(Hour 2a) The first amendment is being assaulted. Rich asks us if there is “something in the water in the Gilford-Alton area?!” We went into discussion on the storm that could be looming over the Alton Selectmen’s Board by bringing up yet another case of abuse of power out of Laconia. An apology better be coming quick!
Scroll down below the SoundCloud player to read the articles referenced in this archive.
Click here for the YouTube video of the Alton arrest.
By Kimberley Haas
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
ALTON — Right to Know advocate Jeffrey Clay said Monday that Alton Police Chief Ryan Heath physically hurt him when he was arrested for disorderly conduct at a board of selectmen’s meeting on Feb. 3.
Clay, who has sued the Dover School Board for allegedly violating New Hampshire’s laws about public meetings, was arrested by Heath after he asked members of Alton’s board of selectmen to resign, during a public forum at their meeting, earlier this month.
The entire incident was captured by a local cable access television channel and posted on fosters.com. It shows that Clay sat down before the board, during the public forum, and said, “Every time I show up here, it is my most fervent hope that I am going to find that you folks have resigned. But you continue to show an unwillingness to step up to the plate and take responsibility for your poor actions as selectmen and resign. I am asking you to do that now.”
One of the board members said, “This is character assassination.”
Board Chair R. Loring Carr asked for two points of order as Clay continued to talk about the selectmen’s actions. Carr asked his fellow board members if they felt Clay’s statements were libelous and inflammatory.
Less than two minutes into Clay’s statements, the board voted in favor of closing down their public forum because of the comments.
That did not stop Clay from speaking. He remained in his chair and started reading definitions of integrity, honesty and character.
That is when Carr told Clay, “You are done.”
Heath, who was in the audience, was asked to address the issue. He moved a set of chairs next to where Clay was sitting and approached him.
“You want to take your hands off me, please?” Clay asked Heath.
When Heath did not back away, Clay said again, “Take your hands off me, please.”
Heath told Clay that he had been asked to leave. Clay asked Heath if he was under arrest. Heath replied that he would be if Clay did not comply with his orders.
Clay again started to speak. Heath reached into his pocket, pulled out a cell phone and called for police back up.
After Clay finished reciting the definition of audacity, which means boldness or daring, especially with confident or arrogant disregard for personal safety, conventional thought, or other restrictions, Carr warned Clay for a third time.
Heath placed Clay under arrest. As he did, he pulled on Clay’s left arm and led him from the room with that arm behind his back. That is when Clay says he was physically injured.
“Alton’s Chief of Police threw my left arm up behind my back, causing severe pain,” Clay said in a letter sent to Foster’s editors on Monday.
Clay said in the letter that he takes no pride in being arrested, but he takes “great pride” in the First Amendment and freedom of speech, and in citizens’ duties to “hold public officials accountable when they violate laws and people’s trust.”
“This is exactly what I was doing when I was arrested,” Clay said.
Lt. Todd MacDougall of the Alton Police Department said Tuesday that Clay was charged with two Class B misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct. These charges carry a fine as their maximum penalty.
Clay vowed to fight the charges against him.
Published Date Wednesday, 25 February 2015 01:22
GILFORD — The man who objected to one of his 9th grade daughter’s reading assignments at a School Board meeting last year is suing the local police lieutenant who arrested him and removed him from the meeting.
William Baer has filed a suit in the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire seeking damages from Lt. James Leach for allegedly violating his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
“Had (Leach) of the Gilford Police Department not falsely arrested the plaintiff, without a warrant or probable cause, for exercising his right to free speech, the plaintiff would have been free from seizure, arrest, and criminal charges,” wrote Concord attorney Charles Douglas in his pleading.
Baer was charged with three criminal complaints of disorderly conduct under three separate sections of the disorderly conduct law.
After a number of months, 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division Judge Jim Carroll dismissed the charges against Baer saying, among other things, that “the court questions the constitutionality of the state’s action in the sequence as memorialized by the deposition.”
Because of his arrest, Baer is seeking damages because he was humiliated in front of a room filled with people and the videos went viral. A YouTube video of the incident was viewed by at least one million times.
In addition, Baer’s license to carry a concealed weapon in Maine was delayed and he was temporarily held at the Canadian border because of the arrest.
Baer’s children attend Gilford Schools and he said they have suffered emotional repercussions as a result of his father’s public arrest.
He is seeking a unknown amount of financial compensation and legal fees.
At a regularly scheduled Gilford School Board meeting on May 5, 2014 Baer and a number of other residents attending the meeting to voice their opinions on a reading assignment.
In Baer’s opinion, the book, “Nineteen Minutes” by Jody Picoult, contained a sexually explicit section that he believed was inappropriate for a ninth grader. He had made his objections known through various outlets and because of the controversy, the meeting was packed with Baer supporters and detractors. At least three newspapers reporters were there as were two people operating video cameras.
Chair Sue Allen opened public comment and limited each speaker to two minutes and a single opportunity to speak. Leach was at the meeting, in uniform and initially standing off to one side.
Baer spoke for at least two minutes and, according to the lawsuit, was told by resident Joe Wernig that his time had ended. Baer finished his thought and sat down. Wernig lives in Gilford and is an educator in the Shaker Regional School District.
Two others spoke and were followed by Wernig who said Baer are others were trying to dictate what his kids can and cannot read. Without being recognized to speak again, Baer loudly reacted that Wernig’s statement was ridiculous and was told by Allen to respect other speakers. But Baer kept talking.
After a nod from Allen and Superintendent Kent Hemingway, Leach approached Baer and told him he was being asked to leave. He gave him no prior warning and Baer said, “I guess you’re gonna have to arrest me.”
Leach removed Baer by grabbing his wrist and leading him from the meeting room. He was handcuffed outside the glass-walled room and arrested.
While the suit is filed against Leach as an individual, according to state law he is indemnified by state law — meaning he is not personally responsible for any financial awards should Baer prevail, but the town of Gilford is.
When contacted yesterday, Leach said he was not aware of the suit.