ALTON — A 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division judge ruled this week that the state could introduce into evidence a video of a local man's speech to selectmen recorded six weeks before he was arrested and removed from a subsequent Selectboard meeting.
Judge Jim Carroll said he would allow the video of a December 15, 2014 meeting for the sole purpose of establishing Police Chief Ryan Heath's state of mind on February 3, 2015 when he arrested Jeffrey T. Clay after Clay refused to leave a selectmen meeting after he asked him to three times.
Clay's is charge with one misdemeanor count of disobeying an officer. Because the offense charged is a Class B misdemeanor and there is no possibility of jail time associated with a conviction, Clay's case will be heard by Carroll in a bench trial and not before a jury.
Alton Prosecutor Anthony Estee had asked for recordings of both the December 1, 2014 and the December 15, 2014 meetings to be introduced as evidence. He said the request was not to prejudice the court against Clay because of "prior bad acts," which are normally not admissible against a defendant at trial, but only to show that the Alton Police had dealt repeatedly with Clay at selectmen's meetings.
Estee said Heath believed that unlawful conduct was imminent based on his prior experiences with Clay at Town Hall.
Defense Attorney Jared Bedrick had objected to any videos of previous meetings being viewed by the court because he claims each was a separate circumstance unto itself and not relevant to the meeting in which Heath arrested Clay.
Specifically, Bedrick said the selectmen had not imposed any time constraints on public comment before Clay spoke and was arrested on February 3 so what happened before was immaterial.
Clay was arrested by Heath about four minutes into his five minute allotted time to speak because he refused to stop talking when board Chair R. Loring Carr demanded it. Clay was protesting the general work of the board and asking for their resignations. Selectmen have said he was slandering them. Selectman David Hussey left the room and returned to it with Heath following him. Heath allegedly asked Clay to leave three times before arresting him.
Also pending before the court is a motion to dismiss the case filed by Bedrick and its response filed Thursday by Estee. Clay's trial is scheduled for May 8 at 8:30 a.m. in Laconia.
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