LACONIA — A high-speed boat chase through the waters of several communities on Lake Winnipesaukee – which police say followed a domestic assault complaint – resulted in a Gilford man facing multiple charges and being held at the Belknap County Jail.
Peter E. Morrissette, 59, of 23 Smith Cove Road, in Gilford, was charged with domestic violence simple assault, disobeying a police officer, and resisting arrest — all misdemeanors.
Morrissette’s arrest followed an hour-long chase boat chase during which he operated his boat erratically through several towns across the lake “including, but not limited to Gilford, Laconia, Meredith, and Alton,” according to a sworn affidavit filed in connection with Morrissette’s arrest.
The affidavit says the chase started shortly after 6 p.m., when Morrissette fled in a boat from Smith Cove, where Gilford police had gone after receiving a report of a domestic disturbance.
Morrissette’s attorney, Mark Sisti, called the charges “greatly exaggerated,” adding: “We will be able to address them (in court).”
At a hearing Friday afternoon, Judge Peter Bornstein set Morrissette’s bail at $10,000 on the charges of disobeying an officer and resisting arrest, Sisti said.
However, following a District Court arraignment hearing earlier Friday afternoon, Morrissette was ordered held in preventive detention on the simple assault charge.
Sisti said late Friday afternoon he was working to get his client released on bail on that charge, too.
“He certainly will be out no later than Monday, and maybe as early as tonight,” Sisti said. Morrissette had already posted the $10,000 bail by late Friday afternoon, the attorney added.
According to the affidavit filed by Marine Patrol Sgt. Nicholas Haroutunian, Morrissette repeatedly refused to stop his boat when ordered to do so, and instead insulted the officers, used vulgar and abusive language, and made obscene hand gestures.
According to the complaint filed in connection with the assault charge, Morrissette allegedly grabbed a family member by the hair and pulled that person to the ground, then fled the scene in his boat.
At one point, when one of the Marine Patrol vessels got close to Morrissette’s boat, two Gilford police officers who were on board shouted to Morrissette that he was under arrest, whereupon Morrissette yelled he had “a full tank of gas,” held up his middle finger, yelled an obscenity, throttled the engine and sped away, according to the affidavit.
When the chase passed close to Locke’s and Round islands, Morrissette’s boat passed 15 sailboats participating in a race, getting as close as 100 yards to some of the craft, according to the court document.
The chase ended about an hour later when Marine Patrol Capt. Timothy Dunleavy was able to reach Morrissette on his cellphone and “arranged for Morrissette to dock his boat at his residence in Gilford and turn himself in to Marine Patrol Headquarters,” the affidavit states. Morrissette surrendered at about 7:30 p.m.
Morrissette was about to be released Thursday evening, but was held at the Belknap County Jail after another outburst, according to police.
As a bail commissioner was preparing to release Morrissette on his own recognizance, according to the affidavit, Morrissette told Bail Commissioner Ann Kaligian that “if she released him on PR bail he was going to immediately ‘pack his bag,’ and flee to Florida, and that police would have to ‘visit him there.’” As a result Morrissette was ordered held until a bail hearing before a judge.
The hearing was scheduled for Friday afternoon in Belknap Superior Court, At the outset of that hearing Judge James D. O’Neill III announced he was recusing himself from the case because he has known Morrissette for many years and during that time has had substantial contacts with him.
During that short video hearing in front of O’Neill, Sisti said Morrissette would be pleading not guilty to all charges.
Because of O’Neill’s recusal, the bail hearing was then transferred to Judge Peter Bornstein, who handled the proceeding via video conference from Coos Superior Court.
Morrissette is facing another legal charge. In May he was indicted on charge of witness tampering. The indictment alleges that Morrissette threatened a person last October for “reporting domestic strangulation assaults to law enforcement.”
Sisti said the allegation contained in the indictment and Thursday’s incidents are unrelated.
“They have nothing to do with it at all,” he said. “I hope people don’t start jumping to conclusions.”