Former Rep. Soltani of Epsom continues to pepper arresting officer with questions
CONCORD - Epsom Police Officer James Kear was on the witness stand for a second day Tuesday in Merrimack County Superior Court as former Epsom state representative, town counsel and police officer Tony Soltani sought to shake Kear's account of what happened April 6, 2012, on Route 28 South.
Soltani contends that when Kear arrested him after he sought to assist in a police pursuit it was in retaliation for his filing a complaint about Kear earlier in the day.
Soltani has described Kear as a "ticking time bomb" who entered Soltani's home in search of a runaway the night before the highway chase, despite Soltani's mother denying Kear entry to the house.
Soltani, who is representing himself, has questioned Kear in great detail about every part of the chase, his arrest and his treatment after the arrest.
Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Michael Valentine is prosecuting the case to prevent a conflict of interest for the Merrimack County Attorney's office.
Although he was initially charged with misdemeanors and violations in connection with his alleged behavior that night, including crossing a double yellow line, Soltani is being tried on a felony charge of reckless conduct, for allegedly driving at high speed and in such a way as to put others in danger, crossing into the northbound lane and forcing vehicles to take evasive action, and a misdemeanor of disorderly conduct for interfering with the apprehension of the vehicle Kear was pursuing.
Soltani told the jury in his opening statement Monday that details are important and he continued to give them plenty.
He asked Kear what he was wearing at the time of his arrest and asked which of two baseball caps he was wearing when arrested, holding up two for the jury, and asking if Kear was familiar with the Coast Guard insignia; he returned to a line of questioning from Monday, about Kear going to Soltani's home the day before the highway pursuit, pressing Kear to admit he entered Soltani's home without consent to retrieve a runaway; he questioned how Kear determined Soltani's speed during the pursuit and challenged whether Kear had properly calibrated his radar.
Soltani also questioned why Kear didn't give him a Miranda warning, prompting Kear to respond that the Miranda warning is given before a custodial interrogation, not for basic name and address questions during the booking process. Soltani had refused to answer those questions for Kear.
Soltani wanted to explore Kear's attempt to question him at the police station and his failure to record the interview as Soltani requested.
"I told you there was a recorder in my bag," said Soltani, saying Kear claimed police didn't have the capability, but there are five digital recorders at the Epsom police station. Turning to face the jury, Soltani said: "He didn't care enough" to borrow one.
Soltani explored Kear's educational background. Does he have a college degree, an associate's degree; has he taken courses since becoming a police officer ? What did Kear do before becoming a police officer at age 30, with Kear saying he worked in the back office of a bank. He wanted to know how Kear learned there was an opening for a police officer in Epsom. What was his grade on the defensive driving course at the New Hampshire Police Academy and did he take any advanced defensive driving courses after leaving the police academy.
Finally, Soltani ran out of questions and Kear was excused and replaced on the stand by Chichester Officer Jonathan Adinolfo, who heard about the pursuit on his radio and headed for North Pembroke Road, where Kear had stopped after breaking off the pursuit as the pursued vehicle passed into Pembroke.
When he arrived, Kear had arrested and handcuffed Soltani after Soltani made a U-turn and pulled in next to Kear's cruiser.
Adinolfo had a "belly band" so Soltani's hands could be cuffed in front of him.
Under questioning by Valentine, Adinolfo said he was standing outside the booking room as Kear asked Soltani questions. Did Adinolfo hear the answers?
"He didn't have any responses," said Adinolfo, who said Soltani volunteered to answer the questions if Adinolfo asked them and willing submitted to fingerprinting by the Chichester officer.
During cross examination, Soltani asked Adinolfo to confirm that Kear had said if Soltani didn't answer the booking questions, he would take Soltani to the county jail. "Yes, he did," responded Adinolfo.
Soltani, seeking to show the jury how cooperative he could be, said to Adinolfo: "I said I would answer any question you wanted, but I didn't want to talk to Kear. . .I was friendly and you were friendly to me."
Adinolfo concurred, but he couldn't confirm Soltani's claims that Kear called the bail commissioner to complain after he had already answered questions for Adinolfo, or whether Soltani had been given a Miranda warning.
Asked how he would describe Soltani's demeanor, Adinolfo said: "Passive."
Adinolfo will be on the stand when the trial resumes at 9:30 Wednesday morning.