State Street store owner Brian Blackden testifies in the trial of Hill Police Sgt. Jonathan Evans, left, at Concord District Court on Aug. 25 this past summer. (David Lane/Union Leader File Photo)
CONCORD - Brian Blackden will get his jury trial on charges that he impersonated emergency medical workers at an accident scene more than two years ago.
The state Supreme Court ruled that he should have received a jury trial in superior court and has ordered the case remanded for a jury trial.
Blackden was charged with impersonating emergency medical personnel at an accident in Canterbury. At the time he was working as a freelance news photographer, taking pictures of accident and crime scenes, and used a converted ambulance while dressed in a coat and helmet.
Convicted by a judge in district court, Blackden exercised his right to ask for a jury trial in superior court. But the Merrimack County Attorney reduced the charge from a class A misdemeanor to a class B misdemeanor, and the judge ordered the case to a bench trial without a jury in superior court.
A unanimous Supreme Court, in an order based on papers filed in the case, agreed with Blackden that the prosecutor "improperly deprived him of that right by reducing the class A misdemeanor of which he was convicted in the circuit court to a class B misdemeanor after he appealed for a de novo jury trial in superior court.
Blackden appealed with case to the Supreme Court on his own, without an attorney. "It reminds me of an old story in the Bible called David and Goliath, that's what it feels like," Blackden said.
In the original trial, Blackden was fined $1,000 after his conviction. The justices ordered that that sentence be vacated, but said if he decides to waive his right to a jury trial in superior court, the circuit court can reimpose the sentence.
Merrimack County Attorney Scott Murray did not return a call late Friday seeking comment.
Trial on the criminal charge will be held before a jury, and Blackden said he may ask for a change of venue to get the case away from the courthouse where he was improperly given a bench trial instead of trial by jury.
"I think common sense will take over instead of what has occurred throughout this whole ordeal," he said. "I trust 12 citizens more than what I consider the play-manship on the state's side that has taken place so far."
Blackden is suing the state police in U.S. District Court in Concord, claiming that police have violated his rights. That case has been put on hold until the charges against him in the state criminal courts have been resolved.
Blackden was also the center of controversy over a case in which he claimed a group of police officers visited his business on Main Street in Concord and stole a Red Dawgs motorcycle vest.
Blackden said he bought the vest at auction and used it to promote his self-defense equipment business.
Two officers were ultimately charged in the case; one was acquitted, the other committed suicide.
The officer who went to trial on the case was acquitted because, the judge said, he brought the vest to the Concord police station soon after taking it when a group of motorcycle riders descended on Blackden's business.
Judge Gerard Boyle ruled that because the officer had the vest for a only short period of time, he lacked the requisite intent to permanently deprive Blackden in the case.