County eyes $650,000 in grants for community corrections training

By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Belknap County will be applying for at least $650,000 in federal grants for programs at its new Community Corrections facility, which is scheduled to open in September, according to Kevin Warwick, the consultant from Alternative Solutions Associates who helped design the program for the facility.
Warwick told Belknap County Commissioners when they met at the Belknap County Complex Thursday afternoon that he thinks there is a real good chance that the county will receive the grants, which would cover a three-year period, because the county has developed a well thought out after-care model program for the new facility which is evidence based.
The funds would be used for staff training and, if awarded, would be available in October, shortly after the 18,000-square-foot, 64-bed facility opens.
Warwick said that the county developed a pilot program, which has been in place for nearly a year, which will strengthen its case for funding, and that there are only 10 or 15 comparable programs nationwide.
Commissioners on Friday approved a $35,000, one-year contract with Warwick's company for developing programs for the center and assisting in the development of grant proposals.
Commissioners also met with Belknap County Corrections Department Superintendent Keith Gray and Jacqui Abikoff of Horizons Counseling Center to discuss a pending application for a $400,000, three-year federal grant for a Drug Court program.
Abikoff said that the Recovery Court program, currently operating in Laconia Circuit Court, relies on volunteers who meet on their lunch hours to monitor the progress of those accepted into the program, which offers alternatives to jail sentences for those willing to undergo counseling, undergo random and regular drug testing and commit to at least 250 hours of community service.
The program has 10 participants and Abikoff said that the grant would enable the program to hire a full-time coordinator and scale it up to the point where it will be able to more than double the number of people it serves as it expands to cover Belknap County Superior Court. She projected that it could expand to up to 30 participants.
Abikoff told commissioners when the grant was first discussed last month that the grant requires a $133,333 local match, much of which can come from in-kind services already being provided. She said the funds will be used to improve the quality and intensity of services being provided, including access to health care coverage and vocational and job training.
She said that the coordinator can either be a county employee or someone the county contracts with to provide services and, that after the grant runs out in three years, the drug court which has been established will be eligible for state funding.
Both Gray and Abikoff are members of the Recovery Court. Other members include Jesse Friedman of the Public Defender's Office, Circuit Court Judge James Carroll, Belknap County Prosecutor Melissa Guldbrandsen, the Laconia Division of Parole and Probation, Laconia City Prosecutor Jim Sawyer, the Belknap County Restorative Justice Program, the Belknap County House of Corrections, Genesis Behavior Health and Laconia Drug Prevention, Education and Treatment Officer Eric Adams.
Gray said that the Department of Corrections will be the lead agency in applying for the grant. The deadline for applications is Feb. 28.

Ossipee woman, Effingham man indicted for selling OD drugs

By BEA LEWIS, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

CONCORD — Melissa Ford, 27, of Ossipee and Andrew Garland, 21, of Effingham have been arrested and indicted for acts prohibited relating to the sale and possession of the controlled drugs heroin and fentanyl, according to a press release from New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph A. Foster, Tuftonboro Police Chief Andrew Shagoury, Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Ferguson of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration – Manchester Division, and Colonel Christopher J. Wagner of the New Hampshire State Police.
Ford and Garland were indicted by the Carroll County Grand Jury on Jan. 27, and are charged with sale of a controlled drug, death resulting. Specifically, the indictments allege that on Sept. 29, 2016, Garland knowingly dispensed a combination of fentanyl and heroin to Melissa Ford, who then dispensed this quantity of drugs to Joshua Fournier, who died from ingesting them. Garland was also indicted separately for the sale of fentanyl/heroin, possession of fentanyl/heroin with intent to distribute and possession of marijuana.
The charge of acts prohibited, death resulting carries with it a possible maximum sentence of life with the possibility of parole in state prison.
These indictments came after a four-month joint investigation by the Tuftonboro Police Department and the DEA's Manchester Office, with the assistance of the Office of the Attorney General and the New Hampshire State Police Department's Narcotics and Investigations Unit. Additional assistance was provided by several local police departments including the Carrol County Sheriff's Office and the Ossipee Police Department.
"Anytime there is a loss of life involving a drug overdose it is a tragic event, but even more so in this case given the young age of the victim," said Ferguson. "Those suffering from the disease of fentanyl and heroin addiction need access to treatment and recovery. But, those responsible for distributing these lethal drugs like fentanyl and heroin to the citizens of New Hampshire need to be held accountable for their actions. In response to the ongoing opioid epidemic DEA and its local, state and federal partners are committed to bringing to justice those that distribute this poison."
"While the need for treatment, rehabilitation, and education to combat drug addiction is paramount, we must also hold dealers accountable for selling drugs that kill," said Foster. "Over the past year, the New Hampshire Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the New Hampshire State Police presented joint trainings for law enforcement agencies state-wide to better investigate opioid deaths starting as soon as 911 is called. I am pleased to report today's arrests are a direct result of that training and other great work conducted by these agencies. I am committed to continue holding fentanyl dealers accountable for the deaths they cause and for anyone who makes selling drugs their business of choice."
It is anticipated that Ford and Garland will be arraigned in the Carroll County Superior Court Thursday morning, Feb.

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Watson drug death sentence delayed

02-03 Brian Watson 1

Belknap County Superior Court Bailiff Dwight Dodd, left, prepares to escort a handcuffed Brian Watson from the courtroom as his defense Attorney Mark Sisti handles some paperwork at right. (Bea Lewis/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

By BEA LEWIS, for The Laconia Daily Sun

LACONIA — The county's top prosecutor believes evidence that a Northfield man continued to sell drugs even after learning a buyer had died of an overdose should be considered by the judge in deciding an appropriate prison sentence.

Brian Watson, 52, who was convicted of sale of a controlled drug, death resulting, on Jan. 18, following a jury trial, appeared in Belknap County Superior Court on Friday for what was scheduled to be a sentencing hearing.

With four television news crews set to videotape the proceedings, and the victim's family waiting to recount the impacts of the crime, the judge announced that the hearing would reconvene on Tuesday to give the defense time to counter the prosecutor's efforts to admit evidence that had been excluded from the trial.

"It's a relevant conduct issue. If (the state) want this material to go forward I should have a chance to respond," said attorney Mark Sisti.

He told the judge he also objected to the memorandum the prosecutor had filed in support of her sentencing recommendation, noting he'd spent the past 10 days in trial on another case.

By state law, a defendant convicted of selling an illicit drug that proves fatal can face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, but is eligible for parole.

Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen argued that the state's highest court has granted trial judges "wide discretion" as to the source and type of evidence they consider in imposing sentence.

She wants to call Tilton Police Detective Nate Buffington to testify that Watson was actively engaged in selling drugs even after he knew that Seth Tilton-Fogg had suffered a fatal overdose. Buffington would also testify that Watson sold drugs to Tilton-Fogg, 21, at least five times prior to his death between March 28, 2015, and April 2, 2015. Other evidence the state wants the judge to consider as aggravating factors in sentencing are that Watson had at least five
other "regular" customers that bought drugs from him, and that he drove to Manchester daily to buy a "finger" of heroin to resell in the Tilton area. According to the DEA, "fingers" usually contain 7 to 10 grams of heroin pressed into a solid cylinder about 2 inches long and one-half inch wide.

He was arrested by Tilton police on May 8, 2015, returning from buying drugs in the Queen City and authorities found 12 grams of fentanyl in his possession. The state further wants to disclose at sentencing that Watson knew of the potency of the fentanyl he sold Tilton-Fogg, information that came out during his trial.

Guldbrandsen told Judge James O'Neill that the New Hampshire Supreme Court has held that a sentencing judge can consider a variety of information so long as it is unchallenged, substantiated and not the product of speculation.

In this case, a Belknap County grand jury indicted Watson last month for possession of the narcotic fentanyl within 1,000 feet of a school with intent to distribute in Tilton.

In support of her request that the judge be allowed to hear testimony about Watson's other drug dealing operation, the prosecutor cited a Supreme Court ruling that upheld a decision in which a sentencing judge considered evidence that the defendant had involved his son in drug selling. The justices opined that the sentencing court "was
not required to remain ignorant of this circumstance in determining the kind and extent of punishment to be imposed."

Such information, Guldbrandsen asserted is relevant and necessary for a judge to meet the three components of sentencing: deterrence, punishment and rehabilitation.

A hearing on what evidence will be admitted will be held on Feb. 7 at 9 a.m. Tilton-Fogg's family will them will allowed to give victim impact statements, before the judge hands down Watson's sentence.

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