LACONIA — Richard Bergeron, a Belmont man facing drug charges who has been harshly critical of Belknap County Attorney Andrew Livernois, will be prosecuted by the Grafton County Attorney’s office.
“We felt for various reasons there was a potential conflict of interest in our office handling the case and thought it appropriate for it to be handled by a different prosecutor and different county attorney’s office,” Livernois said Thursday.
He had sought to limit Bergeron’s public statements by requesting the court issue a gag order. Livernois said he didn’t want the case tried in the media and didn’t want the jury pool to be poisoned.
The new prosecutor will withdraw that request.
Bergeron, 42, was indicted a year ago. He faces six felony counts of selling marijuana.
He said he refused an offer by Livernois to bargain down the case to a single charge and probation only. He is representing himself.
Tara J. Heater, Deputy Grafton County Attorney, is now prosecuting the case.
“I can tell you that the first thing that I will do is withdraw the Motion filed by County Attorney Livernois concerning Pretrial Publicity,” she said in a letter to Bergeron.
“While I sincerely hope that we can establish a relationship that does not require litigating this matter in the press, I do not believe that a gag order is the appropriate remedy.”
She also said she would offer a plea bargain.
“I am aware that County Attorney Livernois has made an offer to resolve this matter as a felony. I would like to discuss a different resolution that may be agreeable to you,” she said.
Bergeron rejected Heater’s offer, which would have reduced the charges to two misdemeanors. There would be no jail time. He said he would rather go to trial.
He said he hasn’t been treated properly by the Belknap County Attorney’s office and has sought sanctions against Livernois and Deputy County Attorney Keith Cormier.
He criticized the prosecution and the case against him in a letter published in The Laconia Daily Sun on May 19.
In his letter to the editor, Bergeron said that two years ago his vehicle slid into a small ditch after he had delivered some firewood in a snowstorm. A uniformed officer told him to call a wrecker.
“Eventually the uniformed officer left,” he said. “Two other people stopped who were later identified as N.H. Attorney General’s Drug Task Force detectives. They were dressed as loggers.
“These ‘agents’ of the state, paid for by your tax dollars, proceeded to manufacture six serious felonies against me and charge me with offenses that threatened me with 53 years of prison time for trying to help someone out.
“During a time when resources were sorely needed to combat the ongoing opioid crisis, the state’s Drug Task Force decided to invent an intricate case against me after I gave an agent a business card and discussed only firewood with him when he stopped to supposedly help me out.”
Bergeron also discusses the case in a website he has created that includes a photo of the head of County Attorney Andrew Livernois superimposed on the body of movie character Forrest Gump. The photo has a headline, “Andrew Livernois runs to the courthouse.”
In an interview, Bergeron said he is not a drug dealer, but he received a text request for marijuana from one of the “loggers” who stopped for him in the storm, and decided to fill that request. Subsequent requests were made. Initially the transactions were small, but the final one involved 3 ounces of marijuana, he said.
He said that, at trial, he plans to argue he was entrapped. He also plans a jury nullification argument in which he seeks to have the jury return a not guilty verdict on the basis that a law is improper or wrongly applied.
Bergeron said he is an editor, writer, webmaster and firewood provider. He has represented himself in other cases and has produced a handbook on how to act as one's own attorney.
Livernois said he could not discuss facts of the case.
He has been county attorney for three years and has never had a marijuana sale case go to trial.
“But we do still prosecute people for selling marijuana,” he said last month. “It is illegal.”