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Saturday, January 11, 2014

State rep. pleads no contest to killing five ducks with his car at Nashua hotel, pays fine

NASHUA – State Rep. David Campbell told police he consumed two alcoholic drinks before striking a group of ducks with his car outside the Crowne Plaza Hotel last month, but said he wasn’t intoxicated.

Police records released Friday show that Campbell, a Nashua Democrat, killed five birds outside the hotel’s main entrance on Dec. 23 before leaving the scene and calling Nashua Police Commissioner Thomas J. Pappas, a longtime friend, to escort him away from the area. ...

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NASHUA – State Rep. David Campbell told police he consumed two alcoholic drinks before striking a group of ducks with his car outside the Crowne Plaza Hotel last month, but said he wasn’t intoxicated.

Police records released Friday show that Campbell, a Nashua Democrat, killed five birds outside the hotel’s main entrance on Dec. 23 before leaving the scene and calling Nashua Police Commissioner Thomas J. Pappas, a longtime friend, to escort him away from the area.

After an investigation that lasted 16 days, police cited Campbell on Thursday for killing waterfowl out of season, but cleared him of any motor vehicle charges.

Nashua Police Capt. George McCarthy said police investigated all aspects of the case, including the fact that Campbell had been drinking before the incident, but determined the offseason hunting charge was most appropriate.

“Attempts were made to try to determine all elements of the investigation,” McCarthy said. “Sometimes circumstances prevent us from, you know, following through with determining certain things, and it’s my understanding, in reading the investigation, that he wasn’t available at the time to speak with us.”

Campbell was cited by Nashua police for killing five migratory game birds, namely the friendly mallard ducks that swim in the pond in front of the hotel. Campbell appeared in court Friday morning to answer the offense, and paid a $695 fine.

Campbell offered a public apology for killing the ducks, and said he donated an equal amount of money to New Hampshire Audubon.

“I apologize and ask forgiveness from those I have offended and from others that may judge me solely on the basis of this very unfortunate accident,” he said.

Pappas, who has represented Campbell as an attorney in the past, declined to comment on his conversations with Campbell on the night in question, citing attorney client privilege. Pappas also declined to answer questions from Nashua police about what transpired.

“I represented David for many years, and it’s my belief that David enjoys attorney-client privilege with me,” Pappas told The Telegraph.

The police investigation began when officers were called to the Crowne Plaza at 10:08 p.m. Dec. 23 for a “check conditions call.”

Officer Michael C. Hatzipetros arrived and spoke with a night manager who said a man driving a black BMW 5 Series drove the wrong way through the hotel drop-off area and ran over several ducks.

Hatzipetros saw the carcasses of five ducks in front of the hotel “with their entrails, and feathers strewn throughout,” according to his police report, which was provided to The Telegraph on Friday in response to a request under the state’s Right to Know Law.

Hatzipetros spoke with three witnesses, including James Murphy, the Florida man who first drew public attention to the incident last month.

After taking a shuttle bus to the hotel, Murphy said he and others began tossing food to a group of 15-20 of the ducks that inhabit the hotel grounds. Murphy said Campbell’s vehicle approached from a side parking lot going about 15 mph and then accelerated into the ducks.

Murphy chased the vehicle, which he said stopped about 50 feet down the road, and photographed the license plate. Murphy said he could smell alcohol, and that Campbell appeared intoxicated, staggering and slurring his speech, according to a police report.

Campbell then drove to the hotel’s garage and parked his car. Murphy told police he saw Campbell exit the vehicle, drink from a bottle of water and enter the hotel lobby.

When he was interviewed by police the next day, Campbell said he consumed two alcoholic drinks before the incident.

His account was backed up by a bartender at the hotel’s restaurant, who told police that Campbell drank a glass of wine and some tequila, but didn’t appear intoxicated.

The woman reported that Campbell had dined with three people earlier in the evening, arriving at about 8:05 p.m. The woman said Campbell had a “glass of wine and a glass of Patron” tequila with a lobster roll for dinner.

“I asked (the bartender) if Mr. Campbell appeared to be intoxicated,” Hatzipetros wrote in the police report. The bartender “stated that she did not believe he was.”

A copy of Campbell’s bar tab obtained by police lists the purchase of “1 Grey Goose” vodka and “3 Patron.”

Although Campbell paid for four drinks, his attorney, Eric Wilson, said Campbell consumed only two alcoholic beverages – the tequila and a glass of wine. He said Campbell’s friend paid for dinner, and that Campbell picked up the second round of drinks.

“Four people went out for dinner and had one glass of wine each, and after dinner they had one drink, which is reflected on the bar bill, and any suggestion that David Campbell consumed the four drinks that he paid for is silly, at best,” Wilson said.

According to police reports, after the ducks were struck, officers were unable to reach Campbell by phone and couldn’t find him inside the hotel or walking on the hotel grounds.

Soon after, at 12:05 a.m., police received a call from Pappas, who said he was in contact with Campbell. Pappas asked a police supervisor working the midnight shift whether officers were looking for Campbell.

“Pappas stated David Campbell was a friend of his and was now at another friend’s house and that Campbell’s cell phone was dead,” a report filed by Sgt. C. Camacho says.

According to the report, Pappas offered to have Campbell get in touch with the officer investigating the incident in the morning.

Campbell was interviewed 16 hours later and reported that he was “not doing so well and that he feels awful about what happened,” police said.

“Mr. Campbell stated that as he was traveling through the drop off area, he observed several people feeding the ducks, which they are not supposed to do,” the report says. “Mr. Campbell further stated that signs posted advising (guests) not to feed the ducks.

“At this time Mr. Campbell stated that he was driving through the drop off area and that he had driven over several ducks, killing them. Mr. Campbell stated that he immediately pulled his vehicle over, after realizing what he had done.”

Campbell said he was accosted by an angry man who threatened to ruin his life and said he was going to “make Mr. Campbell feel how the ducks felt,” according to the police report.

Campbell said he parked in the garage and stayed in the area for five to 10 minutes before entering the hotel lobby. He said he later went to his office, located nearby at 20 Trafalgar Square, then called a friend, who picked him up and took him to that friend’s house.

When he was questioned about drinking a bottle of water, Campbell told police he was taking antibiotics and drank the water because he was parched.

Although he has been visiting the Crowne Plaza for more than 23 years, Campbell told police he was unaware that the hotel entrance is a one-way road, according to a police report. Campbell said the ducks at the hotel usually move out of the way when someone drives by.

He said he “double tapped” his brakes to slow down when he saw the ducks, but his foot slipped and hit the gas pedal by mistake.

A shuttle van driver who was interviewed by police referred to the ducks as the hotel’s “welcoming committee,” saying they always approach guests who pull up in front of the lobby.

Hotel Manager Timothy Hogan told police the hotel doesn’t provide food for the ducks, and advises guests not to feed them. Hogan said ducks have been hit in the past, and that in such instances, the drivers don’t always inform hotel staff.

Hogan said there is no speed limit sign posted outside the hotel, but that he hopes drivers “use their discretion when proceeding through the drop-off area.” Hogan said he would consider 15-20 mph to be an “unreasonable speed” for the area.

Hogan noted there is no sign posted outside the hotel identifying the loop near the entrance as a one-way road, but said there are painted markers on the ground to direct traffic.

Campbell previously issued a public apology for the incident, and said he reported the deaths of the ducks to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and hotel management.

“This occurred while some people were feeding the ducks in the roadway nearby. I know it greatly upset them, as it did me,” he said in a Dec. 29 statement. “In spite of the accusations to the contrary, this was accidental, unintentional, and deeply affected me then and now.”

Campbell’s apologies didn’t stop people from lambasting him on social media, or prevent him from becoming a political target and even the butt of jokes.

For example, at a meeting of the Republican City Committee in Nashua on Thursday night, attendees held a moment of silence for the ducks killed by Campbell.

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 594-6589 or jhaddadin@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@Telegraph_JimH).