April 06. 2013 4:04PM

UPDATED: Auburn chief rebuts AG letter regarding dropped charges against ex-officer

Union Leader Correspondent

BRENTWOOD – Attorney General Michael Delaney said on Friday that his office dropped the prosecution of David Flight after paperwork surfaced just prior to trial that suggested he stored a cache of 50 rifles at his home on behalf of the Auburn police department.

That account, according to Delaney, was in direct conflict with statements made by Auburn Chief Edward Picard, who adamantly denied on Thursday that he ever gave a Remington 30-06 rifle to Flight as a payment for storing seized weapons at his home.

Flight, a retired Auburn police lieutenant, was headed to trial on Monday, charged with receiving stolen property and theft by unauthorized taking for allegedly stealing the high powered Remington rifle from the department's evidence room sometime after Dec. 7, 1992.

A pair of “daily activity logs” by Flight and another officer from August 26, 1992 – which detailed moving the 50 rifles to Flight's home -- led the Attorney General's Office to drop all charges last Tuesday.

The decision happened just two weeks before Flight's trial.

Delaney said if his investigators had those documents earlier, “they certainly would have played a significant role in our decision to present this case to the grand jury.”

Picard said in an interview on Thursday that the cache of weapons was part of a State Police case, but that Flight made a report of moving the guns.

Picard also said he was prepared to testify at trial to rebut any claim that Flight was given the rifle.

In a statement released on Friday, view the letter here, Picard said many people with personal knowledge about the rifle “have since retired, passed away, or moved out of the area.”

“At no time were any weapons given to David Flight or any other police officer as “gifts” from evidence storage,” Picard said in the statement.

“I would like to thank the Attorney General's Office for its year-long investigation,” the chief added. “It is extremely difficult to investigate something that is over 20 years old. We have had many years of mutual respect and cooperation, and will continue to have the same.”

Delaney said at the outset of the investigation Picard, “stated unequivocally that there had been no seizure of weapons too large to fit in (the) evidence room,” and that his department “never would have authorized the storage of firearms at a personal residence, and that no weapons had been stored at David Flight's house.”

State investigators spent months interviewing witnesses, including Flight and Picard, to determine how Flight came to possess the rifle.

“He said that you gave him the rifle at issue, which had been taken in to evidence on an unrelated matter, as payment for storing the (other) weapons at his home,” Delaney said in a letter to Picard released Friday. “When asked about Mr. Flight's account, you told the investigators that you believed (those) weapons were stored at the Rockingham County Sheriff's Office.”

Delaney said his investigators initially sought records from the police department about the 1992 seizure of 50 rifles from a man by the last name of Trudeau.

“They were told the paperwork and files no longer existed,” Delaney said.

But Auburn police were able to produce the logs created by Flight and a second officer just last month, prior to a final court hearing usually held roughly two weeks before trial.

“These documents directly contradict your statements to investigators that there was no seizure of weapons that would have been stored at David Flight's house,” Delaney said. “Despite our requests for all paperwork or files in the department's possession concerning the Trudeau weapons, these documents were not provided to us until March 21, 2013, just seven days before the final pretrial conference.”

Picard was out of town on Friday night on a planned trip, said Auburn Police Commissioner David Dion. He said the chief planned to return on Wednesday.

Picard set off the investigation into Flight last January when he reported to the Attorney General's Office that the Remington rifle was missing from the police department's evidence room. He also provided records which showed Flight now possessed the same gun.

If Flight's theory was true about being given the gun, Dion said, then Picard would have no reason to report the matter to the state Attorney General's Office.

“He would have had no reason to do that had he given that gun to Flight, or to other officers,” Dion said on Friday night.

The criminal case was brought nearly two years after Flight retired from the department in November 2010 after an audit into inventory missing from the department's evidence room was deemed inconclusive.

The audit prompted the department to upgrade security measures for the evidence room, an improvement Delaney mentioned in his letter.

“After speaking with your officers, it is clear that your department has taken steps to maintain evidence integrity that were not in place back in 1992,” he said. “However, the evidence storage decisions made in 1992 were not made with the care taken today.”

Delaney said when his prosecutors met with Picard a day after the charges were dropped, the chief, “acknowledged that these daily time logs would have adversely impacted the presentation of the case before a jury.”