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Foster's beef: AG should explain, not complain

January 25. 2014 1:58AM


Despite Attorney General Joseph Foster's complaint that his office has a lot on its plate, the remedy is not for that office to become, as he suggests, New Hampshire's largest law firm. It is to prioritize and explain to the public the status of the cases it has before it. That might help to restore the public's eroding confidence in its administration of justice.

Two cases in particular have added to that problem. (We won't even count Nashua's Duckgate or the suspension of the Rockingham County attorney and his assistant, only to later say that the assistant was never part of the criminal probe. Meanwhile, the poor man has had his name muddied, and he has quit his post.)The investigation into the fatal shooting of a drug dealer in Weare last summer remains unfinished. To this day, two Weare police officers placed on limited status because of the shooting remain officially unidentified.

The public used to be given such basic information. AG Foster can't say why that policy was changed, but he agrees with it.

How much money it may be costing Weare taxpayers to fill in for the desk-bound officers is not being made clear, either, although Weare taxpayers should demand to know.

Meanwhile, Police Chief John Velleca must be wondering whether he made the right call two months ago when he said he could reinstate the two on his own before the AG report came out, but, "At this point, it doesn't seem practical to not wait for the report."

"I don't think it will be too long," to wait, said he.Right. And just how much longer will it be for Foster and Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia Lafrance to discover and then tell the public just what happened the night last October when a Manchester man walked into the Valley Street Jail, only to be removed hours later, suffering from a broken neck?Fern Ornelas remains partially paralyzed at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation. The local hospital where Ornelas had been subdued says he was discharged to Manchester police, who say he was OK when they turned him over to the county jail.

No one in the county, not the jailer, not the three commissioners, and certainly not County Attorney Lafrance, will say what happened.

Whatever eventually comes out on these cases, it will be important for Foster to explain why the people of New Hampshire were kept in the dark for so long.

Crime, law and justice Politics Editorial

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