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Lafond trial ordered to proceed on schedule

LACONIA — On Christmas Eve, Justice James D. O'Neill,III denied the request of attorney Mark Sisti, who is defending Amy Lafond against charges of manslaughter and negligent homicide, to delay her trail for 90 days and reaffirmed that the final pre-trial conference will be held on January 13 and the jury will be selected on February 3, all as originally scheduled.

In seeking the postponement, Sisti told the court he was scheduled to try criminal cases in Merrimack County County Superior Court beginning on January 13 and in Rockingham County Superior Court on February 3. In denying the request, O'Neill held that the schedule for Lafond's trial was set on October 3 and took precedent over Sisiti's other appearances. Originally Lafond was represented by the New Hampshire Public Defenders office and retained Sisti on November 22, well after the trial was scheduled.

The charges against Lafond, 52, arose from an incident on April 19 when she allegedly drove into two teenage girls on Messer Street, killing Lilyanna Johnson and seriously injuring Allyssa Miner.

In a separate ruling, O'Neill granted the request of Belknap County Attorney Melissa C. Guldbrandsen to consolidate all the charges against Lafond into a single trial. In charging manslaughter the state alleges that LaFond recklessly caused the death of Johnson by driving while distracted at an excessive speed after consuming drugs. She was also indicted on two alternative theories of negligent homicide one for "failing to maintain a proper lookout" and the other for "failing to pay due attention while operating a motor vehicle after having consumed drugs." Lafond is also charged with second-degree assault for injuring Miner. In addition, Lafond is charged with possession of a narcotic drug and possession of a controlled drug without a valid prescription as well as traffic violations.

Gulbrandsen claimed that it would be appropriate to consolidate all the charges since they stem from the same alleged circumstances and investigation. The defense did not object to her request.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 December 2013 11:20

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Serial sex offender ordered held on $250,000 cash bail

GILFORD — A hat with a Ford Motor Co. symbol and a distinctive chest of drawers were two of the key clues that led police on Wednesday to a convicted sex offender who is being held on $250,000 for the felonious sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl he arranged to meet behind the local movie theater complex in October.

Police affidavits released yesterday regarding the investigation and arrest into David Ferland, 37, of 686 Union Ave. in Laconia said he sent photos of his genitalia to the victim using Kik — an instant messaging Internet service. The victim also told police she had contact with him using Instagram.

The victim's father contacted police when he found an unauthorized cell phone in his daughter's possession that had some disturbing images and content.

Investigators realized the two user photos on Instagram and Kik were similar. The man in the photo — later identified as Ferland — was allegedly wearing the same Ford hat. A similar photo was found on Facebook registered to "Eric Clog."

Further investigation led Gilford Police to Laconia where a city detective was working with middle school administrators about some photographs sent in November to two students over Facebook, also by "Eric Clog," that were deemed inappropriate by school administrators.

Through search warrants, Gilford Police got information from Instagram about Ferland and were able to learn the number of the pre-paid cell phone he was allegedly using. Detectives said using the phone number and the fake name they found a number of X-rated website where Ferland had allegedly posted the cell phone number while in search of young boys for sexual encounters. Some genitalia photos found on Craig's List showed the same chest of drawers that were in the photos Gilford Police got from the victim.

The photos were distributed by Gilford Police to area police departments and officers from the Division of Probation and Parole in the hopes that one of them would recognize the bedroom as that of someone who was under their jurisdiction.

Ferland's probation officer recognized the chest of drawers and said he knew the place where the photo had been taken.

He went there, made contact with Ferland, and charged him with a parole violation for possessing computer equipment. Gilford Police got a search warrant and seized photographs, computers, and the Ford hat seen in the photographs from Ferland's bedroom.

During an interview at the Belknap County Jail, police said Ferland admitted purchasing alcohol for the victim and one of her friends and then leaving it at drop point where she could pick it up. He also admitted that he met the two girls behind the Gilford Cinema where he digitally penetrated one of the them and said the other touched him.

Ferland appeared by video in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday morning. His lawyer made no bail argument and notified the court that Ferland would likely be returning to the N.H. State Prison for the parole violation and, should he choose to appear for his probable cause hearing on the latest charge, he would have to be transported from there.

Ferland is a registered sex offender who had been reporting regularly to the Laconia Police. He has nine conviction for felonious sexual assault as well and 21 convictions for possession of child pornography most of which are out of Rockingham County.

Gilford Police said Wednesday that the investigation into Ferland's alleged activities continues and he could face more charges.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 December 2013 11:13

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Judge says Briarcrest case to be decided on meaning of 'good faith'

LACONIA — The dispute over the future ownership of Briarcrest Estates moved closer to trial this week when Justice James D. O'Neill , III of Belknap County Superior Court denied the motion of the Lakemont Cooperative to dismiss the petition of Mark and Ruth Mooney, owners of the manufactured housing park, asking the court to approve their sale of the park to Hometown America Corporation. In the process, O'Neill clearly signaled that the case will turn on what it means to negotiate in "good faith".
The dispute hinges on a statute that requires park owners, upon receiving an offer to purchase their park, to "consider any offer received from the tenants or a tenants' association" and to "negotiate in good faith with the tenants concerning a potential purchase." Failure to comply carries a liability to the tenants of $10,000 or 10 percent of the purchase price, whichever is greater.
In July the Mooneys accepted a $10-million offer from Hometown America. Tenants representing a minority of the 241 units in the park incorporated as the Lakemont Cooperative and matched the $10 million offer.
In response, the Mooneys asked the court to approve the sale to Hometown America, claiming that since a majority of tenants preferred commercial to cooperative ownership of the park, approving the transaction would be in keeping with the intent of the statute to safeguard the best interests of tenants. Subsequently a majority of tenants petitioned the court opposing a sale to the cooperative and asking to intervene on behalf of the Mooneys.
The Lakemont Cooperative, represented by attorney Robert Shepherd, asked the court to dismiss the Mooneys' petition, arguing that as the owners of the park they were in no position to represent the interests of its residents. Moreover, Shepherd reminded the court that the law does not prescribe that the cooperative include a specific number, let alone the majority, of tenants to make an offer and pursue the transaction.
In objecting to the cooperative's petition to dismiss, Fitzgerald argued that the term "tenants" and "tenants association," which are nowhere defined, are ambiguous, but can only reasonably be taken to refer to a majority of the tenants. Consequently, he concluded that the Mooneys "owe conflicting duties of good faith" to both the cooperative and the majority and could face a liability of $1 million for failing to bargain in good faith with either. He asked the court to resolve the ambiguity of the statute.
At a hearing in November, Shepherd insisted that the law is not at all ambiguous and that Fitzgerald, by reading tenants to mean majority, was seeking to add words to it that amounted to "a distortion of the plain meaning of the statute." He said that since the majority of tenants have not tendered an offer for the park, there was nothing to negotiate with them.
In declining to dismiss the Mooney's petition O'Neill found that the issues it raised did not qualify for dismissal proceedings. At the same time, he held that the court need not find the statute ambiguous. Instead, he ruled that the essence of the Mooney's claim is by choosing to sell to Hometown America because a majority of the tenants do not want the park to be owned by a cooperative they have met the requirement to negotiate in good faith. "Thus," he concluded, "the crux of this matter is what constitutes 'negotiate in good faith,' not what constitutes tenants or tenants association."
The case is expected to be tried on March 22.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 December 2013 10:59

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Mean-spirited theft fails to stop 9-year-old's drive to help New Hampshire Humane Society

LACONIA — The Monday before Christmas, 9-year-old Jet Wang, a fourth grader at Holy Trinity School, was named honorary director for the day at the New Hampshire Humane Society.
The honor was bestowed on the youngster after he delivered $1,100 he had collected at his parents' Shang Hai Restaurant on South Main Street in his own personal fundraiser for the society.
''It was a wonderful gift and it sets a great example for other children,'' said Marylee Gorham-Waterman, director of development at the society.
She said that Wang's family also added to the gift he brought, having gone on a shopping spree earlier that morning at BJ's Wholesale Club in Tilton , where they spent $100 on cat and dog food, animal toys, paper towels, a dog bed and even bleach for disinfecting the animal cages at the shelter.
Wang came up with the idea for the fundraiser last summer after he and his Aunt Annie visited the Humane Society.
''They had been at the restaurant and he was bored. So I suggested that he and his aunt go up there to see the animals,'' said his mother Hong Yan, who along with her husband runs the restaurant.
When Jet returned he told his mother that he would like to adopt a dog.
But Yan said that as much as she would like for him to have a pet, that it just wouldn't be fair to the dog as both she and her husband work 12 hours a day at the restaurant and there wouldn't be time to properly take care of a pet.
Wang was still determined to do something for the animals at the shelter and came up with the idea of raising money for the Humane Society by putting a "swear jar" on the bar. Every time one of his mother's patrons curses, he or she has to put some money in the jar for the Humane Society.
The goal was to raise $200 for the Humane Society and one of Yan's regular customers said he would match up to $200 if Jet and his "swear jar" could raise that much money.
Yan said she too would match Jet's $200.
But in early September some young people stole all of the paper money the jar, which was clearly marked as a fundraiser for the Humane Society.
''I was kind of mad, but mostly really sad about the money being taken,'' says Jet.
But after a story about the theft ran in The Daily Sun on September 14, things turned around for the fundraiser.
The Bank of New Hampshire contributed $200 to the cause even set up a collection box to help out. And the restaurant's customers gave generously, with several even chipping in $100.
''People sent us checks and cash in the mail. A lot of it anonymously,'' said Yan.
''One girl at school even gave me her lunch money to help the animals,'' said Wang, who says that he learned that while there may be bad people in the world who will steal there are many more people who have good hearts and are willing to help.
''I feel good that I was able to do this for the animals at the shelter and that so many people helped me,'' said Wang.
Yan said her family has been in Laconia for 25 years and the community has been so good to them that they wanted to do something for Laconia and the Humane Society. With the $1,100 delivered Monday the earlier Bank of N.H. donation pushed the total raised to $1,300.
''We are so grateful to all the people who helped out, especially Harry, Nick, Donna, Annie and Rich. We can't say thank you enough,'' says Yan.

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9-year-old Jet Wang is presented with a certificate naming him honorary director for the day at the New Hampshire Humane Society by Marylee Gorham-Waterman, director of development at the society. New Hampshire Humane Society. (Roger Amsden/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 December 2013 01:23

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