Alton man wins $42,500 settlement in civil rights case over free speech

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

ALTON — Jeffrey Clay, who was arrested and charged with two counts of disorderly conduct while speaking at a meeting of the Board of Selectmen in February 2015, was awarded $42,500 by the town of Alton in settlement of the federal civil rights suit he brought against the town for violating his constitutional right to freedom of speech.
“I’m so happy my case is finally over,” Clay said in a prepared statement. He said that following his arrest he did not attend meetings of local boards for fear he would again be arrested and prosecuted. “I feel like I can now attend and exercise my free speech rights without harassment and prosecution.”
During the 2015 meeting, Clay called on members of the selectboard to resign, referred to their “poor actions,” “poor decisions” and “continued violations of the citizens’ rights here in Alton.” Less than a minute into his remarks, Clay was interrupted by a selectman who called his remarks “character assassination” and requested a point of order to curtail public input because of Clay’s the “libelous” and “defamatory” statements. Clay, who was allotted five minutes to speak, continued and, after four minutes passed, he was arrested by the cheif of police.
In March, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire advised the town that by suppressing Clay’s speech it had engaged in censorship in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Nevertheless, the town continued to prosecute Clay for one count of disorderly conduct, a Class B misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $1,200.
In June 2015, Judge James Carroll of the Fourth Circuit Court, Laconia Division dismissed the charge against Clay, calling the town’s conduct “pure censorship.” Carroll was honored with a Quill & Ink Award by the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications for his staunch defense of the right to freedom of speech.
Clay then filed suit against the town in United States District Court, where he was represented by Gilles Bissonnette, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, with assistance from Jared Bedrick of the Bedrick Law Offices. “In a free society,” said Bissonnette in a prepared statement, “governmental officials are required to tolerate harsh criticism and even a demeaning attitude toward them, including viewpoints that can feel like character assassination, and cannot discriminate based on these critical viewpoints.”

Four youths, 12 to 14 years old, charged for Pleasant Street mischief

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA – Police charged four youths ages 12 to 14 Wednesday afternoon with criminal mischief for damage done to a house on Pleasant Street.

The victim said yesterday that it appears this week someone entered a shed in the back of his property.

"There's just junk in there," he said, adding he doesn't think there's anything worth taking.

But what has him upset is that last Monday a rock was thrown through a plate glass window, and that on Thursday he came home to find all of the lights on in his cellar.

He said he never bothered reporting the shed incident but is grateful that someone apparently saw the youths and reported them to police. The homeowner said he hadn't spoken to police as of Wednesday, and didn't know arrests had been made.

The homeowner said police recommended installing cameras, but he said that, with all of the windows in his home, he was "thinking about Cecil B. DeMille," whose films were distinguished by their epic scale.

He said it was bad enough when he was victimized by drug addicts last year, and said it is very disheartening for him, personally and as a citizen, that the suspected vandals were so young.

Man held on domestic violence charges

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — A former Belmont man faces multiple felonies and misdemeanors related to an alleged confrontation he had with his former girlfriend on April 24 and 25.

Thomas Kasperian, 29, who is a transient, is charged with five counts of domestic violence assault, one count of robbery, one count of endangering a child, one count of cruelty to animals, two counts of criminal threatening, one count of second degree assault, one count of criminal mischief, and one count of theft by unauthorized taking for beating her when she allegedly caught him shooting heroin in her home.

Affidavits submitted by police yesterday in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division said Belmont Police were contacted by the Franklin Police Department to conduct a welfare check at the woman's home after her mother went to Franklin to report the assault.

Police said the victim told them that Kasparian had just returned from Florida and was staying at her house. She said the first argument began on April 24 when she heard him making phone calls and thought the calls were for some drugs.

She said on that night he pushed her into a hallway heating vent but because he apologized she let him stay. The next day the alleged victim told police she saw him injecting heroin and asked him to leave. She said he refused so she tried to call them with her flip-phone but he took it away and allegedly "shoved him to the floor."

She told police she was able to get up and Kasperian grabbed her by the head and forced it into a flat-screened television after which he allegedly threw a ceramic bowl at the TV. Affidavits said evidence collected from the scene supports he story.

The alleged victim said he threw her to the floor and kicked the right side of her body after which he allegedly kicked her three times in the stomach. She told police he knelt on her throat and she kicked him in the privates to get him off of her.

She said he grabbed her dog "Harley" and threw him against a wall and threatened to kill the dog according to affidavits.

She told police to tell him to leave but when he wouldn't and came after her again, she grabbed a bowl filled with milk but when she went to splash him with it, he picked up his 3-year old child and used him to block the milk so the boy was splashed, not him.

Affidavits said she decided to get away and grabbed her purse and the dog. She said he then poured vinegar over her bed. The alleged victim was able to leave but realized he had taken $170 from her wallet.

A police detective said the victim had bruising consistent with her story.

Kasperian was ordered held on $5,000 cash bail and given standard bail conditions.