded as a very safe city.
"What makes them think that better weapons will help them enforce the law?" asked Chamberlain.

Tony Jankowski of Tilton said that he was opposed to using federal funds for the purchase and that if the citizens of Laconia wanted their officers equipped with the urban assault rifles that the taxpayers of the city should pay for them. Jankowski, who was carrying a sign which read "More Mayberry, Less Fallujah," said he didn't like the idea of his tax dollars being used to militarize local police.
Several of those carrying signs said that they are gun owners themselves but are uncomfortable with what they see as a trend toward militarization of local police departments.
Advance notice of the demonstration was posted on the "Thanks But No Tanks" website which said that signs would be made available for the protesters. But none of those with signs, about seven or eight people in all, said that they were affiliated with the Thanks But No Tanks organization.
The Laconia City Council held a public hearing last night on the grant request from the Police Department.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the attribution of a statement by Tony Jankowski.

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Tony and Jane Jankowski of Tilton, Tabitha and Jesse Garland of Northfield and Matt Perreault of Pittsfield demonstrated in front of Laconia City Hall to protest the Laconia Police Department seeking a federal grant to equip officers with urban patrol rifles. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Belmont Police investigate woman heard screaming, ask for public’s help

BELMONT — Police continue to investigate a report of a woman screaming in the area of Gardener's Grove Road early Monday morning.

Police found the woman who had been screaming, and she told them that a man driving a car with Vermont plates tried to abduct her. When pressed by police, they said she "lost interest" in cooperating with them.

Without a cooperating witness, police said they have little to pursue but ask that if anyone knows anything or heard or saw anything, they should call Belmont Police at 267-8350 and ask for Officer Patrick Riley.

– Gail Ober

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