April 03. 2013 10:47PM

Charges dropped, Auburn officer says chief gave him rifle

Union Leader Correspondent

State prosecutors dropped all charges against a retired Auburn police lieutenant accused of taking a Remington rifle from an evidence room about six days after he told a judge that Police Chief Edward Picard gave him the weapon.

The case against David Flight was suddenly upended by the state Attorney General's Office last Tuesday, roughly two weeks before the start of trial. Flight, a former evidence officer and department prosecutor, was indicted in September on felony counts of theft by unauthorized taking and receiving stolen property for allegedly taking the high-powered rifle from the department's evidence room sometime after Dec. 7, 1992.

Prosecutors said last week that new, credible evidence surfaced that suggested it would have been a challenge to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Flight's claim about how he came to acquire the 30-06 Remington rifle seized from a home in 1992 was first disclosed to investigators more than a year ago, according to defense lawyer Eric Wilson.

Flight told state police investigators who came to his home with a search warrant last Feb. 8 that the gun was not stolen.

"He advised that Chief Picard had given him the gun in consideration for storing a large number of seized weapons at his home which the Auburn Police Department could not accommodate in its evidence room," Wilson said in court papers. Wilson told a judge that Flight "provided numerous other examples of weapons being given to officers by Chief Picard."

Picard could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Judge Kenneth McHugh did not act on the request by the defense to dismiss the charges, and state prosecutors never filed any kind of response to contest a possible dismissal. Instead, a prosecutor came to court last Tuesday and dropped the charges, writing they were "inexpedient" to prosecute.

Wilson also contended that the state was beyond any statute of limitations to bring a case against Flight.

"Unless the state can prove the offenses occurred sometime after September 7, 2006, it is barred from any further prosecution," Wilson said in the court filing.

Flight, a 21-year veteran of the department, retired in November 2010 after a town audit of the department's evidence room was deemed "inconclusive." Town officials have never revealed what was missing from the evidence room, but acknowledged after Flight's indictment that it was not the Remington rifle.

After charges were dropped last week, Wilson said that prosecutors should have never brought the case. The theft investigation began last January after two Auburn police sergeants attempted to locate the Remington rifle from the department's evidence room, seized from a home in 1992 while investigating a home invasion.

A computer check revealed to the sergeants that Flight briefly handed over the same gun in 2009 after his then-wife filed a domestic violence complaint against him. Once cleared in that case, the rifle was given back to Flight, but created a new record of it being in the department's possession.

The department then notified the state Attorney General's Office about their findings.