Racial element apparent in fight between inmates at Belknap County Jail

LACONIA — A inmate housed at the Belknap County Jail appeared in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division by video yesterday and pleaded not guilty to one misdemeanor count of assault by prisoners, mutual consent.

Affidavits filed with the court by the Belknap County Sheriffs Department said Corey Cromwell, 26, of 18 Pine St. in Tilton allegedly hit fellow inmate Cody Ryan with his hand during a confrontation.

During the investigation, police learned that Ryan and Cromwell were housed in the same unit in adjoining cells. On the evening of December 1, 2014 witnesses said Ryan was "banging" in his cell and yelling racist obscenities at Cromwell.
Ryan was successful in getting some of the other inmates to join him. Corrections officers put the entire unit on lock down for the night. The lock down ended in the early morning hours of the next day.

Ryan allegedly kept yelling to Cromwell saying the two would meet "face to face" in the morning.

At 5:45 p.m., a guard in the main console room watched on video and saw Cromwell go into Ryan's cell, come out once and then go back in. He notified other guards that there was a fight in the unit.

When guards arrived, both men were removed from the unit. Ryan allegedly had blood coming from his nose and Cromwell allegedly had blood on his T-shirt.

Ryan allegedly told one of the guards that because Cromwell was so much bigger than he was he just started swinging when Cromwell entered his cell.

During his police interview, Cromwell waived his right to legal counsel and told a sheriff's deputy that he thought Ryan was making a ruckus on December 1 because he was being sent to the N.H. State Prison the next morning.

Cromwell told the deputy that he did go into Ryan's cell to tell him it wasn't fair to punish all of them for something that Ryan did. Cromwell left Ryan's cell but was called back in by Ryan. He said when he went in the second time, Ryan started swinging at him, hitting him mainly in the chest. Cromwell said he swung at Ryan in self defense.

A different inmate in the same unit told the deputy that he heard Ryan tell Cromwell to return to the cell and that he heard Ryan call Cromwell a racial slur. He said Ryan tried to to grab Cromwell by the legs in a take-down move and that's when the fight began.

Affidavits said Ryan refused to cooperate with the deputy's investigation. N.H. State Prison's on-line inmate locator said Ryan is prison for a year. He was convicted of heroin possession.

Cromwell remains in Belknap County Jail and is awaiting trial for charges stemming from a Laconia incident revolving around his role in a car theft. He also faces charges from Gilford Police for one count of arson.

The sheriff's investigation into the fight ongoing and additional arrests could be made.

City asked to ease process for couples who want to marry in Rotary Park

LACONIA — For nearly 150 years the Belknap Mill clattered and hummed with the sound of weaving and knitting machines, but now rings with wedding bells on spring and summer weekends.

Each year dozens of couples celebrate their union at the mill. The program director of the Belknap Mill Society, Beth San Soucie, said that she has already booked more than two dozen 2015 weddings on the some 30 weekends of the peak season between late April and early October. "There are still a few open dates," she noted.

"We get requests from everywhere," San Soucie continued, recalling that last year couples from California, Florida, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, New York and the New England states, many with some ties to Laconia or New Hampshire, tied the knot at the mill. She said that the mill touts itself as a wedding venue on the Internet at websites like "The Wedding Wire" and "The Knot".

For weddings the third floor Rose Chertok Gallery is rented for the day — from 9 a.m. until midnight — for $850, which includes the room, tables, chairs and layout. San Soucie said that she hopes to work with local businesses to create what she called "wedding packages" that would expand what the society could offer.

Frequently, the wedding ceremony itself is held in the gazebo at the adjacent Rotary Park, then the couple, family and guests retire to the Rose Chertok Gallery for the reception.

This week the process for using city-owned Rotary Park brought San Soucie to the Parks and Recreation Commission, which approves requests to hold events in the city parks.

Those seeking to use the parks must make a formal request to the commission, accompanied by proof of liability coverage indemnifying the city in the amount of $1 million. The request is placed on the agenda of next meeting of the commission, which the applicant or a representative must attend to address any issues raised by the commissioners.

San Soucie told the commission that for some applicants, particularly those residing in other states, the requirement to attend the meeting poses a challenge. "I asked if there was some way for the applicant to be virtually present without being physically present," she said.

Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, said yesterday that the commissioners were "a little uncomfortable" with the suggestion of a virtual presence, either by telephone or Skype, but were eager to cooperate with the Belknap Mill Society in promoting the venue. He said that the commission asked him to draft a policy authorizing the director to approve routine requests for weddings in Rotary Park, which would eliminate the need for applicants to appear before the commission. The commission, Dunleavy said, "is acting in the spirit of cooperation with the mill to make their operation successful. He noted that the policy would apply solely to weddings and other requests to use Rotary Park would still require the approval of the commission.

Local Kiwanians & friends celebrate 100th birthday of organization

LACONIA — The Laconia Kiwanis Club was praised for its long history of community involvement at a gathering held at the Belknap Mill Wednesday night marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the parent service organization in Detroit.
The local club was chartered in 1927 and Laconia Mayor Ed Engler traced a link between the club's founding and the third story meeting room at the mill where the gathering was held, which he said is named the Rose Chertok Gallery in honor of the wife of one of the club's founders, Max Chertok.
He said that Max and Rose's son, Ed 'Sonny' Chertok, former Laconia Mayor and long-time Belknap County Commissioner, was one of at least five members of the Laconia Kiwanis Club to serve as mayor. That list also included Dr. Clarence Rowe, Tom McIntyre, J. Oliva Huot and Rod Dyer.
The local club had the distinction in 1965 and 1966 of having both a U.S. Senator, McIntyre, and U.S. Congressman, Huot, as members at the same time.
Engler also pointed a long list of Kiwanians who had served the city in a number of capacities such as Dick Breton, former city councilor and water commissioner; attorney Paul Normandin, a city councilor, fire commissioner and member of the Gunstock Area Commission; Carroll Stafford, former president of Laconia Savings Bank; Charlie Smith, a long-time city councilman and Buddy Daigneault, former Laconia police officer and Belknap County commissioner and administrator, as well as other club members who had many contributions to the community such as Howard Bacon, Roger Ballantyne, Warren Mitchell, Paul Cotton, Chet Cilley, and Jim Fortier.
He said that those who have made the club such a force in the city weren't necessarily those who were involved politically but ''the quiet people who take responsibility and get things done.''
First District Executive Councilor Joe Kenney presented the club with a proclamation honoring Kiwanis on its 100th anniversary and said that the club is a great example of what volunteering can contribute to local communities.
Club president John Walker said that club ''is not large, but we have a large impact on the community.'' and introduced representatives of organizations that the Kiwanis Club helps support.
Anne Marie Mercuri of Central NH VNA and Hospice said that the organization provides support to over 500 children and families in the area through its pediatric home care and immunization services and thanked the club for its support.
Pleasant Street School librarian Liz Rosenfeld and Woodland Heights Elementary School librarian Robbie Neylon said that the club's Kiwanis Kares program which brings club members to schools to read to students and distributes books to them has been in place for 14 years and benefited thousands of students.
The Rev. Paula Gile of the Got Lunch! Program said that the club played a key role in supporting the organization's efforts which got underway in 2011 to provide nutritious meals to students during the summer months and that many of the club's members have served as volunteers for the program.
Kiwanis has sponsored teams in Laconia Little League for more than a half-century and also sponsors the Key Club at Laconia High School which provides leadership opportunities for high school students.

Amelia's Got Game

LACONIA — After three quarters, the Laconia Middle School girls' basketball team held a commanding 37 to 14 lead over Bow yesterday. With 24 points and three assists, Amelia Clairmont accounted for 30 of her team's points then sat out the fourth quarter as the Sachems coasted to easy 48 to 24 win, running their unbeaten string to 14.

Clairmont, who began playing basketball in first grade, said simply, "I just love the game." She plays and practices seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, traveling to Lawrence, Mass., on weekends to join the New Hampshire Rivals, an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) club, playing eight games in two days, as well as working out under the eye of Scott Hazelton, a former McDonald's All-American who starred at the University of Rhode Island. In the summer she plays in the park, often with her older brother Alex and his friends. "If you want to get beat," she tells them, "it's okay with me."

Chick Tautkus, Clairmont's coach at LMS, said, "She exudes a passion for basketball and has a rare dedication to the game."

At 5 feet, 8 inches and about 135 pounds, Clairmont already stands tall and strong for a 14-year-old eighth-grader, but insists, "I work out and I'm trying to get really strong." Almost from the beginning she has been matched against older players, playing a year or more ahead of her age.

Despite her size, she sees herself as a point guard, even as she plays in the middle of the back line of a two-three zone. "I like to drive. Attack the rim," she said. Against Bow, Clairmont worked her crossover dribble and threaded the lane several times for easy layups, but also drained four 3-point shots from beyond the arc.

"She's a basketball player," said Tautkus, "and can play all over the floor — shoot, pass, rebound defend, steal — she does it all."

He began coaching Clairmont when she was in fourth grade and has seen her game improve during her three years on the A team.

"Her ball handling and shooting have really improved," he said. "She can take over a game."

Clairmont said that she models her game on LeBron James.

"I watch all his moves and work to copy them— spin moves, crossover dribble, behind the back and through the legs, no-look passes," she said. "I want to be shoot the three-pointer and play tough close to the riim."

And like her idol, she wears a headband.

Tautkus described Clairmont as a keen competitor, recalling that recently she fell hard and hit her head on the floor, but insisted, "I'm not coming out of this game." In a hard-fought game against Belmont, he said she took a beating then "came on like gangbusters, on a mission. You just got to love it."

For all Clairmont's talent, she is a team player, who looks for the open teammate and shares the ball. Against Bow she scored with economy and efficiency, without forcing shots. On the A Team she is accompanied by talented teammates like Hannah Dow, Caitlyn Beattie, Ellie Kelly and Skyler Tautkus who together play aggressive, pressing defense and fast-paced offense with energy and finesse.

Clairmont also shines the classroom as a straight A student.

"Her test scores are through the roof," said her mother, Erin Davis. "When we're on the road she's in the back seat with the light on and the books open."

"I like to win," Clairmont said, her blue eyes widening and a broad smile lighting her face.