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Non-English speaking man charged with rape wants statements made to police suppressed

LACONIA — A Batchelder Street man has asked a Belknap County Superior Court judge to suppress statements he made to police during an interview about an alleged rape complaint because he doesn't speak or understand English.

In a motion filed by Fatmir Gasi, 52, of 72 Batchelder Street by his attorney, Gasi, a Bosnian refugee whose first language is Albanian, said he didn't understand enough English to understand his Miranda rights.

Gasi was arrested on a warrant on January 19, 2014, shortly after he allegedly raped and choked a female acquaintance at his home on January 17 or 18. He was indicted in March of 2014.

According to the motion filed in court, Gasi was taken into an interrogation room by a single male police officer for questioning. Portions of the interrogation were recorded but the beginning, where the officer read Gasi his rights and obtained a signed waiver were not.

"It should have been apparent to anyone conversing with the accused that English is not his first language, and that, while he speaks conversational English to a degree, he is far from fluent in the language," wrote attorney Steve Mirkin.

Mirkin said once the tape was turned on, the officer went through a cursory explanation of Gasi's rights end even then Gasi has difficulty understanding them.

He said much of the interview is characterized by the officer repeatedly getting the accused to clarify answers that were not responsive to the questions he asked, or which the officer himself didn't understand.

At some point after the interview and during the transcription process, the transcriptionist eventually gave up trying to understand Gasi's statements. Mirkin also noted that in a previous trial against Gasi for a different matter, he required an Albanian translator for all proceedings.

Mirkin said that in this case there is "no record of a careful and methodical Miranda warning," no indication that Gasi understands English, and no indication that he understood he was knowingly, willingly, and intelligently waiving his right to have an attorney present at his questioning.

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for this week.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 January 2015 12:38

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City says Tardif doesn't realize Right-to-Know was re-written in 1991

LACONIA — At a hearing in Carroll County Superior Court this week, counsel for the city called a lawsuit brought by Tom Tardif charging the City Council violated the the Right -to-Know Law "frivolous" and asked the court to dismiss it and order Tardif to reimburse the city for legal expenses.

On learning that in October the council twice met in non-public sessions to consider the future of the Belknap Mill, Tardif requested the minutes of the meeting, but was informed that the council voted to seal them from public view. In a private e-mail to Tardif, Mayor Ed Engler explained that both meetings were held to consider "the acquisition, sale or lease of real property," one of subjects the Right-to-Know Law permits to be discussed in a non-public session. He added that "the reason was solid: at both meetings we discussed the possibility of the city purchasing the mill from the society. Specific dollar amounts were mentioned."

Undeterred, Tardif asked the court to review the minutes of both meetings to determine if the matters discussed represent exceptions to the Right-to-Know Law as the council claims and order the disclosure of minutes that fail to qualify as exceptions. At the same time, Tardif charged that the council failed to follow the prescribed procedure when convening the non-public sessions by neither taking nor recording a roll call vote to enter the non-public meeting. He asked the court to require the councilors, city manager and city clerk to undergo remedial training in the administration of the Right-to-Know Law.
In response, Mitchell explained that on both occasions a motion to enter a non-public session to consider "the acquisition, sale or lease" of real property as permitted by the Right-to-Know Law was passed. Role calls votes, which carried unanimously, were taken. However, he acknowledged that the person preparing the minutes neglected to record how each councilor voted. Mitchell argued that this deficiency in the preparation of the minutes should not compel disclosure of the sealed minutes as Tardif appeared to believe.
Furthermore, Mitchell claimed that Tardif's arguments were drawn from an article published in the New Hampshire Bar Journal in 1979 that referred to a version of the Right-to-Know Law that the New Hampshire Legislature changed significantly in 1991. In particular, he said that Tardif referred to what was allowed when conducting "deliberations" in "executive sessions" and noted that conducting deliberations has not been a legitimate reason to enter a non-public session for the last 24 years,

In his pleadings Mitchell reminded the court that Tardif "is not a stupid man" and continued "however, once he obtains the slightest suspicion that someone has committed a wrong of any degree, he apparently loses the simple ability to ask himself "I wonder if the statute has changed in the past 35 years.'" Consequently, Mitchell concluded "he has caused the taxpayers of Laconia to needlessly expend valuable to respond to and defend this action."

Mitchell submitted the minutes of the non-public sessions, together with an affidavit of the clerk who prepared them, and videos of the regular sessions, which record the roll call votes, to the court. Justice Charles Temple took the case under advisement.

The case was moved to Carroll County when Belknap Superior Court cited a conflict of interest.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 January 2015 12:26

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Community salutes 2 Recovery Court program graduates

LACONIA — One year ago, neither Nicole Center or Shane Mitza thought they'd be the guests of honor in a circuit court room, although both had seen their fair share of the insides of them.

Both, for different reasons, were facing felony convictions and well on their way to jail but for the intervention of Recovery Court — an all volunteer program in Belknap County that allows people who are facing felony charges and who admit that alcohol and drugs are the catalysts for their behavior to enter a comprehensive recovery program in lieu of jail.

"It's been a tough year," said Center yesterday at a well attended Recovery Court graduation ceremony in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, who said she was grateful she got arrested two years ago. "It's weird to say that but my life has changed."

Describing herself as "eternally grateful," Center not only attended 51 counseling sessions, 30 group sessions, and a special weekly counseling session, she did community service and worked a full-time job where she earned two promotions. She is also a single parent.

Shane Mitza, said Horizons Behavioral Health Coordinator Jacqui Abikoff, came into the program with sole goal of getting out and avoiding jail.

"He thought he could beat the system but the system beat him," Abikoff said while Mitza laughed at her observation.

Mitza said he'd been dealing with Judge Jim Carroll for the last 20 years but now "I can face Judge Carroll with pride, not disdain or worry."

"My son told me he thought I'd be dead by now," Mitza said. "Those words really meant something."

He told the crowd of fellow recovery members, dignitaries from the state, county and local government including Sen. Jeanie Forrester and Joe Harding, the director of the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services, that once he entered recovery all of his "so-called" friends were gone but now he has new and better friends.

He especially wanted to thank his wife for sticking with him through the lowest points in his life, his father and his children.

Mitza, who did his community service working in maintenance and landscaping at the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, caught the attention of one of the security officers who gave him a job with his landscaping company.

He said he wanted to thank him and a second friend who also stood by him giving him rides, and occasionally money, to see him and his family through some rough times.

He said the entire recovery court team "helped him become the person he always wanted to be."

This is the second year of Recovery Court, which is called Drug Court in the other nine New Hampshire counties. Judge Carroll wanted his court to focus on recovery and thought that's what he would call it. It is the only "drug" court in the state without any public funding.

Carroll, who was overwhelmed with emotion during the graduation ceremony, said Mitza and Center have been stellar during their year with him. He said he saw Mitza at Mitza's son's high school graduation where he said Mitza told him that in his former life he probably wouldn't have remembered it.

Carroll said that not only did Center and Mitza go through recovery but their families and their community went through it with them and had their backs during it.

Keynote speaker Joe Harding, who is also the director of the Governor's Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery, told the audience that one of his goals is preventing addiction problems before they begin.

He said prevention starts with doctors and physicians who can get to people before they become addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Acknowledging he began recovery 26 years ago, he said he may have once been a candidate for a Recovery Court. He said the cycle begins when people become disconnected, more distant and more likely to use drugs and alcohol.

"Desperate people do desperate things and they end up in our judicial system," he said.

He said Abikoff's earlier plea for money from the federal and/or state government would probably fall on deaf ears.

Noting all of the community leaders who came to court to support Mitza and Center, he said the local community needs to take this program, raise the issues of drug and alcohol abuse and kept them in the forefront.

Judge Carroll said we all live one day at a time. Paraphrasing an article he said he had read over the weekend, Carroll noted that we all live "one day at a time."

He said yesterday is gone forever and nobody knows what tomorrow will bring so today is all we have — but today can be life-changing.

Recognition also went to Judge Williard "Bud" Martin who, through the Annette P. Schmitt Trust Fund made some money available to Horizons Counseling Center to keep the treatment portion of the program going.

He also thanked Harding who was able to defer some of the costs of the Nathan Brody Program to make the program affordable and accessible for those who need it.

Abikoff announced that Mitza and Center both entered the program on the same date and both have agreed to stay on a mentors for those who come after.

Recovery Court meets weekly at noon and a made possible through the private efforts and time of Judge Carroll, Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen, Restorative Justice Program Director Brian Loanes, Laconia City Prosecutor Jim Sawyer, the Public Defenders Office headed by lead attorney Jesse Friedman, Department of Corrections Superintendent Daniel Ward, the N.H. Department of Probation and Parole whose local office is headed by Serene Eastman, and Jacqui Abikoff of Horizons Counseling Center in Gilford.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 January 2015 12:19

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Gilmanton selectman guilty of forging vehicle inspection sticker

GILMANTON — Selectman Donald Guarino pleaded guilty in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division last month to a violation level charge of forging a vehicle inspection sticker.

When reached by The Daily Sun yesterday, Guarino said, "I made a mistake. I pleaded guilty and I paid my fine."

According to paperwork filed with the court, Guarino was driving a gray pickup on July 24, 2014 at 12:54 p.m. and failed to stop or yield on Route 11 (Main Street) in Alton.

He was stopped by a N.H. State Police Officer who noticed an inspection sticker irregularity. Guarino was initially charged with a Class B misdemeanor and released on personal recognizance bail.

On December 4, 2014, Guarino pleaded guilty to a violation level offense of forging an inspection sticker as well as the failure to yield or stop traffic offense.

He was fined $300 with $100 suspended pending one year of good behavior for the inspection sticker and $100 — all suspended — for the failure to yield or stop violation.

His fines were paid in full on that day.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 January 2015 11:53

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