Recovery, hope, bright futures - Two graduate from drug program


LACONIA — For most, appearing in court marks at best a detour and at worst a dead end, but yesterday Jessica Caldon and Ethan Anderson, the most recent graduates of the Belknap County Recovery Court, stood before Judge Jim Carroll with a quiet sense of pride and well of hope that filled the courtroom and touched everyone in it.

Addicts recover a day at a time and the scourge of addiction will be overcome one addict at a time. Now midway into its fourth year and marking its fifth graduation, the recovery court, a partnership of the judicial system, law enforcement and treatment providers, is where, by their own hands held by the helping hands of others, the addicted redeem and resurrect themselves.

Holding her 8-month-old daughter McKenzie, Caldon, 27, recalled bearing her first child when she was 15 – and about the same began using drugs.

"I missed out on being young," she said.

A second child followed and both were taken from her when her boyfriend was arrested. Then there was a third child followed by seven months in and out of jail. Released, she said that she was clean for time, but again turned to drugs and was arrested for violating her probation.

Caldon, again expecting, was accepted by the recovery court in April 2015. She summoned the strength to end an abusive relationship with the father of the child she bore. And, said Jacqui Abikoff, executive director of Horizons Counseling Services, steadfastly attended 33 three-an-a-half-hour intensive outpatient therapy sessions, becoming an outspoken and insightful leader in the group.

Choking on tears, Caldon said, "I'm so fortunate to be here today with a healthy mind and body and, most important, a healthy little girl."

Anderson, 26, started drinking and drugging in his early teens. He passed through various treatment programs, but always relapsed. Abikoff confessed she was skeptical when he applied to the recovery court, joking that Ethan suspected "I agreed to take him for the opportunity to kick him out." Her fears were not unfounded. "It took Ethan a while to learn things," she said, adding that he spent 17 months in the treatment program. She said he thought he could kick his addiction and still enjoy a drink and, with his infectious smile and twinkling eyes, pass muster with his providers. When charm failed, Abikoff said "we saw a different Ethan. A kind, caring, generous side of Ethan," who attended 43 of those intensive outpatient sessions.

Anderson, who owns and operates his own business in New London, said that standing for graduation is "a miracle." Turning toward Carroll, he said "We know how you care," then thanked Abikoff "for not giving up on me" along with the team at Horizons, especially his counselor Amanda, who he said enabled him to talk about things he had always kept close to himself.

James Vara, the Governor's Advisor on Addiction and Behavioral Health, noted the famous line of Rousseau's "Social Contract" — "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains" — and recalled discovering that the chains are self-imposed. But, rejecting the notions that addiction afflicted weak minded and weak willed, he said flatly, "It's a disease, and anything said beyond that is wrong." He lauded the work of the recovery court, stressing that most change in the effort to curb substance abuse has come at the local level.

Calling the Belknap County Recovery Court "the only unfunded drug court in the country," public defender Jesse Friedman said that, when the court was established, what to call it became a thorny question. Although the term "drug court" had become commonplace and Abikoff pressed for its use, Carroll, he said found it "sort of negative" and suggested "How about recovery court?"

Carroll brought the same spirit to the graduation ceremony, welcoming everyone to "the most progressive court in the land." Then, following what Mike Krzyzewski, the Duke basketball coach, asks of all his teams, he told everyone in the courtroom to link arms with those either side of them and on the the count of three pull tight and shout "together." Describing Caldon and Anderson as "shining examples," he told them, "We have a roomful of people here together for you."

Next the judge drew on Rascal Flatts and, without singing, read the lyrics to "My Wish," which includes the verse:

I hope you never look back but you never forget
All the ones who love you
And the place you left
I hope you always forgive and you never regret
And you help somebody every chance you get
Oh, you find God's grace in every mistake
And always give more than your take.

05-18 drug recovery court

Jessica Caldon, left, and Ethan Anderson, right, hold certificates noting their graduation certificates from the Belknap County Recovery Court, having successfully fought drug addiction. Caldon holds her child, McKenzie. With them are Judge James Carroll and Jacqui Abikoff, executive director of Horizons Counseling Services. (Michael Kitch photo/Laconia Daily Sun)

Thaw in relations at Alton School Board


ALTON — A thaw in the strained relations between a majority of the Alton School Board and a group of parents critical of the decisions it has made in recent months became evident at a meeting of the board Tuesday afternoon at which Board Chairman Steve Miller was applauded after he called for a community forum in July at which concerns of the parents over the direction of the school system can be discussed.
"We can't fix everything overnight, but if we don't start fixing things the kids are going to get hurt and that's something no one wants," said Miller.
He said that a recent extended meeting he had with school officials and parents Kelli Tibbs and Anne Ransom had addressed a number of concerns, including communication, transparency and understanding other peoples' points of view and had been conducted in what he described as a ''dignified and civil atmosphere."
Miller said the ideal time for a community forum, which would be conducted in an open format allowing for a give and take between the public and members of the board and school administrators, would be in early July, once the district's new superintendent, Pamela Stiles, has taken over the reins.
The school board and the parents have been at odds ever since February when a petition calling for the resignation of Superintendent Dr. Maureen Ward, Alton Central School Principal Cris Blackstone and Special Education Director Jennifer Katz-Borrin, which was signed by 242 people, was presented to the school board.
Miller said at that time that the board would discuss those concerns at its April 4 meeting, which was recessed abruptly after there was a 2-2 tie vote between him and new board member Peter Leavitt for the chairmanship. The majority of the board, Miller, Sandy Wyatt and Terri Noyes, then voted to hold an emergency meeting on April 25 which Leavitt and the other new board member Michael Ball, were unable to attend.
Miller was elected chairman at that meeting, which drew more than 60 people who protested the board's action in voting without the new members present.
Jeffrey Clay, a member of the public who has been critical of Alton town officials, repeated his call for Miller, Wyatt and Noyes to resign from the board, maintaining that they were in violation of the state's Right-to-Know law and had violated the trust of the public,
He said that Miller is "incompetent" and had acted beyond the powers of his chairmanship by meeting with the parents and school administrators without a vote of authorization from the school board.
Clay, who was arrested and charged with two counts of disorderly conduct while speaking at a meeting of the Alton Board of Selectmen in February 2015, was awarded $42,500 by the town of Alton in settlement of the federal civil rights suit he brought against the town for violating his constitutional right to freedom of speech.

Opechee ‘flasher’ gets 3 1/2 to 7


LACONIA — After nearly a year of litigation, and a last-minute attempt to fire his attorney, a man who exposed himself to a number of children at Opechee Park in September of 2014 was sentenced to serve 3 ½ to 7 years in the New Hampshire State Prison for one count of felony indecent exposure. He was credited with 525 days of time served.

Daniel King, 53, was found guilty by a jury in February after a six-day trial that saw many of his young victims take the stand and identify him.

In Belknap County Superior Court Tuesday, King had filed a motion to represent himself, which the judge said he could do, but denied King's request to file his own motion for setting aside the jury verdict.

Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen held sway when she said King's recent motion were only "trying to delay the inevitable."

Public Defender Eric Wolpin, who remained as King's attorney for the sentencing, said the state had chosen to define King by "the sum of his worst moments" when in fact he had worked with the homeless community in Concord, of which he was a member, to get food to people and create a food pantry.

Wolpin argued for a reduced sentence of 2 to 4 years, all suspended on good behavior, because while King had made mistakes in his past, he still maintained King's innocence in the Opechee incident and said he had done many good things for people.

While Judge James O'Neill sentenced King to the maximum allowable sentence under law, he did include a provision that King should get sexual offender programming and should receive good time for any classes or programs he completes while incarcerated. Guldbrandsen had not included these in her sentencing recommendations.

King was also sentenced yesterday to serve 3 ½ to 7 years for assaulting a prisoner while he was awaiting trial. He suspended 1 ½ years from the minimum sentence and three years off the maximum pending his good behavior. By law, this sentence must be served after the first sentence is completed.

Last year, King pleaded guilty to a federal count of failing to register his address(s) during his late 2014 flight from Concord to Arkansas where he was arrested by the U.S. Marshal Office. He has yet to be sentenced on those charges but told the court yesterday he expects he will serve at least 24 months in federal prison after his release from state prison.