By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — A judge will decide whether or a Northfield man waived his constitutional rights to a lawyer and against self-incrimination during his statements to police regarding his alleged sale of heroin/fentanyl to a 21-year-old Tilton man who died after taking the drugs.
Brian Watson, 51, of Northfield is charged with a single count of sales of heroin/fentanyl with death resulting. Police say he sold Seth Tilton-Fogg the drugs that killed him on April 2, 2015.
In a two-hour hearing on Wednesday, a defense attorney representing Watson, 51, argued that his client never properly waived his rights to an attorney or to not talk with police and he only agreed to sit with them and listen to what they had to say.
"Understanding his rights and waiving them are two completely different things," contended attorney Mark Sisti, who spoke briefly after the hearing in Belknap County Superior Court.
Sisti also argued that Watson was never told by police that he was being questioned about a death, but was only told he had been arrested for the sale of drugs.
"It's like arresting someone for shoplifting and then asking him about a homicide," Sisti said, adding that not telling Watson about the real charges he was facing also violated his constitutional rights.
Watson was arrested on May 8, 2015, by two Tilton Police detectives and was told he was charged with sales of drugs.
Detective Bryan Kydd-Keeler testified he read Watson his constitutional rights from a card he carries with him after he arrested Watson in a traffic stop on School Street. Detective Nathan Buffington, who conducted the actual interview, said he didn't hear Watson's actual responses along the side of the road, but before questioning him in the interview room he asked Watson if he still understood his rights and said Watson replied "Yes."
Both detectives testified Wednesday that they didn't tell Watson he was being interviewed about the death of Tilton-Fogg. Both also said they never directly asked Watson if he was willing to waive his constitutional rights and both said they didn't use a written form that could have been given to him that requires a check mark for each of his Miranda Rights and a signature at the bottom.
Buffington said that when Watson was leaving the booking room on his way to the interview room, Buffington asked Watson if he would be willing to talk to him. Watson said he wasn't sure, but went forward with the interview without coercion or threats.
During the hearing, Assistant Prosecutor Carley Ahern played the entire police interview with Watson for the court. The victim's family wept as they heard police ask Watson questions about his life, then drugs sales and then about their son.
Watson told police that he was an out-of-work mechanical engineer who took to selling drugs because he couldn't pay his bills. He also told them about meeting Teanna Bryson, who he said was a heroin addict who got him into both using and selling drugs.
When the interview turned to Tilton-Fogg, Buffington told Watson he had all of the text messages he had sent or received, including one from Bryson to Watson that said that their drugs had killed Tilton-Fogg. Watson texted back to not discuss it.
During the interview, Watson said he had heard someone else's dope had killed him, but when Buffington told him that Tilton-Fogg died with his phone in his hand and that he was trying to reach Watson, Watson said he told him to be careful and to not overdo it.
"I hate the fact that he died," Watson said.
"What message can I send to (Tilton-Fogg's mother)?" asked Buffington, pressing Watson, who admitted to selling him heroin on multiple occasions. "So if he had followed your instructions, he wouldn't have died?"
When Buffington told Watson that police knew he sold more drugs within 30 seconds of learning that Tilton-Fogg had died, Watson replied that it was news to him that it killed him.
Jury selection is scheduled for Aug. 1. The trial is scheduled to start Aug. 3 and last for 10 "Belknap County days," meaning that the entire day will not be taken up with it and the court will conduct other business.
As of this writing, there is still the unresolved matter of Bryson, who failed to appear for any scheduled hearings regarding her rights to self-incrimination.
Sisti said that if she can't be found, the text messages between the two cannot be authenticated and should not be allowed into evidence. Ahern said that a subpoena has been issued for her appearance and she is confident Bryson will be available for trial.
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