2018: Trials, political visits, BOE issues top stories for year

As we turn the page on 2018, The Telegraph looks back at the top stories from the past 12 months. From the conclusion of two major long-running trials to political visits and an election, 2018 was filled with major events.

No. 1

Barnaby, Caplin sentenced to prison

Plea deal sends Barnaby to prison for 4.5 years

NASHUA – Moments after the book finally closed Wednesday on the Anthony Barnaby murder case, an ordeal that began nearly 30 years ago, a niece of one of the two victims took a deep breath, then broke into a broad smile.

Judge Charles Temple listens to attorney Steven M. Gordon, who represents lottery winner “Jane Doe,” during a hearing in the Jane Doe v. New Hampshire Lottery Commission case at Hillsborough Superior Court in Nashua on Tuesday. Lawyers representing a New Hampshire woman, who says she has a Powerball ticket that won a $559.7 million jackpot, are requesting that a judge grant her a request to stay anonymous.

“They are partying,” Amy Boisvert said of her aunt, Brenda Warner, and her partner, Charlene Ranstrom, both of whom were killed in 1988.

“And my dad, he’s cheering … ‘yeah,'” Boisvert added, referring to her late father, one of Brenda Warner’s brothers, who died of cancer recently.

Boisvert, who referred to her aunt and Ranstrom, said she was channeling her deep sense of relief that with the completion of Barnaby’s hearing, the ordeal that began the morning of Oct. 3, 1988 was now finally finished.

Barnaby, 51, entered what is known as an “Alford plea” to two counts of second-degree murder, the result of a plea agreement that will send him to New Hampshire State Prison for roughly four and a half years.

An Alford plea, described by court officials as very rare, allows Barnaby to maintain his innocence, while agreeing to serve his sentence and abide by other terms of the plea agreement.

File photo George Farrington, former Nashua Board of Education president

The formula for Barnaby’s sentence begins with two consecutive terms of 10-20 years each, one for each count of second-degree murder.

According to the agreement, four years of each minimum sentence was suspended, leaving him a total minimum of 12 years. The parties agreed to give him credit for the 2,713 days – roughly seven and a half years – he spent in jail during the course of the case, leaving him with four and a half years of stand committed time.

Other conditions of the agreement include good behavior, participation in any programs or counseling as recommended by prison officials, and that he return to his native Canada within 24 hours of his release from prison.

New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell, the lead prosecutor on the case, said she and Barnaby’s attorneys, Mark Sisti and Alan Cronheim, began discussing an Alford plea weeks ago.

She cited “the challenges we would have faced at trial, and the appellate risks … “ that the state was likely to encounter at what would have been Barnaby’s fourth trial.

By reaching a plea agreement, “there is no risk of an overturned conviction, no risk of a mistrial … and no risk of an outcome that would be heartbreaking for the families,” Morrell said, referring to the relatives of Warner and Ranstrom.

Sisti, who has represented Barnaby since the beginning, called the agreement “a fair resolution” for his client.

With the matter closed, Sisti said Barnaby, “can now look forward to reuniting in the near future with his friends and family on the banks of the Restigouche River,” a reference to his home on a First Nation, or Indian, reservation in the province of Quebec.

Leslie Warner, Brenda Warner’s last surviving sibling, delivered an emotional victim impact statement to the court.

“Hopefully, this will be the last chapter,” Warner began, sitting rather than standing due to health issues that hamper his mobility.

“Like she said, I got no more siblings to see this to the end,” he added, referring to Boisvert’s earlier statement.

Waiting nearly 30 years for a final resolution to his sister’s murder, “has been a very long journey for my family and myself,” Warner said, but 2018 has also “been a very productive year for our families.”

He referred to the sentencing in February of David Caplin, Barnaby’s accomplice, and Wednesday’s final act.

Wednesday was “a special day for me,” Warner continued, turning toward Barnaby. “Because I get to talk to you, man to coward.”

Barnaby, seated between Sisti and Cronheim wearing a dress shirt and slacks, his ankles shackled but his hands free, stared straight ahead or down at the table as Warner spoke.

“This was a very, very horrible crime, a senseless crime,” Warner said, pausing frequently to wipe his eyes and gather his thoughts. “That night you butchered my sister … you opened her throat with a knife. You didn’t stop there,” he said.

“You and Caplin took turns stabbing her. You raped her, so did Caplin. This was not a tragedy, your honor, this is called butchery,” Warner said, addressing Judge Jacalyn Colburn.

“She didn’t deserve that.”

He called the plea agreement “a great deal for you … you got a very good buy.”

Warner paused and again turned to Barnaby. “Anthony, I’m so sorry for what happened. Not for you, for my sister.

“You broke my heart,” Warner added.

Originally published

Aug. 23, 2018

•••

Nashua cold-case murderer to prison for at least 71/2 years

NASHUA – Leslie Warner, who nearly 30 years ago lost his little sister in a spate of violence as sudden as it was brutal, spoke through his emotions for about 10 minutes in a hushed courtroom Wednesday morning, then turned to face one of the two men charged with killing his sister and her lifelong partner.

“Before I go, David, I’m going to show you what kind of man I am,” Warner said, fixing his gaze on David Caplin, who was about to plead guilty to two counts of second-degree murder for his role in the Oct. 3, 1988, stabbing deaths of Brenda Warner and Charlene Ranstrom in their Mason Street apartment.

“David … I’m going to look you in the face, and I’m going to say 10 words that you will always remember.

“I forgive you for what you did to my sister.”

Leslie Warner’s comments came during a particularly compelling moment in his frank, sometimes sharply-worded, victim impact statement, one of three read before Judge Jacalyn Colburn during Caplin’s plea and sentencing hearing in Hillsborouigh County Superior Court South.

After negotiations that Assistant Attorney

General Susan Morrell said went on “for a lengthy period of time,” Caplin, 56, agreed to plead guilty to two counts of second-degree murder, in exchange for two prison terms of 10-20 years each, to be served consecutively.

Prosecutors also agreed to suspend five years of the combined minimum sentence “in consideration of (Caplin’s) truthful and complete proffer,” meaning that he agrees to provide truthful information to prosecutors if they question him about facts, and his involvement, in the murders.

The minimum sentence is further reduced by the state’s agreement that he be credited with the 2,822 days – roughly 7 1/2 years – he’s spent in jail, both following his arrest in 1989 and since he was re-arrested and returned to New Hampshire.

Prosecutors said they also agree to do what they can to allow Caplin to serve his sentence in Maine.

The agreement also requires Caplin, when he is released from prison, to return immediately to his native Canada, and never again enter the United States voluntarily.

Prosecutors also retain the right to compel Caplin to testify at the trial of his alleged accomplice, Anthony Barnaby, which is scheduled to begin in August.

Both men were charged with identical offenses: Two counts each of first-degree murder and second-degree murder. Caplin’s agreement called for the dismissal of the two first-degree murder charges.

Barnaby, who was arrested shortly after the murders, went to trial three times, but each of them ended in mistrials. When prosecutors chose not to try him a fourth time, he was freed and returned to his native Canada.

Caplin, charged months after the murders, never went to trial; prosecutors eventually dropped the charges citing lack of evidence.

Now, with Caplin’s case wrapped up, the focus turns to Barnaby, whose trial is currently scheduled to begin with jury selection on Aug. 27.

Caplin’s trial had been scheduled to start May 21; it wasn’t immediately known if the parties ask the court to move Barnaby’s trial up to the time frame allotted for Caplin’s.

Attorney Mark Sisti, who is representing Barnaby with Attorney Alan Cronheim, was present for Wednesday’s hearing. He initially sat at the defense table with Caplin’s lawyers, Attorneys Ray Raimo and Cathy Green, but moved to the gallery once proceedings got underway.

Asked if Caplin’s decision to plead guilty could have any effect on Barnaby’s case, Sisti was brief.

“Mr. Caplin pleaded guilty, because he is guilty,” he said. “Mr. Barnaby pleaded not guilty and is going to trial, because he is not guilty.”

Morrell, who was joined Wednesday by Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Woodcock, told the court that while “the state’s case against (Caplin) is very strong, we’re also realistic in our assessment of prosecuting a 30-year-old murder case.

“The sentence the state has recommended is about the best possible outcome,” Morrell said.

About a dozen members of Warner’s and Ranstrom’s families attended the hearing, filling the first two rows behind the prosecutors’ table.

The two rows behind them were occupied by former Nashua police officers who worked on the case.

Colburn, in pronouncing sentence, said she put the “most emphasis on the impact on the families.”

“The extent of their losses, and the suffering they endured the past 30 years, is incomprehensible,” she said.

Had the families of Warner and Ranstrom not supported the plea agreement, Colburn said, “there is no chance I would have accepted it.”

When given the opportunity to address the court, Caplin rose slowly to his feet, stared at the table and took a deep breath.

“I am very sorry,” he began, his voice raspy, barely above a whisper. “I haven’t dealt with … since it happened,” he said,

the sentence partly inaudible. He then paused, shook his head and sat back down.

Amy Boisvert, one of Brenda Warner’s nieces, was the first to give a victim impact statement.

“You will never fully understand how your actions affected my family. My feelings have gone from rage and resentment to forgiving you as a human being, not your actions,” Boisvert said.

“I don’t understand how you can live with yourself … for your actions that night.”

Boisvert later said she plans to attend “every day” of Barnaby’s trial, fulfilling a promise she made to her father, Carl Warner – before he died of cancer about three years ago.

Inga Flanders, another of Brenda Warner’s nieces, noted through tears the “irony that my family is here today.”

“Today is supposed to be about love and to share … with the ones we love. But instead, our families are here for something so evil … the taking of the lives of my Aunt Brenda and her life partner Charlene.”

The couple “will never have another Valentine’s Day, another Thanksgiving, Christmas or birthdays or anything. You took that away,” Flanders said, glancing at Caplin.

Members of her family “gave up on life … one by one,” she continued. “The anger inside consumed my father … he got divorced, our relationship became estranged.”

“We wondered how anyone could be so capable of doing something so horrific.”

Flanders said her family has “prayed for this day for many, many years,” and told Caplin that “even though I do not like you, I am happy that you have decided to take responsibility for your actions.”

“In order for my scars to heal, I forgive you.”

Leslie Warner, assisted by state victims advocate Joelle Donnelly Wiggin, made his way to the podium, paused, and took a deep breath.

“This is a special day, a very special day. Why, you ask? Because I can talk to David Caplin right here, and let him know I don’t hate you. I hate what you did,” Warner began.”

He told Caplin that he was “here to tell the court how low you really are, what a monster you are … and what you’re made of.”

Warner said he will “never forget that day and year,” referring to the date of the murders. He predicted that when he finished speaking, “Mr. David Caplin, you will remember that day like it was yesterday.”

“You butchered my sister that night.”

Caplin, Warner continued, is “simply an empty shell with no moral fiber. You have no purpose in this life.”

“You stabbed her so many times, David, that they couldn’t even embalm her.”

Warner said the lives of his family members “spiraled downward” in the months and years after the murders. He sometimes overheard his grandchildren ask their mother, “‘what’s wrong with grandpa?'”

Several family members smiled through their tears when Warner recalled how his sister loved to watch movies, and would often cry and “ask me questions about the movie.”

“I’d tell her, Brenda, it’s just a movie,” he said.

“But on Oct. 2-3, there was a movie … she couldn’t ask me questions about. This movie was real.’

“I couldn’t give her any answers.”

Originally published

Feb. 15, 2018

•••

No. 2

Democrat ‘blue wave’ drenches Nashua

NASHUA – A Democratic “blue wave” – which helped the national party claim a majority of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives – also sank Gate City Republicans on Election Day, as vote totals show all 27 New Hampshire state House members from Nashua will now be Democrats.

Before the Tuesday general election, the party split among Nashua state representatives was 17 Democrats and 10 Republicans.

A jubilant Manny Espitia, who serves as executive director of the Nashua Democratic Committee, worked alongside volunteers on Wednesday to clean out the party’s headquarters on Main Street.

“It’s a big deal. We’re incredibly proud of it,” Espitia, himself one of the Democratic House winners, said.

Nashua House Seats

Voters in each of the city’s nine wards select three representatives to serve in the 400-seat New Hampshire House. Though the candidates are divided by party on the ballot, a voter must individually select three separate choices. The top three finishers by ward are elected.

Results provided by the City Clerk’s Office show the results as:

Ward 1 — Democrats Jan Schmidt, William Bordy and Bruce Cohen defeated Republicans Elizabeth Ferreira, Tom Lanzara and Carl Seidel.

Ward 2 — Democrats Paul R. Bergeron, Ray Newman and Sue Newman bested Republicans Michael Balboni and Michael McCarthy.

Ward 3 — Democrats Sherry Dutzy, Patricia Klee and Suzanne Vail defeated Republicans Doris Hohensee, Mariellen MacKay and Lisa Scontsas.

Ward 4 — Democrats David Cote, Fred Davis Jr. and Manny Espitia were uncontested on the ballot.

Ward 5 — Democrats Allison Nutting-Wong, Michael Pedersen and Dan Toomey defeated Republicans Paula Johnson, Di Lothrop and Frank Moore.

Ward 6 — Democrats Ken Gidge, Mark King and Fran Nutter-Upham bested lone Republican candidate Kevin Scully.

Ward 7 — Democrats Greg Indruk, Catherine Sofikitis and Deb Stevens received more votes than Republicans Dee Hogan and Donald Whalen.

Ward 8 — Democrats Skip Cleaver, Latha Mangipudi and Laura Damphousse Telerski defeated Republicans Paul Hutsteiner, Michael Mader and Peter Silva.

Ward 9 — Democrats Linda Harriott-Gathright, Marty Jack, Michael O’Brien Sr. won against Republicans Iang Jeon, Paula Desjardins Moran and Bill Ohm.

N.H. House Seats

Outside Nashua

Republicans faired slightly better outside the Nashua city limits. In District 22, which includes Amherst, Democrats Megan Murray and Julie Radhakrishnan won two of the three available seats. The third seat remained too close to call late Wednesday, as Republican Reed Panasiti maintained a slight lead over Democrat Daniel Veilleux.

In District 26, which includes Brookline, Republican Jack Flanagan is the winner in one of two available seats. The other remains too close to call, with Democrat Brett Hall holding a slight lead against Republican John Lewicke.

For two House seats in District 27, which includes Hollis, Democrat Michelle St. John and Republican Jim Belanger are the winners.

In District 40, Democrat Kat McGhee claimed the one available position.

For District 23, which includes Milford, the four winners included Democrats Joelle Martin, Peter Petrigno and Paul Dargie, along with Republican Charlie Burns.

Despite Nashua’s clear turn to the Democrats, Hudson remains a Republican stronghold. All 11 members elected to represent Hudson in the state House are GOP members: Andrew Renzullo, Kim Rice, Jordan Ulery, James Whittemore, Bob Greene, Alicia Lekas, Tony Lekas, Hershel Nunez, Lynne Ober, Russell Ober and Andrew Prout.

Finally, preliminary results in Merrimack showed a split ticket, with four Republicans and four Democrats elected to serve. Republican winners include Bob L’Heureux, Jeanine Notter, Dick Barry and Dick Hinch. Democrats elected in Merrimack include Rosemarie Rung, Nancy Murphy, Wendy Thomas and Kathryn Stack.

Originally published

Nov. 8, 2018

•••

No. 3

Trump talks death penalty, awareness and border control to combat opioid crisis

MANCHESTER – President Donald Trump promised Monday that the “scourge of drug addiction in America will stop,” and proposed a new course of “toughness” for drug dealers that would include the death penalty.

“Some of these drug dealers will kill thousands of people during their lifetimes, and they will destroy many more lives,” he said, lamenting the fact that dealers may only serve a brief time in prison or just pay fines.

“These are terrible people,” he said. “If we don’t get tough on these people, we are wasting our time. … That toughness includes the death penalty.”

Trump – accompanied by his wife Melania, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar – addressed a small crowd of about 300 people at Manchester Community College Monday afternoon, focusing on the ever-increasing opioid crisis facing New Hampshire and the rest of the country.

He announced his three-point action plan for battling the epidemic at the afternoon speech, which lasted about 40 minutes.

New Hampshire is the second-leading state in the country for opioid-related deaths, with a death rate that is more than twice the national average.

The administration declared the opioid crisis a national emergency in October, something Trump said should have been done long ago.

Trump’s administration is the first to spend so much money on the issue, he said Monday, and will spend more than $6 billion in additional dollars in the next two years.

One of the tenants of his action plan is to reduce the over prescription of painkillers and cut the nationwide opioid prescription fills by one-third within the next three years.

The administration also will work to ensure that at least 75 percent of opioid prescriptions reimbursed by federal health care programs are issued using best practices within three years and 95 percent within five years.

The president said medical personnel will work to create non-addictive painkillers, and his administration will support research and development efforts for a vaccine to prevent opioid addiction, according to a fact sheet from White House officials.

Part of the initiative also includes an awareness campaign that would involve spending money on commercials geared toward scaring children away from drugs.

“We are going to raise a drug-free nation of American children,” he said. “Hopefully, when they see those commercials, they won’t be going to drugs of any kids. We’ll save a lot of lives.”

Trump called for tough restrictions on borders, ports of entry and waterways to protect against the illegal smuggling of drugs as part of a plan to cut off the supply of at its root.

“I told China, don’t send it, and I told Mexico, don’t send it,” he said, adding that 90 percent of opioids in the country come from “our southern border.”

“Eventually, the Democrats will agree with us, and we’ll build a wall to keep the damn drugs out,” he said, meeting with chants of “build a wall” from the crowd.

Another way to stop the supply is to block funding for sanctuary cities, Trump said, an action which he called “crucial,” as these cities are sheltering “some terrible people.”

He again called for the death penalty as a punishment for those who “kill a lot of people,” but admitted that the country may not “be ready for that.”

Another piece of the opioid initiative is to help those struggling with addiction. Trump added that officials are going to expand access to medication-assisted treatment and seek legislative changes to a 1970s-era law that prohibits Medicaid from reimbursing residential treatment at certain facilities with more than 16 beds.

It also is important, Trump said, to make sure that first responders have access to life-saving, overdose-reversing drugs like Narcan, which he called “actually

incredible.”

He said his administration also will help inmates entering and leaving prison make sure they are tested for opioid addiction, and help them access treatment to re-enter society. One of the best things the country can do for them is provide a stable economy, he said, and suggested that it is the best it has ever been.

In combating the current health crisis, “Failure is not an option,” Trump said. “Addiction is not our future.”

Originally published

March 20, 2018

•••

Bloomberg talks upcoming

election, sparks speculation

NASHUA – Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stressed the importance of voting in the upcoming midterm election, while sparking speculation about his 2020 presidential aspirations during a visit to Nashua Saturday morning.

“We’re about to face the biggest test of our political strength on Nov. 6, and the only way to pass it is to get people to the polls,” he said.

Bloomberg, who recently switched to the Democrat Party, stood alongside six Moms Demand Actions volunteers who are running for office in the New Hampshire State House, encouraging common sense gun laws and urging Democrats to take control.

While there’s been speculation that Bloomberg may run for president in 2020, right now he remains focused on Nov. 6.

John Feinblatt, president of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and a senior advisor to former NYC chief executive, said that while meeting with those six “courageous moms,” the mothers got one thing wrong during the conversation.

“They were thanking us, but we were here to thank you,” Feinblatt said.

Bloomberg praised them for their courage to do what’s right, to persevere and to take on tough fights before detailing how in a similar fashion that he never backed away from fights that really matter to him.

Feinblatt said when political leaders in Washington, D.C., were running away from gun safety, Bloomberg looked at creating a new class of political leaders, starting with mayors.

“When everybody else said we will never match the NRA’s ability to mobilize, Mike said, ‘let’s join forces with Shannon Watts (founder of Moms Demand Action) and show the NRA what happens when you mess with moms,'” Feinblatt said.

Many mothers, representing their cause by wearing red Moms Demand Action T-shirts, came together in the third floor auditorium of Nashua City Hall to support Bloomberg and his message on common-sense gun laws.

Growing up in Medford, Massachusetts, Bloomberg, although a New Yorker, remembers his times vacationing in the Granite State.

“In New Hampshire, you’re used to the whole country watching what happens here,” Bloomberg said. “This is a bellwether state, and on election day, you have a chance to show the whole country that candidates who bow down to the NRA can be defeated.”

Saturday marked 24 days until the November election, and Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess reminded out-of-towners of one key fact from decades ago by pointing to the bust of former President John F. Kennedy in from of City Hall.

“JFK, of course, did his first campaign stop when he was running for president right out here in front of City Hall,” Donchess said. “Kind of an interesting fact, I think, for Mayor Bloomberg.”

Bloomberg provided two additional messages on Saturday, a thank-you to those volunteering with the Moms organization, and a reminder to cast a ballot in November that will keep families, communities and the country safe.

He said the idea that the gun lobby can’t be beat may have been true at one time; however, he thinks that’s not true anymore. He said he has never seen more energy behind the movement than right now.

“Keep the America that we know and love moving forward and marching toward a more perfect union that is safer and stronger for all,” Bloomberg said.

Originally published

Oct. 14, 2018

•••

No. 4

Nearly 2K students protest gun violence across the region

NASHUA – “Just because they don’t want to listen to us, doesn’t mean we can’t make them hear us,” Victoria Sanchez shouted into her megaphone Monday morning.

“Change will not be made until we insist our voices are heard.”

A cheer went up from the crowd of more than 300 students gathered outside Nashua High School North.

A chant began, “enough is enough,” they cried, waving their signs.

“Our politicians aren’t the ones going to school every day, fearing for their lives,” Sanchez told the crowd. “We shouldn’t be the ones who have to make the change, but here we are.”

The students standing in the cold in Nashua, were a handful of the thousands across the country who joined a National School Walkout to protest an increase in gun violence in American schools. Many also advocated for stricter gun laws.

The event took place exactly one month after 17 people, mostly students, were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

In the protest Monday morning, which lasted from 10 to 10:17 a.m., Sanchez read the names and ages of each of the victims before asking for a moment of silence.

Signs, some elaborate, others simple, said the students were fed up with the current state of affairs.

“It could have been here,” one sign read. “Me Next?” another asked. One claimed that young women’s clothing choices are more strictly policed in schools than guns are. Another simply read, “You can’t fight firearms with firearms.”

“Teenagers’ opinions should be valued,” Sanchez said after the protest. “What we have to say is important.”

She implored her fellow students to contact local and state representatives to advocate for a change.

Across the bridge at Nashua High School South, hundreds more students also gathered to speak, memorialize and act.

“People were ready to support the cause,” Hannah Hansen, one of the organizers said. “It was really touching to look at.”

“This shooting was just different,” another organizer, Lyssa Brogan said. The students in Parkland, who quickly became the advocates for their own cause, were the ones who started it, she said. “They lit the fire.”

The Parkland students also organized a march on Washington March 24, the “March for Our Lives.”

In the 19 years since Columbine, the 11 since Virginia Tech, and the five since Sandy Hook, government officials and people across the country have only offered “thoughts and prayers,” Hansen said, and they want more than that.

The two seniors both said their parents had been supportive of their organizing efforts. Hansen said her family felt strongly that they didn’t want to feel the pain of the parents who had lost their children to school violence.

Not all parents were supportive of the protests, and not all students were either.

In Merrimack, more than 850 students chose to walk out in protest. Others stayed in their classrooms.

A smaller group of seven to 10 students chose to host a counter protest and gathered around the flag to support their Second Amendment rights, said Kenneth Johnson, Merrimack High School’s principal. One young man in that group chose to salute the flag for the entire 17 minutes.

“Each student who wanted the opportunity to express themselves was able to do so,” Johnson said. “Everyone was extremely respectful of everyone’s opinions.”

“Please understand that, as a public school, this is not about promoting one political agenda over another. These days, there is an escalating importance when it comes to listening to student voices – listening to what they have to say,” he said in a memo to parents.

For those who chose to walk out in protest of gun violence in schools, he said the organizing students were “brilliant and exceptionally well spoken.”

Each of the victims’ names were read with a brief biography, followed by a moment of silence. Johnson called the experience “incredibly powerful.” The event was closed to the public.

At Hollis Brookline High School, their “walkout,” in which nearly 400 students gathered in the auditorium, the event was also private.

“They want to express their solidarity with their fellow students across the nation regarding this important issue of their time – school safety,” Rick Barnes, HBHS’s principal said in a statement to parents.

The desire was to have the event be for students, by students.

“We see this as an opportunity for students to participate in active civic engagement as led by their peers,” he said, adding that he was very proud of the students. “They are exemplars on how a community can come together and put passion and convictions to work in an effective but appropriate manner in the desire to bring about change.”

Originally published

March 15, 2018

•••

No. 5

Former BOE president sues city for $1.5M

NASHUA – Former Board of Education president George Farrington, who had a verbal confrontation with Superintendent Jahmal Mosley at the school office in March, via a federal lawsuit seeks $1.5 million in damages from the city for alleged civil rights violations.

Mosley worked to legally bar Farrington from the school district’s administrative offices on Ledge Street after the incident. Farrington is suing based upon his belief that this violates his right to due process, while he also claims Mosley made defamatory statements against him.

Farrington’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Concord, names the city, Mosley, and Nashua Police officer Jaime Abrams as defendants.

Farrington was told to leave the administrative offices during a March 29 incident, which began with a public records request. Farrington was at the offices to pick up documents he requested related to school business. Though he had been voted out of office in November, Farrington was keeping up with school issues and publicly voiced his concerns within the community, according to the lawsuit.

When he arrived at the school office building, Farrington spoke to the receptionist and received permission to go into the back offices to see a friend who was close to retirement. According to the lawsuit, that’s when he was confronted by Mosley.

“I want you to leave. I do not want you in the building where I work,” Mosley reportedly said to Farrington.

Farrington states in his lawsuit that he did not vote to hire Mosley during the search to find a new school superintendent the prior academic year. Farrington claims that in the seven months he worked with Mosley, he made a good faith effort to cooperate.

After being confronted, Farrington refused to leave the building, despite Mosley’s threats to call police, according to the lawsuit. Farrington took a seat in the offices.

Mosley called police, stating there was a disorderly man in the building, an assertion Farrington denies. According to Abrams’ police report, Mosley called in the disorderly person, but when a dispatcher made repeated calls for more information, Mosley would “provide limited information and hang up.”

Mosley initially told Abrams that Farrington did not have permission to go beyond the reception desk and into the office area. The receptionist told Abrams this was not true, according to both the lawsuit and the police report, and that Farrington did ask for and was granted permission to see his friend in the office area.

At this point, because of the nature of the calls Mosley made to police, there were four officers in the district offices responding to Farrington’s presence. Abrams told Farrington that while he had a right to be in a public building, he was disrupting the normal slow of business. Farrington then agreed to leave.

According to both the lawsuit and the police report, Mosley questioned Abrams as to why he allowed Farrington to leave the building, instead of placing him under arrest. After Abrams explained the law to Mosley, the superintendent claimed Farrington presented a safety concern for his staff, according to the police

report.

Abrams then said if there is a safety concern, Mosley could ask a court for a restraining order. After Abrams explained that would involve going before a judge to describe the nature of the threat Farrington represented, Mosley said he did not have time to seek a restraining order, according to the police report.

Mosley does not describe the nature of the threat Farrington represented when speaking to Abrams, according to the police report.

Mosley pressed for answers and Abrams offered to issue a no trespass order on Farrington, intended to him out of the building for one year. That order could be issued that day in person, Abrams explained in the police report, require no paperwork, and result in an arrest if Farrington were to violate the order. Mosley agreed and Abrams went to Farrington’s house that day and issued the no trespassing order, according to both the lawsuit and the police report.

That night, Mosley sent an email to BOE members describing the incident, claiming Farrington was aggressive and his actions unsettling. Mosley also states in the email he will ban Farrington from all building in the district if need be.

“I do not want to do this, as my intentions are for him to simply stop with the disturbing behavior,” Mosley writes in the March 29 email. “However, if his behavior continues to escalate and I believe that any faculty or student in this district may be at risk of bearing witness to his behavior, I will issue a no trespassing order for the whole district.”

Farrington denies he was acting in the threatening way. His attorney, Richard Lehmann, writes in the lawsuit that Mosley’s email is defamatory.

“That email created the misleading and false impression that Mr. Farrington had engaged in conduct that was threatening or created a risk of harm when in fact Mr. Farrington engaged in no conduct that would have caused a reasonable person, and did not in fact cause Dr. Mosley, to believe that Mr. Farrington’s behavior was in any way inappropriate, threatening or aggressive,” Lehmann writes.

Aside from the defamation, Farrington’s lawsuit alleges that his due process rights were violated by the issuance of the no trespassing order.

The city, Mosley, and Abrams had yet to be served with the lawsuit late Monday. No hearings have yet been scheduled in the case. Farrington is seeking $1.5 million in damages, attorneys fees, the revocation of his no trespass order, and to bar the district from issuing such orders without first due process.

Originally published

June 19, 2018

•••

No. 6

N.H. ticket sole winner

of $559M jackpot

MERRIMACK, N.H. (AP) – It’s been a billion-dollar lottery weekend after a lone Powerball ticket sold in New Hampshire matched all six numbers and will claim a $559.7 million jackpot, one day after another single ticket sold in Florida nabbed a $450 million Mega Millions grand prize.

Since Reeds Ferry Market opened at 5:30 a.m. Sunday, dozens of excited regulars have stopped by the small, independent convenience store in New Hampshire that sold the winning Powerball ticket to congratulate the owner and chat about the win, store owner Sam Safa said. He said he doesn’t know the identity of the winner, but hopes one of the regulars from the over 100-year-old store in Merrimack, about 25 miles south of Concord, won the nation’s eighth-largest lottery jackpot.

“I’m very excited and overwhelmed,” said Safa.

He said that by selling the ticket, it felt like he himself had won. The store will receive a $75,000 bonus for selling the winning ticket.

The winning Powerball numbers drawn Saturday night were 12-29-30-33-61 and Powerball 26.

The initial jackpot was estimated at $570 million, but the actual jackpot at the time of the drawing was the lesser amount, $559.7 million, New Hampshire Lottery Spokeswoman Maura McCann said Sunday.

The winner had not yet come forward as of Sunday evening.

“We are looking forward to meeting New Hampshire’s latest big winner – someone woke up a

multimillionaire this morning!” said New Hampshire Lottery Executive Director Charlie McIntyre.

The Florida Lottery says the winning Mega Millions ticket from Friday night’s drawing was bought at a 7-Eleven convenience store in Port Richey. The retailer will receive a $100,000 bonus for selling the ticket. The identity of that winner also had not yet been revealed.

The winning numbers to claim the Mega Millions jackpot were 28-30-39-59-70-10.

The jackpots refer to the annuity options for both games, in which payments are made over 29 years. Most winners opt for cash options, which would be $281 million for Mega Millions and $358.5 million for Powerball.

The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are one in 302.5 million. Powerball odds are one in 292.2 million.

Originally published

Jan. 8, 2018

•••

Powerball winner remains

‘Jane Doe’

MERRIMACK – The $550 million Powerball winner gets to remain anonymous thanks to a judge’s ruling, though her hometown will be disclosed as public record.

“We’re thrilled with the ruling,” said William Shaheen, one of the woman’s attorneys.

Judge Charles Temple ordered that Jane Doe can remain anonymous after collecting more than $350 million, the lump sum amount of her Powerball jackpot. However, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission is free to disclose the woman’s hometown, though not her street address or phone number. Shaheen said the hometown disclosure makes official something of an open secret, that the woman lives in town.

“We always suspected everyone knew that anyway,” Shaheen said.

The woman won the jackpot after buying a ticket at Reeds Ferry Market ahead of the Jan. 6 drawing. The woman signed her ticket after it came back as the winning numbers, meaning that her identity would become public record under New Hampshire law once she picked up her winnings.

The woman sued in court to have the right to pick up the money anonymously, through a trust. New Hampshire law allows lottery winners to use trusts to remain anonymous, but not after signing the ticket. The lottery commission fought the woman over the law.

Temple worte in his ruling he wanted to balance the public’s right to know against the woman’s right to privacy. Jane Doe has stated through her attorneys that she is afraid of being targeted or harassed if her identity becomes known.

Temple acknowledged that lottery winners have reported being contacted by people looking for money, and there are numerous reports of winners being criminally harassed.

“(T)he record clearly shows that lottery winners, in general, are subject to repeated solicitation, harassment and even violence,” Temple wrote.

There is a public interest in disclosing the woman’s identity, Temple wrote, including the need to show the lottery itself is being conducted fairly. The New Hampshire Supreme Court has ruled that the public has a right to know the amounts of lottery winnings being paid, and to whom that money is going.”

“(T)he Court likewise holds that the public has an interest in learning the identity of lottery winners, because those winners receive their payments directly from a public entity, and learning the identity of the winners enables scrutiny of those payments,” Temple wrote.

But, since there is no credible evidence the Lottery Commission is engaged in any corrupt activity, and because the Commission already allows people to collect their money anonymously, Temple ruled that the woman’s right to privacy means she can remain Jane Doe, though he is allowing for the release of her

hometown.

The Commission, through a statement put out Monday afternoon, said it is considering an appeal of Temple’s ruling.

“While we were expecting a different outcome and believed the state had a strong argument, we respect the court’s decision,” the statement reads. “That said, we will consult with the Attorney General’s office to determine appropriate next steps regarding the case.”

Jane Does already has given away hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity since collecting her winnings, and Shaheen said she hopes to give away between $25 and $50

million.

Originally published

March 13, 2018

•••

No. 7

Homeowners wants answers from city over tax issues

NASHUA – Laurie Ortolano of 41 Berkeley St. believes she and other city residents are seeing their properties unfairly assessed, leading to disproportionate increases in the value of certain homes – and causing unreasonable hikes in taxes.

Ortolano has questions about the city’s record-keeping and data entry practices, particularly with the Nashua Assessing Department.

Ortolano’s allegations regarding the city’s activities are prompting The Telegraph to file multiple inquiries, including Right to Know requests, with the Nashua Assessing Department, as well as other departments within the city.

Ortolano seems to have conducted plenty of research, compiling stacks of property cards, while creating storyboards and documents to make a comparative analysis of properties throughout Nashua.

Though she has brought these concerns to the attention of city officials – including officials in the Mayor’s Office, the Assessor’s office, and Chief Financial Officer John Griffin – Ortolano said there have been few answers provided on why these discrepancies are occurring.

Through her work, Ortolano said she has seen many discrepancies regarding the ability of officials in the Assessor’s Office to thoroughly record and track data. This includes the updating of property cards, the exclusion of building permits into the assessed value of home, and the length of time that elapses between assessments.

Using her house as a baseline, Ortolano said she notice that of the 10 properties sold on Berkeley Street from 2013 to 2017, only three of the properties were verified by MLS.Com. She believes this raises the question as to the consistency with which the city is updating data on home sales.

Some of those listings which remain unverified had sales dates ranging from September 2015 to September 2017.

After pulling more property cards, Ortolano noticed another trend: many properties had building permits that were either not captured by city officials, or captured permits that she believes were significantly underestimated. She researched properties on Chester Street and compared them to work done on her house prior to her closing in 2013.

Her house had a $5,000 permit captured, which she believes – with all the work included – would have been a value of as much as $30,000.

Cards pulled from Chester Street that were similar to her property showed that one property had a permit pulled in 2016 for $177,000, but the property card was only changed by $4,000. Another property had a permit of $40,000 that closed in 2014, but had no change in assessment on that house’s property card.

Ortolano said these permits and assessment values lead to questions as to how the values are assessed and why the work done is not equivalent to the permits that are pulled.

Officials at City Hall provided The Telegraph a document that outlines procedures, including the process of capturing building permits. It states that all building permits must be run in CityView – the software used by the assessing department – on the fourth or fifth of every month. As to processing and filing the permits, there was no monthly or yearly date provided regarding when they should be closed.

In a response, city officials said they are familiar with the concerns. They said questions about pulling of permits have been investigated, while they also said they take concerns brought to their attention very seriously.

“Assessing is an ongoing complex process and it’s heavily data driven,” Deputy Corporation Council Celia K. Leonard said in response to the concerns. “It’s regulated by state laws that the city tries to meet every day.”

Leonard said Mayor Jim Donchess and members of the Board of Aldermen are taking these concerns very seriously. They are currently investigating these issues and Griffin will be presenting a report on the investigations next meeting, she said.

Originally published

Nov. 8, 2018

•••

No. 8

Arts center gets its votes

NASHUA – The $15.5 million performing arts center will become a reality, as the Board of Aldermen voted 14-1 Tuesday night in favor of the plan.

“I think the underlying purpose here is to improve our economy, strengthen our downtown and improve the quality of life for all Nashuans,” Mayor Jim Donchess said.

The proposal will put a 500-700 seat theater at 201 Main St., the former home to Alec’s Shoes.

The center will have a theater, meeting space and retail space the city can lease to businesses. It also is expected to have an art gallery space through a partnership with Manchester’s Currier Museum.

Nashua’s Economic Development Director Tim Cummings has said that conservative estimates indicate Nashua will generate around $1 million in economic activity for the downtown once the performing arts center is up and running. The center also is seen as a way to increase property values downtown and at the same time attract people to the city.

While the plan has been popular with downtown merchants, some residents have expressed concerns about the cost and city priorities.

Tyler Gouveia, a 19-year-old college student, said the city needs to focus on real priorities before it spends $15.5 million on the art center. Roads need repairs, and city schools need tens of millions in repairs, he said.

“It seems at this time we should be looking for ways to invest our taxpayers’ money in both public education and safety versus a nice-to-have and not need-to-have performing arts center,” Gouveia said.

Donchess said the proposal shows a confidence in the city’s future. The expanded downtown economy will help everyone in the city, and it will bring in more tax revenue to help pay for infrastructure, police and fire services, he said.

“A community of an active downtown is doing well. A downtown with all the vacant stores is seen as having given up,” Donchess said.

The board voted in favor of the same performing arts center plan in September, but the proposal failed to get the necessary supermajority. A November, non-binding ballot question won a majority at the polls.

The one holdout vote Tuesday night was Ward 5 Alderman Ernie Jette. Jette said that while he supports the performing arts center, he promised to vote with his ward.

With Ward 5 voting against the proposal in November, Jette said he had to keep his word to his voters.

Originally published

Feb. 14, 2018

•••

No. 9

Nashua’s first Pride Fest

attracts huge crowd

NASHUA – Close to 1,000 people filled the streets of downtown Nashua to cheer on parade participants during Nashua’s inaugural Pride Festival on Saturday.

From rainbow flags and balloon banners to shirts emboldened with messages of equality and acceptance to even pooches decked out in pride gear, people and pets of all ages came out to celebrate and support the LBGTQ community.

The parade featured individuals from all different organizations, schools, businesses, churches and all walks of life, whether they were members of the Gay-Straight Alliance, congregates from the Unitarian Church of Nashua, drag show performers or simply passionate members of the community advocating for inclusivity and equal rights.

Some of the Pride Fest participants were no stranger to events like this one, such as Maitland Ishmaeo, who attending a similar Pride Fest earlier this month.

“This is the second Pride event I’ve been to,” Ishmaeo said. “I want to see that we have equal rights and decisions in life and for everyone to respect that. I’m here to encourage that mentality so everyone can have a place in this world.”

Others who had long seen Nashua as an accepting community were thrilled to finally have the opportunity to attend a Pride event in their home city.

Pride-goer Ryder Bellair said, “I think it’s really great that we actually have a Pride for once, because Nashua’s always been a queer-accepting community, so it’s nice we now have an event to celebrate who we are.”

Some have deep connections to organization that promote a similar unifying and equalizing mentality and were excited to see it spread on a much wider scale through the Pride Fest.

“I’ve been a part of something like this since high school,” said Pride Fest participant Parker Godwan. “I’ve been in the Gay Straight Alliance from freshman year all the way to junior year, so seeing the community come together is super terrific. I hope it continues to get bigger and bring more people together.”

And, for many, Pride Fest proved to be more than just an event to celebrate the LGBTQ community. For Nicky Conroy, for instance, it served as an assurance that no matter who you are and regardless of your sexuality, there are always people who will stand by your side to provide acceptance and support.

“I came out when I was 12 years old, and I want other kids to know that Nashua is an accepting community and all these people are here to be there for you and show you’re not alone,” Conroy said.

Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess echoed Conroy’s words as he took the stage shortly after the parade to welcome everyone to Pride Fest and share some words about the significance of the event.

“Regardless of your sexual orientation or your country of origin, each and every one of you is welcome here. I hope the Pride Fest helps to demonstrate that today,” Donchess said.

Following the mayor’s and other speakers’ recognition of influential LGBTQ supporters and push for community and nationwide acceptance and equality were performances from TransPosition Vocal Ensemble, a New Hampshire-based chorus for Transgender/Gender-Nonconforming individuals and Allies, and the New Hampshire Gay Men’s Chorus, a chorus group that seeks to present quality entertainment as well as a positive image of the gay community in New Hampshire. The Pride Fest then closed in spectacular style with the Main Drag Show.

“I think it’s amazing that Nashua now has a Pride Fest,” said drag show participant Mia E Z’lay. “Any chance we get to be accepted and show love, especially with everyone always so angry right now, is a step forward for the queer community.”

Throughout the event, Pride participants also enjoyed food and refreshments from local food trucks as well as the chance to visit with local organizations and business at tables set up along Water Street, all providing resources, support materials and celebratory items centered around the LGBTQ community.

The Pride Fest aimed to celebrate diversity, acceptance, equality and, especially, the inclusion of all people regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. Falling in line with the state’s recent passing of the Marriage Equality Bill and decision to raise the Pride flag high and proud next to the American flag in front of City Hall, the mayor hopes the Pride Fest helps to expand the city’s efforts of promoting equal rights.

“We held this Pride Fest in the spirit of inclusion,” Donchess said. “We want to welcome everyone to Nashua. Everyone is a citizen of our community, and we want to make sure everyone knows they’re welcome.”

Originally published

July 1, 2018

•••

No. 10

Nashua Farmers Market debuts in new location

NASHUA – The Nashua Farmers Market opened for the first time this season to a large crowd, offering attendees a variety of goods, from ice cream and baked goods to paintings and produce.

Moving from its former location – Le Parc de Notre Renaissance Francaise along Water Street to a stretch of Main Street between Temple and East Pearl streets – organizers, attendees and vendors had nothing but positive things to say about the Great American Downtown-sponsored event and the move.

“A lot of the issues we had in the previous location, like proximity to parking, handicapped accessibility (are gone) – all I have seen today is smiling faces from the people that are happy with the experience,” said Great American Downtown Executive Director Paul Shea. “We haven’t heard any of the complaints that came with the previous location. Overall, I’m really happy.”

“The police and fire (departments) were pleased with how smooth it went with the setup, so that is exciting,” Shea added.

Even more exciting was the additional foot traffic spurred by the relocation.

“I think, in the ballpark, we had two to three hundred more people than we were expecting,” Shea said. “The early turnout was exceptional.”

The strong turnout, of course, meant stronger sales for the 40-plus vendors set up at the Market’s kickoff.

“A lot of vendors sold out of stuff,” Shea said. “This was, for them, the best market they had done. I think I heard maybe four or five vendors say this was the best market they had done, in terms of their experience doing markets. I think we had a lot of folks from our church communities downtown coming out to support the market. I think we had a lot of people excited that wanted to come check it out, and they did, and were pleasantly surprised with what they found.”

What attendees found was a variety, the proverbial something for everyone. Aside from several produce offerings, attendees were treated to confections from Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt and JajaBelle’s; paintings from Graffiti Paint Bar; wine from WineNot Boutique and Coffin Cellars; soaps; crafts; and more. Live entertainment also was offered, which drew crowds throughout the day.

From here, Shea expects addition growth throughout the season.

“I think we are going to see a few more vendors coming in,” he said. I have two produce vendors that will be joining the market a little later in the season; it’s a little too early for a lot of crops. We’ll have Sullivan Farm joining us in a couple of weeks. We are going to have a bread vendor join us who’s working on their commercial kitchen approval and a couple other vendors, and we are going to do some outreach to some more artisanal product-type vendors and try to fill it out.”

“We can only really accommodate an additional eight to 10 more vendors in this area, then we will have to look to grow further,” Shea added. “I think what we will see is light growth as the season goes on. We will likely hang in at around 45 or 50 vendors.”

The Nashua Farmers Market is open every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Main Street from Temple to East Pearl streets. For additional information, call 603-883-5700 or email paulwshea@downtownnashua.org.

Originally published

June 18, 2018