CONCORD - Hooksett's former Department of Public Works director will serve six months in jail after being convicted of 11 of 12 charges related to theft of town-owned property.
Dale Hemeon, 57, converted town property to his own use, operating a side business on the weekends using town employees he paid cash under the table, according to Assistant Merrimack County Attorney Wayne P. Coull.
The defense case was: "He didn't do this, he didn't do that," said Coull. But after Hemeon was convicted and faced the prospect of prison, Coull said: "Suddenly he has an epiphany."
Hemeon did not testify during his trial, but at Thursday's hearing he said: "I take full responsibility for what happened. "
Paid $78,600 by Hooksett in 2010, Hemeon was a town employee for 21 years before he was fired in April 2011.
"I always tried to be a good person," he said Thursday.
He said he's now working six days a week driving a truck. If he goes to jail, he said he would lose his house. He also said his wife doesn't know how to operate the snow blower and he needs to check in on his 83-year-old widowed mother.
Coull called the 30-plus citizens who showed up to support Hemeon at Thursday's sentencing hearing in Merrimack County Superior Court "collateral victims."
Many of those in attendance, however, view Hemeon the way Jim Sullivan, chairman of the town council, does. Sullivan, speaking as a friend of Hemeon's since the 1980s and not as a town official, asked Judge Larry Smuckler for leniency in sentencing Hemeon.
"I believe we are better off because of his involvement in the town," Sullivan said.
David Erickson, a Manchester middle school teacher and Hemeon's brother-in-law, said Hemeon is family-oriented, takes care of his elderly mother and once was voted Hooksett's Citizen of the Year.
"He's a good man who made a mistake," Erickson told the judge. "Dale is extremely remorseful."
Mary Farwell said she has known Hemeon since the early 1980s and described him as a "good and decent man."
But she also said: "He came from a time when boundaries were not clear ... Dale may not have been as careful as he should have been."
Coull asked the court to sentence Hemeon to 12 months in the county jail, with four months suspended, on the misdemeanor convictions, and give him a one- to three-year sentence, all suspended, on the felony convictions.
Smuckler sentenced Hemeon to six months in the Merrimack County House of Corrections on each misdemeanor, with the sentences concurrent, and ordered Hemeon to surrender to start serving the sentence June 3.
On the felonies, he sentenced Hemeon to one to six years in the New Hampshire State Prison, consecutive to the jail sentence, all suspended for five years of good behavior.
Hemeon was charged with felony and misdemeanor theft by unauthorized taking, and conspiracy to commit theft by unauthorized taking. He was convicted of 11 charges and acquitted of a 12th, the theft of a landscaping trailer.
The thefts occurred between April 10, 2009 and March 23, 2011.
The other charges involved taking chain saws, a push mower, hedge trimmer, weed trimmer, a leaf blower, two generators, tractor, shelter, aerator, plow, mower and a silt seeder all on March 23, 2011.
Coull wanted Hemeon to be ordered to pay $11,763 in restitution, an amount defense attorney Emile Bussiere Jr. disputed. He said the $3,600 was split among four people and the value the prosecutor assessed on the other property was inflated.
Smuckler ordered Hemeon to pay restitution of $3,274 to Hooksett in a check delivered to Coull by the end of the day Thursday.
Joshua Lacroix of Goffstown, who worked for the DPW for 11 years, was convicted in Hooksett District Court of misdemeanor theft charges in relation to the items sold at the scrap yard. He was ordered to make restitution, according to Coull. He, too, was fired.
New Hampshire Union Leader writer Dale Vincent contributed to this report.