Charges lowered for man who allegedly threatened motorist with Airsoft gun (116)

LACONIA — Charges against a city man who allegedly pointed an AirSoft rifle at a motorist have been reduced from two felonies to one class A misdemeanor of criminal threatening.

According to documents obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, James Norman Eddy IV appeared by video and was ordered held on $5,000 personal recognizance bail and $750 cash.

Eddy has posted bail and is ordered not to have contact with two people who were involved in the incident, to continue attending Compliance Court and to adhere to his mandated mental health treatment. He is to be of good behavior and abide by a 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. curfew.

Eddy is scheduled for trial in early March.

– Gail Ober

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Man who sold fentanyl to spend 3 1/2 years in jail (227)

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — A man who sold fentanyl in Laconia and later nearly ran over a Laconia Police officer in a snowstorm will spend a minimum of 3 ½ years in the New Hampshire State Prison.

Joshua Levesque, 26, of 12 Country Side Circle in Belmont pleaded guilty to four separate charges in Belknap County Superior Court Thursday that include sales of fentanyl, reckless conduct, three-strike rule for shoplifting, and possession of methamphetamine. A fifth charge of possession of fentanyl was dropped. He is credited with 176 days of pretrial confinement.

Levesque received a 2- to 5-year sentence for selling fentanyl and a 1 ½ to 6-year sentence for reckless conduct as it related to the Laconia Police officer. The sentences will be served consecutively, meaning when one ends, the other begins.

Additionally, Levesque was sentenced to serve 3 to 6 years, all suspended for the three-strike theft conviction, and 3 to 6 years for possession of methamphetamine, of which was suspended.

In agreeing to plead guilty to the four charges, that took place over a 12-month period in 2016, the Belknap County Attorney agree to dropped seven other charges that related to one of the above four crimes.

Should Levesque committee another crime once released from prison, he could face a total of an additional six years of incarceration plus an additional maximum 7 ½ years that would be left on the sentences he will serve.

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Judge: Sufficient evidence in case of man involved in city standoff

By BEA LEWIS For The Laconia Daily Sun

LACONIA — A city man who refused police orders to come out of his home and ended up being tasered before being arrested on domestic violence-related complaints appeared in court on Thursday in hopes of having the charges dismissed.

James Cunningham, 60, is facing two counts of second-degree domestic violence assault. He is also charged with felony criminal threatening as well as misdemeanor counts of simple assault, criminal threatening, resisting arrest and marijuana possession.

Cunningham, of 223 Weirs Boulevard, was taken into custody on the late morning of Nov. 15, following a two-hour standoff with police.

The incident began as a possible hostage situation after a woman called 911 at 7:49 a.m. and reported that she had been assaulted several times during the night and wasn't allowed to leave the residence.

According to police, Cunningham threatened to kill the woman and hit her over the head with a pool cue with sufficient force to break the hardwood stick.

During an afternoon hearing in Belknap County Superior Court, defense attorney Scott Bratton said Cunningham has a right to a probable cause hearing.

Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau, who presided, explained that procedures were changing as a result of the Felony First program. Previously, anyone charged with a felony-level crime was arraigned in the Circuit Court and a probable cause hearing automatically scheduled.

As the lower court lacked jurisdiction to resolve felony matters, the decision was made to move those cases directly to the Superior Court, saving time and avoiding duplication.

When a defendant is arrested for a felony, Nadeau explained, a judge has already reviewed an affidavit submitted by police detailing the evidence supporting the allegations. The judge then decides based on that information whether probable cause exists.

If a defendant requests a separate probable cause hearing, the state is pressed to show more of its evidence and their witnesses could face cross-examination by the defense.

The threshold determination is that it is more probable than not that a crime has been committed, and that the defendant committed it. If probable cause is found, a case then advances to a grand jury for possible indictment.

Under the Felony First protocol, Nadeau said, a probable cause hearing will typically only be granted if a defendant can show that there is a material defect in the affidavit.

Bratton argued that since police interviewed the alleged victim, they seized her phone. Bratton told the judge he had copies of the text messages recovered from the phone and said that she might like to read them.

Judge Nadeau said that if the text messages appear to suggest that the alleged victim is recanting, that is an issue of credibility for a jury to decide.

Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen said Detective Sgt. Kevin Butler, who conducted a six-hour interview of the woman, was in the courtroom. The state has already turned over 67 pages of evidence to the defense, including a transcript of that interview. Having Butler testify during the hearing would be "duplicative" and would not
support the defense's efforts to have the charges thrown out.

The judge ruled from the bench that no probable cause hearing was needed at this stage of the proceedings as the affidavit had already established there is sufficient evidence to support the allegations.

Even if the alleged victim refuses to testify at trial, the state may be able to use the 911 tape as evidence. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that calls to 911 are non-testimonial statements gathered in an emergency situation, and as such are admissible at trial.

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