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Local man's mother files complaint against Belknap County sheriff for assault -990

LACONIA — A Belknap County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that a sheriffs deputy who arrested a local man had reasonable suspicion that he may have committed some kind of crime and that the traffic stop that led to the arrest was justified.

Judge James O'Neill III denied Matthew Tusi's motion to suppress drug evidence seized after his August 7, 2013 arrest. Tusi, 30, of Isabella Street is charged with three counts of possession of narcotics.

Through his attorney Robert Hemeon, Tusi had argued that there was no reason for the deputy to stop him because he had committed no traffic violations during the time the deputy was behind him.

The judge ruled that taken in its entirety, Tusi's contact with the deputy gave him an "articulable" reason to stop him. The deputy first saw Tusi outside the Belknap County Jail at 9 p.m. and the two, who know each other, spoke. He told the deputy he was at the jail to "bail someone out" but the deputy said he knew the woman had been sentenced and wasn't waiting for bail. The deputy followed Tusi from the jail to Union Avenue telling the judge that he was waiting for Laconia Police support before he initiated the stop.

The deputy testified that Tusi seemed angry, was moving around in his car as if he was looking for a weapon, and didn't put his car in park when he stopped — something he said he has seen because sometimes people who are stopped take off once an officer is out of his or her car.

After the stop, which occurred around 10 p.m., Tusi ran from the deputy who was being assisted by Laconia Police and a plain-clothed, off-duty Gilford police officer. As Tusi ran behind a house on Gilford Avenue, the deputy zapped him with a Taser twice to bring him down and stunned him once more to get him to stop struggling, according to his own reports.

According to police reports, a subsequent search revealed Tusi had drugs on his person.

The detention and search of Tusi after the arrest triggered a complaint of excessive force against the deputy by Tusi's mother, who claimed her son was beaten during the course of his arrest and sexually assaulted when the deputy allegedly removed his pants and checked his private area for drugs once Tusi was in an ambulance.

She was not at the scene that night but many of her relatives were.

Two of the police reports filed since event have been made available to The Daily Sun and it appears Tusi was searched twice — once initially by the Gilford Police officer who was one of the first people to catch up to Tusi and once inside the ambulance by the deputy after he was cuffed and in custody.

A civilian witness wrote that he saw "a lot of rough motions toward the man (Tusi) who was on the ground and screaming for help. He said he called 9-1-1 and told them the police "were beating on some guy and they won't stop."

He also said he saw two police officer dragging him behind two cars that were parked in the back lot. He also said Tusi's uncle was a witness to the whole thing and said he didn't want his nephew to be out of his sight.

The witness said one police officer allegedly said to "hog tie" him and put him in the cruiser and then Tusi's uncle demanded an ambulance. He also noted that there were a number of people beginning to arrive and the police "started calming down about 75 percent."

He said he saw one officer reach into the zippered part of Tusi's pants but not remove anything.

The Gilford officer's report said he searched Tusi for weapons and didn't find any. He said he felt a square object in his pants pocket that felt like a wallet.

He mentioned the square object to the deputy and said it appeared to him that Tusi was trying to hide something at or near his groin. His report also said that when Tusi went into the ambulance, the deputy went in to "retrieve the item" and several bystanders, who were standing around the ambulance, started to "yell and act up."

Many of the bystanders were family members of Tusi, who live in the neighborhood. One of them, a female cousin, said she was looking into the ambulance and "she could see them rip his pants off and put their hands on him."

Accounts of other family members who were standing around the ambulance. His uncle wrote that the deputy "manhandled" Tusi and pulled his down his pants and underwear and grabbed him and and searched underneath him.

The deputy's report said that Tusi was flailing in the stretcher and he told the ambulance attendants that Tusi has something in he crotch and he want to search for their safety and his.

He said he was able to get his legs apart and Tusi agreed to allow a male Laconia Police officer search him. The officer found "a clear plastic bag containing several drugs."

Responding to Tusi's mother's complaint, Sheriff Craig Wiggin ordered an investigation.

He said the investigation determined that Tusi had not been assaulted and that all people who are taken into custody by police are searched and, occasionally, the search can be extensive.

"Furthermore, it was determined that in fact it was not (the deputy) who initially searched Mr. Tusi, it was another police officer on the scene," he wrote.

Wiggin said that because Tusi was facing criminal charges and was represented by a lawyer, he was unable to question him regarding the complaint.

Wiggin said yesterday that all complaints against the Belknap County Sheriff's Department are investigated thoroughly. Because the criminal case is still pending, he said he couldn't comment any further but said the investigation into the allegedly physical and sexual assault is closed and no further action will be taken.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 04:27

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Man accused of swinging club at step-son

LACONIA — A Whipple Street man was ordered held on $1,000 cash bail yesterday morning after allegedly swinging a wooden club at his stepson's head.

Police charged Jean Masse, 55, with one count of attempt to commit second-degree assault, one felony count of criminal threatening, and one felony count of reckless conduct.

According to affidavits submitted by police, Masse and his alleged victim had a physical altercation Sunday evening. When police arrived they described Masse as "very intoxicated and uncooperative."

The victim told police Masse allegedly threatened to kill him and was swinging the 2-foot-long stick at him and that he appeared to be trying hit him in the head.

The stepson said he used his mother's cane to fend off Masse's allegedly attacks.

Police found the wooden club outside the home in the bushes. They described it as about 24-inches long with a hooked end that had been sharpened to a point.

The said Masse was uncooperative and belligerent throughout the entire booking process and refused the services of a bail commissioner.

He appeared by video arraignment in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 04:27

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‘We must not be afraid of change’ – In inaugural address, Engler calls for new employers, new residents

LACONIA — "Growth is the only way up," said Mayor Edward Engler, striking the dominant theme of his Inaugural Address before a near capacity crowd at the Belknap Mill last night. "The bottom line is that we have to grow our population and our economy to enjoy a deep and lasting prosperity in this ultra competitive — country against country, state against state, town against town — economic environment."

Engler, the president and editor of the Laconia Daily Sun, said that he came to the city 14 years ago, armed with a business he described as "ambitious at best and preposterous at worst," to find that "men and women whose roots in the community ran far deeper than mine would ever be gave me and my partners a chance to succeed. I will be forever grateful," he said. "They are a big part of the reason my love for Laconia is true and my willingness to give back is sincere."

Engler's daughter Laura Fitzmaurice, a physician in Orange County, California, her husband Stephen and their children Garrett, nearing five, and Kaela, approaching two, traded sunshine for snowbanks to share the moment while his son Brian and his partner Ashley also made the trip from Bozeman, Montana. His daughter held the Bible as City Clerk Mary Reynolds administered the oath of office.

Former mayor Rod Dyer presided as master of ceremonies and outgoing mayor Mike Seymour offered his reflections on the achievements of the past four years while expressing his gratitude to to the city councilors — Ava Doyle (Ward 1), Matt Lahey (Ward 2), Henry Lipman (Ward 3), Brenda Baer (Ward 4), Bob Hamel (Ward 5) and Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) — for their contributions. He presented Lahey with a gift, marking his retirement after two decades in the public arena, including five terms as mayor and four as a city councilor.

Engler paid tribute to Peter Karagianis and those whose efforts preserved the Belknap Mill, which has become "New Hampshire's meeting place." And he evoked the memory of Edwin "Sonny" Chertok, a former mayor, calling him "a consummate businessman, engaged citizen and public servant" who served the community in myriad ways for most of the last century and nearly a decade into this one.

While eying the horizon, Engler glanced back, noting that investment and development undertaken in the last 15 years has laid the foundation and inspired the confidence to overcome the challenges ahead. The city has invested $50-million in its public schools — including expanding the Huot Regional Technical Center, modernizing the science laboratories and constructing an unparalleled athletic facility at Laconia High School — built a new police station and added a spectacular wing to its library. Each year for the past decade $1-million has been spent improving city streets.

Meanwhile, Engler said that the private sector has followed suit. At Normandin Square an empty mill has become home to apartments and social services opposite a new CVS drugstore. The abandoned Allen-Rogers factory was transformed into waterfront condominiums and townhouses. At Lakeport, a vacant factory has become the Lake Opechee Inn & Spa overlooking the lake. At court Street and Main Street, Walgreen's stands where there were once aged and empty buildings. Lakes Region General Hospital has undergone an expansion and facelift while Lakes Region Community Services brought fresh life to the Federal Building.

However, he observed that like the traffic on the Beacon Street loop, much of the recent progress has bypassed downtown where "we know things have not gotten better." He said that most residents of the city, even the county, want "that area of the city, our heart, to again thrive, if not as a traditional retail shopping center, then as our gathering place, the place we go to share common experiences."

"For things to improve," Engler said, "we first need a plan — a consensus plan, a realistic plan." Simply "hoping" and "rooting" for things to improve is not a plan, he continued. Nor is spending public money on cosmetic improvements. He called for a "public-private partnership" with city officials "recruiting private investors to buy into developing and executing a shared vision."

Beyond downtown, Engler cautioned that like the state, Laconia faced a challenging demographic marked by an aging population, declining school enrollment and significant poverty level. "We are out of balance and getting more so every day," he commented. He said that more than half the students enrolled in the public schools are children of households with incomes of less than 130-percent of the poverty standard of $30,000 for a family of four. "The status quo," Engler warned, "means grinding, generationally-transferred poverty or near poverty, unemployment and underemployment. We all know how generous our citizens can be when it is time to help the less fortunate," he added, then asked "but where is that same effort directed at decreasing the number of them?"

Recognizing the opportunities offered by the advanced manufacturing firms in Lakes Region, Engler said "it will not be enough." In addition, to nurturing a skilled workforce, he stressed the need to attract "new employers and new residents, white collar as well as blue."

The former Laconia State School property off North Main Street, Engler said, represents a "tremendous economic development opportunity," not only for the city but also for the state. Ownership of the property, which rests with the state, he suggested is less important than the use of the site. "No other use of that beautiful piece of property should be considered until the state, in cooperation with Laconia, has exhausted every reasonable possibility that it could be used to site hundreds, if not thousands, of high-paying, professional-level jobs," Engler declared, vowing to pursue that goal as a "top priority."

"We must not be afraid of change." Engler remarked. "It is one thing to be appreciative and respectful of tradition, but it is another to be totally constipated by it. We don't need our motto to be 'but we've always done it that way.'"

Describing himself as "an accidental mayor," Engler said that he has reached a point where he has "the time and energy necessary to do the job," especially in partnership with an experienced City Council and capable corps of city employees.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 04:26

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FairPoint glitch leaves 150 local biz without phones Friday morning

LACONIA — About 150 area businesses lost telephone services yesterday morning when the "voice-over IP" product offered to businesses by FairPoint Communications crashed.

FairPoint media representative Jeff Nevins said that there was a problem with a process that occurs in the VoIP system host from midnight to 5 a.m. and the system did not come back on line in the morning.

VoIP is a method of converting analogue information into a digital format so telephones can be used through the Internet. About 150 area businesses, including The Laconia Daily Sun, use VoIP.

Nevins said the problem was corrected by late morning and had no effect on regular FairPoint telephone services.

Last Updated on Saturday, 11 January 2014 02:28

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