Updated: Epsom attorney Soltani found guilty on misdemeanors, not felony
CONCORD— Former Epsom state Rep. Tony Soltani was convicted Wednesday of misdemeanor reckless conduct and disorderly conduct in connection with his behavior after joining a police pursuit in Epsom on April 6, 2012.
A Merrimack County Superior Court jury rejected a felony reckless conduct charge, convicting Soltani of the lesser included misdemeanor, which means jurors did not believe, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he used his Dodge Neon as a deadly weapon. The disorderly conduct charge was brought as a misdemeanor, which can result in a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine on each charge.
The charges were based on Soltani’s joining Epsom Police Officer James Kear’s pursuit of a Mercedes Kear had stopped on Route 4 for a headlight that was out.
Soltani, who served as a part-time police officer in Epsom for a while in the ’80s, said he saw the stop and pulled ahead and parked to observe.
When he saw the Mercedes speed away and Kear follow, Soltani joined the pursuit, at one point crossing a double yellow line and driving south in the northbound lane of Route 28 at high speed, parallel to the Mercedes, forcing oncoming traffic to take evasive action.
Soltani said his arrest — after the chase was terminated when the Mercedes entered Pembroke — was the result of his filing a complaint earlier the same day about Kear’s entry into Soltani’s home the previous night to retrieve a Pembroke runaway.
Soltani said he will appeal. No date has been set for sentencing.
Previous story follows:
Epsom attorney Tony Soltani on Tuesday asked Merrimack County Superior Court jurors to find him innocent of charges stemming from a police chase on Route 28 in Epsom April 6, 2012.
Soltani maintains he is the victim of a police officer's vengence after Soltani complained about the officer's behavior in retrieving a runaway from the Soltani home the previous night.
"You have a duty to prevent injustice with your conscience," said Soltani.
Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Michael Valentine said Soltani got himself into trouble by inserting himself into a police chase that started when Officer James Kear stopped a vehicle for a headlight out and the vehicle took off.
The felony reckless conduct charge alleges that at one point Soltani was driving south in the northbound lane, parallel to the Mercedes, posing a danger to oncoming traffic.
The Epsom officer was told to break off the chase just past the Pembroke line and when Soltani doubled back and pulled up next to Officer Kear, who was stopped at North Pembroke Road by Montminy's store, Kear told Soltani he was under arrest.
Soltani was a part-time police officer many years ago and Valentine said: "He wants to be part of law enforcement still."
Indeed, during hours of testimony Tuesday, Soltani described his participation in the chase using police phrases: "I stationed myself" "I have the advantage of an unmarked car" ... "after that my cover was blown."
He also complained about Kear's behavior during the initial vehicle stop on Route 4 in Epsom, including criticizing Kear's body position when standing next to the vehicle, saying: "You are supposed to stand at an angle."
During his testimony about his career in the Coast Guard, as a part-time police officer, as a college and law school student, as a state representative and Epsom town counsel, describing most in extreme detail, he repeatedly stressed the importance of doing things "by the book."
His lengthy testimony showed a range of emotion, including tears and laughter. After one extended response to a question from attorney Jason Dennis, who is assisting Soltani, Judge Richard McNamara cautioned Soltani to stop the narratives and answer questions.
Soltani talked in detail about his Coast Guard training and experience, saying it shaped his approach to life, that he learned to put other people's lives ahead of his own.
But Valentine said Soltani wasn't doing that the night of the chase. Instead, Soltani was putting other lives at risk by his behavior in the police pursuit.
And while Soltani said he was a man who tried to do what's right and should not be subjected to persecution with an unjust law or unjust application of a law, Valentine said Officer Kear's "decisions were based on the defendant's conduct."
Soltani is also charge with misdemeanor disobeying a police officer.
In giving the jurors instructions, McNamara told them, "It's up to you to decide the facts in this case," telling them not to let sympathy affect their decision.
The jurors will return to court this morning, when a foreman will be selected and deliberations will begin.