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January 14. 2014 9:29PM

Nashua police chief defends charge in Rep. Campbell duck case

NASHUA — The city's police chief said Tuesday that Police Commissioner Thomas Pappas' involvement in state Rep. David Campbell's recent duck accident did not influence the police investigation.

According to a police report provided by the Nashua Police Department, Campbell called Pappas after he had a couple of drinks and ultimately ran over several mallard ducks with his BMW, killing five of them on Dec. 23 outside of the Crowne Plaza.

Pappas, Campbell's friend and attorney, then picked Campbell up from the hotel and contacted the police department about two hours after the accident to inquire whether police were looking to speak with Campbell.

"The Nashua Police Department looked into this incident at the Crowne Plaza thoroughly and charged Mr. Campbell with what we thought was the most appropriate charge," Nashua Police Chief John Seusing told the New Hampshire Union Leader. "The fact that Mr. Campbell was a state representative, and that he reached out to an attorney/friend who happened to be a police commissioner, had no bearing or influence whatsoever into our responsibility to look into this matter."

On Tuesday, a spokesman for Gov. Maggie Hassan said that it is ultimately up to Attorney General Joseph Foster to determine whether a probe into the matter is warranted.

"Any such review would be conducted by the Department of Justice and initiated by the attorney general, who has the independent responsibility and authority to determine what cases the department undertakes," said Marc Goldberg, Hassan's communications director. "The governor has every confidence that, in all cases, the attorney general carefully considers all issues and makes appropriate decisions based on the full facts of any given situation as to whether a review from the Department of Justice is warranted."

Campbell's claims

Campbell, 56, of East Dunstable Road, has maintained the incident was an accident and has repeatedly apologized for the mistake. Campbell admits that he had two drinks before hitting the ducks around 10 p.m. on Dec. 23, but said he was not intoxicated and immediately parked his car after the accident to assess the situation. However, Campbell said he left the scene on foot after a witness who was feeding the ducks at the time became agitated with him.

"He cursed, continuously yelled and approached me in a threatening manner," Campbell said of James Murphy, the man who was visiting from out of state and ultimately reported the incident to authorities. "After I parked my car, his aggressive behavior and threats continued. To defuse a situation that was becoming increasingly hostile, I walked across the parking lot to my office building."

Campbell, a practicing attorney, maintains that he has cooperated with police, reported the accident to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and spoke with hotel management.

According to the police report, a night manager at the Crowne Plaza told police that a BMW drove the wrong way through the hotel drop off, running over several ducks that were in front of the hotel.

Murphy told police that after the driver hit the ducks, the driver — later identified as Campbell — exited the vehicle, appeared intoxicated and said, "The ducks should have moved out of the way," according to the police report. Murphy told Campbell that he was going to call the police, and Campbell reportedly told him, "You'll ruin my life," said the report.

Pappas' involvement

Two hours after the ducks were hit, Sgt. Carlos Camacho received a call from Police Commissioner Pappas inquiring whether the department was looking to speak with Campbell. He was advised that yes, police were hoping to speak with Campbell, at which time Pappas described himself as a friend of Campbell, adding Campbell was at another friend's house with a dead cell phone.

"(Pappas) asked me if he could have Campbell come to the police department tomorrow to speak to Officer Michael Hatzipetros," Camacho wrote in the report. Camacho told Pappas that Campbell should call the department in the morning, since Hatzipetros works second shift.

According to the police report, Campbell spoke with police in the morning, telling them that he felt awful about what happened. He said that as he passed through the drop off area he saw the ducks, but that he "double tapped his brake to slow down, and that his foot slipped and hit his gas pedal by mistake."

Campbell added that he had two drinks during dinner, but said he should not have been drinking since he was taking antibiotics at the time. He admitted to calling Pappas, who he identified to police as his lawyer, who eventually gave Campbell a ride home.

The bartender who served Campbell corroborated that account, saying the state representative was served two drinks — a glass of wine and a glass of Patron along with a lobster roll — and did not appear to be intoxicated when he left.

When police contacted Pappas several days later to question him, Pappas — who was reappointed to another three year term by Hassan in September 2013 — told authorities that he has represented Campbell for many years.

"Commissioner Pappas further informed me that any conversation that occurred between him and Mr. Campbell on the night in question would be protected by attorney-client privilege," says the report.

Pappas did not return a phone call and email seeking comment.

Last week, Campbell pleaded no contest to killing the five ducks. He paid a fine of $620 for the violation, along with a $75 restitution payment to New Hampshire Fish and Game, says court records. Campbell also donated an additional $695 to New Hampshire Audubon.

He was charged with one count of illegal taking of waterfowl for the incident. The violation charge against Campbell, who is currently serving his seventh term in the House, is a noncriminal charge.khoughton@newstote.com


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