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Judge considers motion to dismiss in book protest case

CIRCUIT COURT — Judge James Carroll has taken under advisement a motion to dismiss three misdemeanor charges against a Gilford man who was arrested at  Gilford School board meeting in May for allegedly disrupting the meeting.

Arguments on the motion were heard Monday morning in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, and Judge Carroll had not issued a ruling by the closing of the court on Monday afternoon, which had been filed on behalf of William "Billy" Baer by his attorney, Mark Sisti.

Sisti has argued that the three charges faced by Baer — two counts of breach of the peace and one count of disobeying a police officer — are unlawful because they violated his client's constitutional rights to speak his mind at a public forum.

But Gilford Town Prosecutor Eric Bredbury, in a written objection to motion to dismiss, said school board meetings are not an open air-political forum, and that the stated business of the board would not have continued unless Lt. James Leach removed Baer, who he said was disrupting the meeting.

Sisti maintains that the speech took place during a ''designated public forum'' and that Leach's order for him to leave the meeting was unreasonable and that Baer should not be punished for failure to obey a command which violates the Constitution.

Baer was at the meeting to raise objections to what he called a pornographic passage in a book, "Nineteen Minutes" by New Hampshire author Jody Picoult, a book about a school shooting at a fictional New Hampshire high school which has been on the approved reading list at Gilford High School since it was published in 2007.

He said the day after his arrest that he was disappointed that there was no forum for discussion with school officials about the book and its content at the meeting or the failure of the school district to notify parents that it had been assigned, as was the practice in previous years.

''There was no interaction. We got two minutes to speak but couldn't ask questions. There's no accountability there. They had me arrested because I went over the two minute limit. I think people should be shocked and outraged by the assault on free speech and knowing that you can be handcuffed and taken out of a public meeting like that. I've been a practicing attorney for 20 years and I've never seen anything like that,'' said Baer at the time.

Baer, who was the first to speak at a public input session that night at which comments were limited to two minutes by School Board Chairperson Sue Allen. When he verbally interrupted another town resident who was speaking at the meeting who had implied that Baer and those who supported him would be dictating what can and cannot be read in public schools, Allen called on him to ''respect the other speakers,'' to which Baer replied, ''Yeah, like you're respecting my daughter.''

Bredbury said that Allen and Superintendent Kent Hemingway motioned to Leach, using head nods that Leach apparently interpreted as a request from them to escort Baer out of the room. Although Allen continually ordered Baer to "desist" or stop talking, she never verbally requested Leach to remove him.

Baer said aloud, "Why don't you have me arrested? Why don't we do that as a civics lesson? Nice First Amendment rights, alright?" when Leach approached his seat.

Sisti's motion argues that there were less intrusive ways of maintaining order at the public meeting than having Baer removed and that Leach should have asked for Baer to quiet himself rather than arrest him.

It also maintains that at no time did Baer suggest that he had intended to cause a breach of the peace, and that the video evidence clearly shows that he was acting as a concerned citizen and participating in a controversial public comment situation.

The prosecution disagreed with that assessment, maintaining that after having been asked to desist by Allen that Baer showed ''he would not stop until police contact and would not leave unless arrested. This would imply that his purpose was to disrupt the meeting.''

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 November 2014 12:31

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Fire chief: safety issues forced club closure

GILFORD — Fire Chief Steve Carrier said yesterday that the department revoked the assembly permit of the Lakes Region Cafe and Tavern, the restaurant and bar at 15 Kimball Road that features exotic dancing, because the conditions posed an risk to life safety.

Carrier said that Deputy Chief Brad Ober has been working with Will Drew, the owner of the property, and Tom Lyons, the owner of the business, since June to overcome deficiencies. "We wanted to help them get the business up and running," he said.

However, although a number of minor problems were corrected relatively quickly, Carrier said that the owner was told to submit a plan for addressing the remaining issues with a schedule for completing the work. He said that the plan they submitted bore no signature and no timetable.

Carrier said that the building, best known as the King's Grant Inn, is old and has undergone a number of conversions and renovations. Both the electrical system and gas piping, he noted were sources of concern because of questions about the qualifications of those who installed and maintained them. Carrier said that the department was especially troubled by the fire alarm system since they have no record of its being serviced.

"This is strictly a life safety issue," Carrier emphasized, explaining that the condition of the building presents a high risk of fire. He flatly dismissed suggestions that his decision to revoke the assembly permit was prompted by Drew's decision to file suit against the town, alleging that local officials violated his constitutional rights by wrongfully hindering his use of the property. "There is no retribution here," Carrier insisted.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 November 2014 12:27

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Local man’s image found in Korean War Memorial

LACONIA — Retired local businessmen Abe Dadian, who was dubbed "Sergeant" by his fellow Marine and Rotarian Frank DeNormandie, himself a lieutenant colonel. Dadian served in the Marine Corps from 1952 until 1958, including a tour in Korea. 

His daughter, Christine St. Cyr, recalled that her father visited the Korean War Memorial on the Mall in Washington, which consists of a walled triangle intersecting a circle. Sandblasted onto the polished black granite walls are the images of more than 2,500 soldiers — infantrymen, sailors and airmen — who fought in the conflict, while within the triangle 19 larger-than-life, stainless steel statues represent a squad on patrol, its members, drawn from each branch of the armed forces, dressed and equipped for combat.

St. Cyr remembered that as her father scanned the images on the wall "much to his surprise he found himself looking at himself on the wall." She said that in 2010, she and her son, Devon, then a lieutenant and now a captain in the Marine Corps and who pilots Cobra attack helicopters, visited the memorial. There they found their father and grandfather pictured, toting supplies to the front.

This Veterans Day St. Cyr chose to mark the occasion by celebrating her father's service by sharing his face in the crowd.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 November 2014 01:01

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Laconia Police collar 6 in ‘annual drug roundup’

LACONIA — Following a number of investigations into drug trafficking, police, with assistance from their counterparts in Gilford and Belmont, arrested seven people, four in the city and one each in Gilford and Belmont, early yesterday morning. In addition, warrants were issued for five others, whose whereabouts are unknown to the police.

Susan M. Weeks, 37, of 24 Summer St., Laconia is charged with one count of sale of controlled drugs. She refused bail and is being held in Belknap County Jail in lieu of $2,000 cash bail following her arraignment in Fourth Circuit Court, Laconia Division, yesterday.

The remaining five suspects were all released on personal recognizance bail and scheduled for arraignment in Fourth Circuit Court, Laconia Division, on Jan. 8.

Steven Fereshetian Jr., 25, of 130 Mechanic St., Laconia is charged with three counts of possession of controlled drugs.

Alexis L. Morin, 21, of 378 Elm St., Laconia, is charged with one count of sale of controlled drug

Paul A. Young Jr., 46 of 18 Fair St., Laconia, is charged with one count of sale of controlled drugs.

Christine Fowler, 30, of 7 Breton Road, Gilford, is charged with one count of possession of controlled drugs.

Scott Hodgman, 25, of 31 Church St., Belmont, is charged with one count of possession of controlled drugs.

Matthew Boynton, 19, of 82 Batchelder St., Laconia, one of five other individuals for whom warrants were issued, turned himself into police without incident. He is charged with one count of sale of a controlled drug and was released on $1,000 personal recognizance bail pending his arraignment on Jan. 8.

Police Capt. Bill Clary said the described the arrests as the "annual drug roundup," resulting from information gathered by police, particularly Detectives Chris Noyes and Dan Carsen, during the past 10 months. He said that all the suspects had been told that warrants would be obtained for their arrest and were encouraged to turn themselves into police.

Warrants have also been issued for the arrest of Jarod Leroux, 35, Jordan Manning 24, David Paul, 47, and Cameron Lobo, 25 on charges of selling or possessing controlled drugs.

Police urged anyone with information about the whereabouts of these individuals to contact the Laconia Police Department at 524-5252.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 November 2014 12:20

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