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Lawyer says Heed sentencing for DWI involved no special treatment

New Hampshire Sunday News

January 26. 2013 7:21PM

Former Attorney General Peter Heed can be heard laughing seven times on the Keene circuit court audiotape of his four-minute DWI sentencing hearing Tuesday, but it shed no new light on what happened the night of Jan. 10 when he was arrested at 11:30 p.m.

"I'm 62 years old. I should know better, you know, but I would learn," Heed said with a laugh at the hearing.

Heed, of Westmoreland, also told Judge Lawrence A. Mac-Leod he was sorry.

"I apologize to your honor. I apologize to the state police," Heed said.

"I am thoroughly embarrassed. You can rest assured you won't see me here again, at least not on this side of the table."

The casual-sounding tone of the hearing in the 8th Circuit Court-Keene District - which was held a day earlier than originally scheduled - was to be expected, according to Heed's attorney, Paul G. Schweizer.

Heed has long known several of the people in the courtroom, including the state police prosecutor, Scott Ellis, Schweizer said.

"Would you expect it to be contentious?" Schweizer asked. "He's known and worked with people in the room for many years. As county attorney, he knew the police prosecutor very well and gets along with him."

Heed, who didn't respond to requests for comment, received no special treatment, Schweizer said.

"He basically got the same thing anybody would get. He wasn't treated any better," Schweizer said.

At the hearing, Heed waived reading documents that may have provided details of the arrest, and waived his rights as part of the plea agreement accepted by Judge MacLeod. "DWI'' was never mentioned during the hearing.

There were no reporters present, and Schweizer said he wasn't sure whether anyone unrelated to the case was in the courtroom.

Heed was sentenced to a nine-month license suspension and $500 fine for DWI-first offense. (See related story.)

A news release state police Sgt. Shawn M. Skahan issued after the hearing said the sentence Heed received is "the standard for first-time offenders where no extenuating circumstances exist (i.e., a blood-alcohol level .16 or above; serious injury; or, an attempt to elude police)."

There was no mention of Heed's blood-alcohol level at the hearing, in the state police complaint, or in court records.

Schweizer said there was no blood-alcohol level in the record because Heed refused to take a breath or blood test to measure it. As part of the plea agreement, Heed will also not face the administrative license suspension process for refusing the test, Schweizer said, adding that, too, is common.

"If somebody doesn't take (the BAC tests), they can't be charged with having over .16," Schweizer said. "(Heed) was appropriately charged ... he was arrested and pleaded guilty to it."

Skahan's release said Heed can petition to have his license reinstated after 90 days provided he completes the Impaired Driver Care Management Plan within the first 14 days of his conviction.

Heed mentioned at the hearing that he was probably one of the first offenders to be sentenced under the new law. Judge MacLeod said it was his first such hearing, as well.

Judge Edwin Kelly, administrative judge for the Circuit Court, said the hearing was moved up one day because the sitting judge recused himself and Judge MacLeod was available that day in Keene.

Skahan's release said Heed's Wednesday arraignment was moved to Tuesday because "a neutral and detached justice was needed given Heed's familiarity with the surrounding courts."

Skahan's complaint on file in court said Heed was arrested for driving under the influence on Route 9 in Keene, while original reports indicated Heed was arrested in Sullivan after police were tipped that someone was driving erratically.

Heed resigned as attorney general in 2004 after one year amid allegations he inappropriately touched a woman at a state-sponsored domestic and sexual violence conference, then tried unsuccessfully to withdraw his resignation. An investigation cleared Heed of any criminal conduct.

Heed served as Cheshire County attorney from 2006 until the end of December, when he resigned shortly after being reelected to join Abramson, Brown and Dugan, a Manchester law firm, to head an office in Keene.

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