LACONIA – An attorney for William Baer, a Gilford parent accused of three counts of disorderly conduct for his alleged actions at a May School Board meeting during a discussion about a book assigned to his daughter, has filed a motion to dismiss all three charges.
Baer's attorney, Mark Sisti, breaks the charges into two separate categories. The first contains two alleged offenses – that he caused a breach of the peace by disrupting a School Board business meeting, and the second being that he refused to obey a lawful order issued by a peace officer to move from any public place. The second category is that Baer's actions did not rise to he level of disturbing the peace.
The Gilford Police Department, which is prosecuting Baer, has 10 days to file a response.
Baer was arrested at a May 5 School Board meeting which he attended to voice his opposition that his daughter, a student in the ninth grade, had been assigned to read book containing graphic sex scene between two teenagers, without the he or other parents being notified of the reading assignment.
Sisti argues the charges should be dismissed because each of these complaints seek a criminal penalty rather than a civil remedy. He said the prosecution seeks to limit the rights of Baer's free speech in public – something that lies at the heart of the First Amendment.
He said the speech occurred during a public hearing that is a "designated public forum" because it was open to facilitate public discourse. He said this type of speech can be limited by reasonable time, place and manner but only "where such regulation narrowly tailored furthers significant government interests and does not foreclose other opportunities for expression."
Sisti wrote that Baer was not just prohibited from speaking, but removed from the public event entirely. He noted that New Hampshire's history shows the citizenry places a high value on civic participation such that the Constitution includes provisions for open and public forums.
"The state alleges that the lawful order issued to Baer was one requesting his removal, not his silence or anything else," said Sisti. He said the Constitution goes further than the Right to Know law because it guarantees access to governmental proceedings and attendance at one cannot be unreasonably restricted.
He argues that Gilford Police Lt. Jim Leach's order to Baer to leave the meeting was unreasonable. He cited case law that says one cannot be punished for failing to obey the command of an officer is that command violates the Constitution.
He said Baer's arrest and removal cannot be reasonable because there are "less intrusive ways of maintaining order at a meeting" and Leach had two other less drastic measures available to him including, first asking him to be quiet, and then warning him if he did not do so, he would be removed.
Sisti said the discovery shows that the order to remove Baer originated from School Board Chair Sue Allen who also never warned him he could be removed.
"To allow this complaint to stand, this Court must find an implied authority to a board chair to command a police officer to remove a participant without warning that the person could be removed," he wrote.
He said the availability of other options coupled with Leach's decision not to use them must be weighed against the "strong constitutional protections" afforded to Baer as a member of a public forum.
As to the third complaint of "beach of peace," Sisti argues that no breach occurred.
He said disruption must be "narrowly tailored" so that it is necessary to avoid unreasonable interference. In this case, he notes that Baer's entire interruption lasted 25 seconds and did not interfere with the ongoing business of the School Board.
He notes that after Baer initially spoke, he sat through two additional speakers, and was responding to comments made by Joe Wernig, albeit without recognition. He also said the business of the board continued unabated.
Sisti argues that Baer did nothing to suggest he was going to cause a breach of the peace and was acting only as a concerned citizen.
In summation, Sisti quoted the late Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black who said, "... (the) policeman's club can take heavy toll on a current administration's public critics ... (c)riticism of public officials will be too dangerous for all but the most courageous."
"The School Board must tolerate mild interruptions without resorting to arrest or removal," Sisti said arguing all three charges should be dismissed.
Last Updated on Friday, 01 August 2014 12:36
LACONIA – An Edwards Street man is being held on $1,000 cash bail after allegedly assaulting his girlfriend while he was holding their 2-year-old daughter.
Carroll Thompson, 43, is charged with one count of second-degree assault, one count of criminal threatening with a deadly weapon, one count of simple assault, and one count of endangering the welfare of a child.
Police said they were called to 71 Edwards St. at 12:15 a.m. Wednesday and learned that Thompson had gone to 71 Edwards St. looking for the homeowner.
When he was told the homeowner wasn't there, he allegedly became enraged and grabbed the victim by her hair and picked up the little girl. The victim told police that Thompson also picked up a 4-foot wooden railing post and dragged the victim, while carrying the post and the child.
She told police that he threatened to strike her with the post. Affidavits said that the victim told them that he dragged her by her neck, left the post in the neighbor's truck, and then dragged her back to her house.
She said as he was allegedly dragging her, she had difficulty breathing because he was covering her mouth and nose.
Affidavits said a witness saw Thompson drag the woman by her hair while he was carrying the child. Police found the child who had an abrasion to her forehead, a soiled diaper, and no shoes on her feet.
Police said that at 9:55 a.m. on Thursday a different officer was called to a home on Summer Street after police received a complaint about a stolen cell phone. The caller said Thompson was at her home the evening before and was doing some electrical work at the request of her landlord.
She said around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday he "abruptly left with her cell phone."
According to affidavits, the woman said she contacted her landlord who told her he would get her phone back and that Thompson was having issues with his girlfriend.
Police said they later got an anonymous phone call telling them Thompson was at 8 Hill St. When police arrived, affidavits said Thompson was in the back yard and ran toward Clinton Street when he saw them.
Police caught him and recovered the Spring Street woman's cell phone.
The city prosecutor said yesterday during Carroll's video appearance in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, that he had an extensive criminal record that dated back to 1993, including bail jumping, resisting arrest, filing a false report to police and driving after revocation.
He asked for $5,000 to $10,000 cash bail because Thompson "introduced a fragile child into this mix."
The public defender argued that Thompson has a full-time job and has nearly all of his family in the area, including his mother, his son, a brother, and a niece. His mother and niece were in court yesterday.
She said his mother had a rental property in Gilford where Thompson can stay and that there was no allegations of threats against the child.
The prosecutor countered that Thompson showed a lack of judgment and a lack of control and pressed for high cash bail.
Judge Jim Carroll set bail at $1,000 cash and ordered that Thompson have no unsupervised contact with children under 12. He also placed a criminal order of protection in place for the victim and ordered that, with the exception of his employer, he can have no contact with any of the people involved.
Last Updated on Friday, 01 August 2014 12:45
LACONIA — As the kayaks and canoes begin gathering Saturday afternoon at Weirs Beach for Sunday's second Annual Raft-a-Palooza, participants will also be getting an education about water quality and keeping invasive aquatic species out of New Hampshire's lakes.
Event organizers, including New Hampshire Lakes Association Vice President Andrea LaMoreaux, actually began the event as a way to not only bring family and friends together, but also to educate the paddle boating community.
"It's education in disguise," LaMoreaux said. "Plants and animals hitchhike rides to our waters."
LaMoreaux said "Clean, Drain, and Dry" is the motto for the Raft-a-Palooza.
"Any boat that participates with be inspected by a blue-shirted person who will inspect the boat and assist the owner in cleaning the obvious materials, draining the water from the bottom, and making sure the vessel is dry before entering Lake Winnipesaukee," she said.
She said plants tend to be the easiest to clean because they are, for the most part, visible. More tricky are the invasive aquatic animals, like the zebra mussels and Asian clams that come to new waters through drops of water.
For the first time this year, there will be a festival for children, after the attempts to break the Guinness World Book records for most boats in a raft and most boat to launch at the same time.
She said the festival will consist of seven interactive stations where children (and their parents) can learn about water and the environment.
The first station will teach about how lakes form while the second station will teach about how water moves and circulates around the planet.
Station 3 teaches about the aquatic food web or food chain. "We'll teach them about what eats what," she said.
Station 4 will describe a watershed with a goal of letting students know that even if they don't live right on the water, everything they do eventually drains into a lake or river.
The fifth station describes ways to get pollution and dirt out, while the sixth station is about invasive species.
She said each station will have hands on activities for the children and will be staffed by volunteers from the New Hampshire Lakes Association.
Finally, she said the students will get to Station 7 where they will take a pledge to do something to help the water and get a certificate and a patch for their new-found knowledge.
She said the pledge would be one thing that a child can do to help protect the state's lakes and waters — like picking up pet waste or taking shorter showers.
LaMoreaux said N.H. Lakes hopes to begin recruiting a whole new generation of "Water Warriors" who will assist in preserving the environment and keeping New Hampshire waters clean and free of invasive species.
Raft-a-Palooza check-in begins at noon on Saturday, although people can continue to check in until right before the launch on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. She said the rafting will start at 11 a.m.
Last Updated on Friday, 01 August 2014 12:49
LACONIA — The Police Commission and the Laconia Police Association have reached an accord over a proposed union contract.
Police Capt. Bill Clary, who announced the development Thursday, said the next step is for the contract to be sent to the Laconia City Council for review and acceptance of the cost items.
This is the second go-around for the commission and the union. The first proposed contract was approved by the six-person negotiating team, but later rejected by union rank-and-file.
The negotiating team met again last week and proposed an amended contract to the members who approved it on Tuesday afternoon.
Commissioners discussed the changed in a "non-meeting" yesterday morning and then convened in public to take a vote.
Union police have been working without a contract since July 1 when the previous contract expired.
Should the City Council accept the cost provisions of the contract, the Police Department will be the only municipal department with a contract. About two months ago, the council rejected a proposed Fire Department contract.
Last Updated on Friday, 01 August 2014 12:39
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