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No charges in Nashua 'Duck-gate'

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 24. 2014 9:01PM


CONCORD — Nashua State Rep. David Campbell and former Nashua police commissioner Thomas J. Pappas will face no new charges in the wake of a Dec. 23 incident in which Campbell ran over and killed five ducks while driving away from a Nashua hotel, and then sought the help of his police commissioner friend.

In a 14-page report released on Thursday, the attorney general revealed that the Justice Department had considered bringing a charge of reckless operation against Campbell, and official oppression or hindering apprehension against Pappas, but in the end decided against any further action.

"While Campbell's and Pappas' version of the events in many regards are simply not credible, their actions do not give rise to criminal violations," the report states.

Campbell announced on Wednesday that he would not seek re-election to the House after serving 14 years as a state representative. Pappas resigned from the Nashua Police Commission in February, citing deep regret over his role in the incident.

Campbell called Pappas to pick him up near the Crowne Plaza Hotel shortly after the duck-killing. Pappas later called the Nashua Police Department and arranged for Campbell to come in the next day, rather than that evening.

The state could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Pappas committed the crime of official oppression, or that he hindered law enforcement, according to the attorney general's findings.

"The facts presented in this report are without input from Campbell, except for the limited information he provided to Nashua police after the incident," according to the report. "Campbell, through his attorney, declined to be interviewed during the attorney general's investigation."

All other witnesses, including Pappas, were interviewed. (Click here for the report.)

The AG report establishes that Campbell had been drinking at the hotel that night with friends, turned the wrong way into a one-way driveway that loops around the front of the hotel, and hit the ducks at a speed estimated at 15 mph.

After a confrontation with witnesses, Campbell said he was parking his car in the hotel parking garage and would wait inside the hotel, when in fact he left for his nearby office and called Pappas to pick him up there.

Pappas drove Campbell to the apartment of a friend and made a call to the police dispatcher, who recognized him as a police commissioner. The two agreed that Campbell could come in the next day since the officer investigating the duck killing had gone home.

The AG report states that Campbell had asked witnesses at the scene not to call police, adding, "The witnesses are consistent in noting that Campbell said something concerning ruining his reputation."

Police arrived at the scene and interviewed witnesses, but Campbell was nowhere to be found.

On the drive from the hotel, Campbell told Pappas that he considered Pappas to be his lawyer, and all their conversations that evening would be privileged.

"Campbell and Pappas did not have an ongoing attorney-client relationship at the time of this event," the report states. "Thus it appears that Campbell attempted to create such a privilege to prevent Pappas from revealing their discussions about the incident and where Pappas brought Campbell."

The report also accuses Campbell of lying to police when he said Pappas had brought him home, when in fact Pappas dropped him off at a friend's house; and lying again to police when he said his phone had died and he was unable to take any more phone calls that evening.

Campbell was ultimately charged by Nashua police with improper taking of waterfowl. He pleaded no contest, paid $695 in fines and made a similar-sized donation to the New Hampshire Audubon Society.

The attorney general's report was released one day after Campbell announced he would not seek re-election, citing the time pressures of being a state representative and the impact on his private law practice.

He denied that the duck incident had anything to do with his decision.

Instead, he highlighted the passage in the House of a 4.2-cent increase in the gasoline tax, now headed for the governor's signature, as the culmination of a legislative career that in large part focused on enhanced funding for public works projects and road improvement.

Pappas issued a statement after the report was released, apologizing to the Nashua Police Department and expressing his gratitude for the support he has received.

Crime, law and justice Animals Politics Nashua

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