BRENTWOOD — Racist graffiti on about 20 state and town road signs around Newmarket prompted a judge on Thursday to sentence a 45-year-old man to two to four years in state prison on criminal mischief and weapons charges.
Brian Croall of Newmarket pleaded guilty last week to five counts of felon in possession of a firearm, criminal mischief and a misdemeanor possession of marijuana charge.
Croall defaced road signs around town last July 16 with swastikas and praise for George Zimmerman, the man acquitted of murder in the shooting death of teen Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., according to prosecutors. In a police search of his home, it was discovered that Croall had more than 30 firearms, despite being a felon.
Defense lawyer Stephen Jeffco argued on Thursday that the guns were owned by Croall’s late father, Robert, a longtime collector of antiques and rare firearms who died in December 2011.
“It’s not like Brian was out grabbing guns from someplace,” Jeffco said. “There’s no allegation in the case that he threatened anyone with a firearm or that a firearm was ever removed from the house.”
Jeffco argued that Croall should receive a suspended state prison sentence and ordered to undergo counseling, saying his client suffered from emotional issues exacerbated by the father’s death.
“I am certainly not excusing it,” Jeffco said. “But to say that Brian has problems — emotional problems — is an understatement.”
Assistant County Attorney Howard Helrich argued for the two- to four-year prison term, saying Croall had ignored a court order that barred him from owning firearms after pleading guilty to reckless conduct in a 2011 gun incident in a Seabrook parking lot on Nov. 20, 2011.
Croall had thought someone had stolen his car radio while he was at a local restaurant, but had looked inside the wrong car before firing the .25 caliber handgun, according to prosecutors.
He had received a 12-month suspended jail sentence in August 2012 in exchange for his guilty plea.
Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Marguerite Wageling said that Croall posed a danger to the community, especially since he apparently ignored an earlier court order stemming from the 2011 gun incident.
“The reality is that you are not listening to the court’s order,” Wageling said. “You knew that you weren’t supposed to be in possession of firearms.”
Croall was ordered to pay $2,161.71 in restitution for the damaged signs.