Watson held on $10k cash bail on heroin charges stemming from investigation of overdose death

TILTON — Brian A, Watson, 50, of Northfield was ordered held on $10,000 cash bail on charges of sales of a controlled drug, heroin or fentanyl, and possession of heroin or fentanyl.
Watson, of Hodgdon Road, appeared in the 6th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday afternoon. A media release from Police Chief Robert Cormier said that Watson's arrest comes after an intensive investigation by police into the overdose death of 21-year-old Seth Tilton-Fogg.
Tilton-Fogg was found dead by a relative on April 3. Police said yesterday that they believe he died sometime late April 2 or early April 3. Cormier said the state medical examiner confirmed that his death was drug related.
At the request of Tilton Police Prosecutor Chris Paquette, Judge Edwin "Ned" Gordon sealed the supporting affidavits for 30 days.
Cormier said that as a result of the investigation, police obtained a warrant for Watson's arrest. He was apprehended by Tilton Police on May 8 on School Street. Cormier said Watson allegedly had heroin/fentanyl in his possession when arrested.
Police impounded Watson's car and have applied for a search warrant.
In the courtroom yesterday were Tilton-Fogg's parents and other relatives, the Tilton and Northfield police chiefs and Tilton Selectman Chair Pat Consentino.
Members of Watson's family were also there.
Watson was not represented by an attorney during his video arraignment, but was allowed to make a brief bail argument on his own behalf.
He told Gordon he didn't have anyone who could post his bail when it was set at $5,000 over the weekend. He said he didn't have a criminal record and he has children in school.
Watson said he was laid off from a cable installation company and has since "fallen through the cracks" of available assistance with the exception of unemployment compensation.
He told Gordon that his children are 11, 13, and 16 years old and that he had 100-percent custody of one child and split custody of the others.
Watson also assured the court that he wasn't going anywhere if his bail was reduce and he wouldn't hurt anyone.
Gordon told him he would have a court-appointed attorney for his next appearance — a probable cause hearing scheduled for May 19 in Franklin. He agreed with Paquette that the threat heroin or fentanyl poses to the community is huge and agreed to the $10,000 cash bail.
Should Watson post bail, the court has ordered a hearing to determine the source of the money.
Although Tilton is in Belknap County, its arraignments and probable cause hearings are held in Franklin. Should the case be bound over for indictment by a grand jury, the Belknap County Attorney's Office would prosecute.

Motivation for Alton chief's arrest of public speaker topic of court hearing

LACONIA — Alton Police Chief Ryan Heath spent about an hour on the stand in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia District yesterday testifying about why and under what circumstances he arrested Jeffrey Clay — a local man who was addressing the Board of Selectmen at the time. Judge Jim Carroll took the matter under advisement and will issue a ruling at a latter date.

Yesterday's proceeding was a hearing on Clay's motion to dismiss the charges. Under direct examination from Alton Prosecutor Anthony Estee, Heath testified that he was at Town Hall the night he arrested Clay for two reasons — he had administrative business to discuss with the board and that since November of 2014 the board had asked for a police presence because of some disturbances.

"Mr. Clay started asking members to stand up and resign," Heath said, noting Clay also told the members they were violating the Right-to-Know law and that he disliked some of the actions the board had taken.

Heath arrested Clay and removed him from the selectman's meeting on February 3. Initially charged with two separate counts of disorderly conduct — one for failing to move from a public place after he was told to by a police officer (Heath) and one for disrupting a public meeting. The charge of disrupting a meeting was dropped by the prosecution.

Heath said he arrested Clay after the board chair made a motion to close public comment in the middle of Clay's speech. He said he asked Clay twice to take his seat in the audience and Clay ignored him. When Heath touched his left shoulder, Clay told him to remove his hand and continued to talk over the gavel banging of the chair. Heath testified that Clay asked him if he "was under arrest, yet" and he replied "No but you will be if you don't take your seat."

When Clay continued to speak, Heath arrested him.

In court yesterday were three media outlets and some free speech supporters — one of whom held a picture of a Norman Rockwell painting called "The First Amendment" so the judge could see it.

Key to yesterday's testimony was Heath's state of mind when he arrested Clay. The state contends that because of previous encounters, Heath had with Clay, Heath had reason to believe that Clay would exceed his five-minute allotted time.

Also relevant to the arrest is that the Alton Board of Selectmen changed their rules regarding public comment after a February 3 meeting to include that comments couldn't be "slanderous, libelous or make direct references by name of town employees or board members' families".

"It was clear Mr. Clay has escalated his behavior," Heath said, noting that on February 3, he asked asked Clay to stop talking at the request of the selectmen and Clay stopped and took his seat.

Clay's defense attorney Jared Bedrick, Esq. argued that this was pure speculation and that Heath couldn't possibly have known whether or not Clay would exceed his five minutes.

Under cross-examination, Heath testified that Clay was using his cell phone as a timer and had told the selectmen he was doing so.

Bedrick pounded Heath with questions related to his prior contacts with Clay, whether he arrested him on his own volition or whether he was acting at the direction of the board, and about his training in the First Amendment and what constitutes exceptions to it.

He also asked Heath if he understood a person doesn't have to obey and unlawful order from a police officer.

Heath said he understands the different between when he can intervene and when he will arrest someone. He said he arrested Clay because he disobeyed his order to take his seat.

"My decision to arrest was not made by the board," Heath said.

Some of the questions Heath fielded were about previous discussions the two men had over what he could and couldn't say at the meeting. Heath said he told Clay that he should be business-like and respectful and not make comments about the families of the members of the board, especially about their minor children — something Clay had done in the past according to Heath.

Judge Carroll had some questions of his own for Estee and Bedrick about some of the case law they cited in their respective motions and about some of the video he watched that was entered into evidence.

Referring to the video, Carroll noted that Selectman David Hussey called a point of order but didn't specify about what. "Does the state take the position that the conduct was libelous?" he asked.

Bedrick replied that the state doesn't argue that Clay's conduct rose to the definition of slanderous libel.

"So nobody knows if he violated the rules of conduct either," Carroll continued.

When Bedrick started to make reference to recent actions of a Belknap County Sheriff's Office deputy who refused to clear a meeting room when asked to do so by the then chair of the Belknap County Commission. Estee objected saying it was a different case and a different set of facts.

Carroll agreed.

Carroll also wanted to know how the attorneys felt that Heath's private discussions with Clay about what he could and couldn't say constituted prior restraint — or a ruling usually cited by news media who can't be told what they can and cannot publish.

Bedrick said what happened to Clay was worse than prior restraint because it could result in his client having a criminal record. Estee said Clay's arrest was based on Clay's reaction and conduct to Heath — not any previous discussions the two had.

Carroll said that it appears the case centers on the reasonableness of the arrest verses the lawfulness of the order.

Estee argued that Heath, by arresting Clay, prevented and "imminent threat of disorder."

"You guys (didn't prosecute) the case regarding disorder," Carroll said.

Estee countered that the government has a right to conduct orderly meetings.

Fire that claimed 100 acres is almost out

BELMONT — Fire Chief Dave Parenti said yesterday's increase in the relative humidity help fire crews extinguish some of the remaining hot spots in the massive grass and swap fire that burned for three days in Belmont and Northfield.

He said yesterday the relative humidity was about 40 percent whereas the two days before it was down to about 12 to 15 percent.

Parenti said Thursday evening the fire went back up to nearly three alarms as a grove of Alder trees in the middle of the swamp went up in flames.

"It was very difficult to access," Parenti said. "We had helicopters making water drops."

He said crews from the Concord area came to the area to assist local crews.

Yesterday, Parenti said crews from the Upper Valley — Lebanon, Hanover, Claremont and Enfield — assisted strike teams from Tilton-Northfield and Belmont.

"We'll do patrols tomorrow but I think the worst is behind us," he said.

Parenti also said that a team from the N.H. Bureau of Forestry and Land Management estimates that at least 100 acres burned over the past three days making the Industrial Drive fire one of the largest in the area other than those that burned a few years ago on Mount Major.

He said that he and Tilton-Northfield Fire Chief Mike Sitar have nothing but praise and thanks to the multiple communities that assisted them over the past few days.

"We didn't lose any houses or structures and nobody was injured," Parenti said. "I think that's amazing."