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Prosecutors say 2 small children slept in same room as crack stash in Grove Street home

LACONIA — Two small children, ages 2 and 4, were discovered sleeping in the same room where police found drugs as they searched a home on Grove Street, prosecutors said in court yesterday.

In an appearance in 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, Prosecutor Jim Sawyer said police located an open container that contained "multiple dozens" of individual bags of crack cocaine in a closet that didn't have a door but was covered by a sheet.

"If (either child) ingested one of them they would probably die," Sawyer said.

He also said there was a children's video found in the same closet near the drugs indicating to him that Bountham Sonthikoummane, 52, and Onella Nguan, 37 of 25 Grove St., showed no regard for their young children while operating an alleged "drug enterprise."

Sawyer also noted that a number of counterfeit Gucci and Coach pocketbooks wrapped in plastic were also found in the home as was a considerable amount of jewelry, receipts for jewelry not recovered by police during the search, and a "considerable" amount of cash.

He said Sonthikoummane was wearing what Sawyer estimated to be a $7,000 gold necklace that Sonthikoummane allegedly threw into a dirty sink during the raid.

Although both Sonthikoummane and Nguan separately waived their rights to probable cause hearings, Sawyer's statements came during bail arguments made on each of their behalves by Atty. Matt Lahey and Atty. Allison Schwartz respectively. Interpreters were present for both hearings.

After hearing the bail arguments, Carroll kept Sonthikoummane's bail at $100,000 cash, and Nguan's bail at $50,000 cash.

According to N.H. Supreme Court documents, in 1997 Sonthikoummane was convicted of a similar crime involving crack cocaine and sentenced to serve 10 to 20 years in prison. Sawyer said yesterday he is still on parole and his understanding is that paperwork has been filed with the parole board regarding his latest arrest.

The court also learned that even though an immigration hold has been requested for Sonthikoummane, his native county, Cambodia, allegedly refused to allow his repatriation after his first conviction.

The bail hearings and probable cause hearings for both had been scheduled for Thursday. However, neither attorney had reviewed the search warrant affidavit for the home because it had been sealed. Judge Jim Carroll ordered Sawyer to redact the information about "how" police came to learn of the alleged operation but not what police found when they got there.

Sawyer apparently redacted the "how" and released the affidavits to each respective defense attorney, however the affidavit remains sealed from the general public.

The cases will presumably be bound over to the Belknap County Superior Court for possible indictment and trial.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 October 2014 12:51

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Bypass cleanup: Colson has filled 130 bags with litter

LACONIA — "I drive the bypass to work every day and I'm sick of seeing it littered with trash," said Peter Morrissette, the owner of Joyce Janitorial Services and Lakes Region Party and Gift. "And I wanted to give something back."

Beginning this spring Morrissette has sponsored Peter Colson, Sr. to clean up the bypass. "He starts at the St. Francis Rehabilitation and Nursing Center on Court Street and picks up on both sides of the entire length of the bypass, including every on and off ramp," he said.

Morrissette said that in the spring Colson filled 82 bags with trash and another 17 with aluminum cans in 11 days. This week Colson is nearing the end of his second sweep of the bypass and has filled another 27 bags with trash and four with cans. Morrissette said when Colson finishes with the bypass he will ask him to pick up along Lakeshore Road (Route 11) between the bypass and Sawyer's Dairy Bar.

"I'm Native American," Colson said, "and I don't like seeing people treat Mother Nature like this."


Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 October 2014 12:20

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Man jumps in river in effort to avoid Laconia police

LACONIA — A Garfield Street man will appear in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division this morning after leading police on a foot chase that ended when he jumped into the Winnipesaukee River.

Police said Chad O'Connor's most recent troubles began Thursday when they responded to a domestic disturbance complaint on Fair Street.

They learned that O'Connor had allegedly assaulted someone in the home but he was gone when they arrived. A warrant for his arrest was issued.

On Friday, police got a report that O'Connor was walking down Bay Street headed toward Court Street accompanied by two women. A police office saw him near West Street but O'Connor allegedly ran away.

The police set a perimeter that included a K-9 unit track.

O'connor allegedly doubled back and was spotted again by police. Surrounded, he jumped into river next to Hebert's Foundry.

Police said O'Connor was directed to come back to dry land, after which he was taken into custody without further incident.

The Laconia Fire Department briefly assisted the police in a search for O'Connor's vest that he was apparently wearing before he went into the water but was not wearing when he came back out.

"We thought there was some property of his we could recover," said Sgt. Gary Hubbard.

O'Connor faces three charges of simple assault for the alleged domestic disturbance on Thursday plus one count of resisting arrest.

There was also an outstanding arrest warrant from Belmont for one count of resisting arrest and one outstanding arrest warrant from Gilmanton for criminal trespass.

O'Connor refused bail and was held in the Belknap County House of Corrections over the long weekend.

Last Updated on Monday, 13 October 2014 11:34

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100 candles on Normandin, Cheney & O'Neil's cake

LACONIA — "One hundred years is not common," said Bob Diettz, partner at Normandin, Cheney & O'Neil, PLLC, which has stood among the premier law firms in the Lakes Region for the past century. The longevity of the firm reflects a skein of strong family ties and a close relationship with Laconia Savings Bank (now Bank of New Hampshire) that together have run throughout its history.

F.E. Normandin began the practice in 1914 in rented space he shared with with a brother, Armand, and sister, Alice, who together pursued a medical practice. In 1937, F.E. Normandin was joined by his nephew, 19 years his junior, F.A. Normandin, practicing in the Normandin Block — originally the Avery Block — which was razed to make space for Stewart Park during urban renewal. The Normandin Block was directly across the Winnipesaukee River from the offices of Laconia Savings Bank, which would provide the firm with a steady flow of business for much of its history.

That same year F.E. Normandin successfully defended Lewis Wilkinson, a local undertaker, against a suit brought in federal court by a New York advertising agency charging that Wilkinson used copyrighted material to advertise in the Laconia Evening Citizen without authorization. Normandin claimed Wilkinson was not informed the materials protected and that the mark, designated them as protected, could not be identified with the naked eye.

Although the firm is not known for criminal defense, in 1947 the Normandins took part in a significant case made memorable for resonating in the pages of "Peyton Place," the best-seling novel by Grace Metalious. Barbara Roberts, then 20, shot and killed her father four days before Christmas in 1946 and with her teenage brother, William, buried the body in the barnyard of their Gilmanton farm. After Roberts pled guilty to second-degree murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison, Ben Bradlee, later editor of the Washington Post but then a reporter for the New Hampshire Sunday News, found that the father had regularly abused his daughter for years, the Normandins as defense counsel persuaded the state to change the charge to manslaughter, reducing her sentence to months rather than years.

In 1948 Thomas Cheney, Jr., whose father served as New Hampshire Attorney General, joined the firm and four years later the triumvirate became complete with the addition of A. Gerard O'Neil, a nephew of F.E. Normandin. In 1955, F.E. Normandin's son Paul joined his father and two years later his sister Margaret "Peg" Normandin, came aboard as a title examiner, a position she held for more than 50 years.

While F.A. Normandin was a staunch Democrat and a leading figure in city politics, the firm rose to political prominence in the 1960s as one of several epicenters of the Democratic ascendancy in Laconia. Paul was a delegate for John F. Kennedy when captured the presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention in 1960 and was rewarded with an appointment as Assistant United States Attorney for New Hampshire, a post he held from 1961 to 1965.

In 1962, Thomas J. McIntyre won a special election to complete the unexpired term of Republican Styles Bridges in the United States Senate, becoming the first Democrat elected to the Senate in New Hampshire in 30 years. McIntyre, who had practiced as a sole practitioner, become an associate of the firm in 1963 and was twice re-elected to the Senate.

Meanwhile, the firm represented Alfred Rosenblatt, a columnist at the Laconia Evening Citizen, in a liable suit brought by Fritzie Baer, the champion of motorcycling in the Lakes Region, which was ultimately decided by the United States Supreme Court. Baer, managed the Gunstock Recreational Area from 1950 until 1959 when the Belknap County Commissioners terminated his contract and established the Gunstock Area Commission. In s column published in 1960, Rosenblatt noted that since the change Gunstock's financial performance improved "literally hundreds of percent better" and asked "what happened to all the money last year? and every other year?"

Baer sued, claiming the column alleged mismanagement, even criminal conduct. A jury in Belknap County Superior Court agreed and awarded Baer damages and the decision was upheld by the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The newspaper appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which overturned the decision. Earlier the court had ruled that freedom to criticize public officials could not be hindered unless it could be proven that the criticisms were made with "actual malice".

When the senior Normandins — F.E. and F.A. — both passed away in 1967 and Cheney died three years later, leadership passed to O'Neil, and Paul Normandin.

Paul Normandin had an active trial practice for many years before turning his energies estate planning and probate, real estate and commercial law. He also found time to serve in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, on the Laconia City Council and Gunstock Area Commission, all the while contributing his time and talent to any number of civic and service organizations.Like his father, who served as president of Laconia Savings Bank, Normandin became a corporator and trustee of the bank before serving 17 years as chairman of the board. He also was a director of the Citizen Publishing Company.

With Normandin's passing earlier this year the family tradition fell to the O'Neils. In 1980, O'Neil was joined by his son Jerry O'Neil, Jr., whose daughter Kaitlin is the newest addition to the team.

"It was a family firm and still is a family firm," said Dietz, who interned with the firm while in law school, returned after graduation and came to stay in 1979 after serving in the United States Air Force and working at the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security.

"We have always pursued the general practice of law," Dietz said, explaining that as young attorneys have joined the firm they have been exposed to all aspects of the law. "We're regimented," he noted. "We rely on people to do their own work, to be responsible and industrious." He stressed that "the firm has enjoyed many years of continuity" with little turnover in personnel. "We've always tried to stay reasonably small," Dietz said, adding that the firm has seven attorneys, each steeped in the law yet with a more specialized niche.

For instance, Dietz heads the commercial practice, which serves as general counsel to more than 220 businesses of all types and sizes both inside and outside the state. O'Neil leads the firm's litigation team, which includes his fellow partner Jim Lafrance, while maintaining a personal injury practice. Regina Nadeau, who joined the firm in 1996, handles all aspects of real estate law — property transactions, environmental regulation, local permitting and development projects. development and environmental regulation. Together with Donna Depoian and Tim O'Brien, Dietz handles estate planning, along with the administration of probate and trust, a mainstay of the firm's practice since it was founded in 1914. Family law, along with criminal cases and civil rights, is the primary preserve of William Woodbury.

Dietz said that as lawyering has grown more competitive and less collegial, success depends more than ever on relationships that breed relationships. As Normandin, Cheney & O'Neil enters its second century it has a wealth of professional continuity and settled relationships to draw on.

Last Updated on Monday, 13 October 2014 11:31

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