AG probe examines change on Rockingham County's Laurie list
BRENTWOOD — State prosecutors are investigating how a former Salem police sergeant who was flagged for having a potential credibility issue was reclassified as "cleared" on a state-mandated list designed to guard against convictions being thrown out of court due to questionable testimony.
The status of retired Salem police sergeant Eric Lamb on the county’s Laurie list prompted a renewed investigation into the operations and management of the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office.
Rockingham County Attorney James Reams is accused of turning over Laurie lists to the state that designated Lamb as “cleared” of such complaints since July 7, 2011, state prosecutors said Tuesday.
Reams, an eight-term Republican from Hampton, denied any wrongdoing and said he could not comment much about the latest allegation.
“I am not the least bit concerned about it,” Reams said. “All I can say is that I have not violated any policy.”
The investigation was recently outlined in a new court petition filed by the state seeking to remove Reams from elected office for official misconduct. Reams began battling allegations of sexual harassment, ethical violations and mismanagement of a forfeiture account late last year following a joint state and federal investigation that began in mid-October.
The Laurie list was created by the state Attorney General’s Office after the state Supreme Court overturned a first-degree murder conviction against Carl Laurie in 1995 because prosecutors failed to disclose a police investigator’s propensity for dishonesty.
Associate Attorney General Jane Young said the investigation into the county’s Laurie list is substantially complete and that state prosecutors have an understanding of how the change was made to the Laurie list.
Young said she could not identify the officer by name or elaborate about how the officer’s designation got changed on the list.
“I can say at this juncture that there is no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing,” said Young.
County attorneys are required to maintain Laurie lists and share copies with the state Attorney General’s Office. Judges are typically left to decide whether an officer can be questioned during a trial about their alleged disciplinary or credibility issues after privately reviewing their personnel file.
State prosecutors redacted Lamb’s name along with other witnesses involved in the case while outlining their findings of the Laurie-issue investigation.
An internal email sent to county prosecutors about Lamb’s status on the Laurie List, and a civil lawsuit Lamb filed against the town of Salem corroborates his identity. The New Hampshire Union Leader received a printed copy of the email anonymously.
Senior Assistant Attorney General James Boffetti emailed county prosecutors notifying them that Lamb had been placed back on the Laurie list after the discrepancy about his status was discovered.
“Prior lists issued from this office had erroneously listed Lamb as ‘cleared,’” he said in the email.
Boffetti, who confirmed the authenticity of the email on Monday, asked county prosecutors in Reams’ office to notify the attorney general if they had any cases since 2008 in which Lamb was a witness.
Boffetti sent the email on May 1, the day before he left his post as interim county attorney, a job he was assigned to during Reams’ suspension from office.
Reams returned to office April 30 after waging a six-month court battle with Attorney General Joe Foster, challenging his authority to suspend him from office.
A discrepancy about Lamb’s status on the Laurie List came to light sometime around April 25 after a person stepped forward saying she was abused by someone who Lamb had investigated while working at the Salem Police Department, according to investigators.
The state Attorney General’s Office began an investigation into Lamb’s designation on the list on April 29.
“Access to the Word document on which the List was kept and maintained was restricted to County Attorney Reams and his legal assistant, although the investigation has not determined if former Deputy County Attorney Thomas Reid also had access to the restricted file,” state prosecutors said in a court complaint. “Reams’s legal assistant would not make any changes to the Laurie list without direction from Reams.”
Reid said in an interview on Tuesday that he did not have access to the county Laurie List.
“I’m shocked that they included my name (in the complaint),” Reid said. “No. I didn’t have access to the document in question. I am aware of the Laurie issue because of our case management system.”
Reid said he was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in early May regarding what he knew about Lamb’s designation on the Laurie list. He was out of the country on a family vacation when he was contacted by state prosecutors. The subpoena was later withdrawn and he was told the grand jury had been delayed. Reid believes the subpoena was illegally issued.
“You can’t use a grand jury for something that’s not criminal,” he said. Reid said he is ready to provide any information to the state they want to know.
The complaint by state prosecutors about Reams may raise questions for another veteran prosecutor in his office. Lamb, the retired police sergeant, is married to Assistant County Attorney Patricia Conway who has worked under Reams’ leadership since 1999, according to interviews and court records.
Conway is currently in a four-way race for the Rockingham County Attorney post in the Republican primary. Conway and Lamb could not be reached by phone or email on Tuesday.
The state’s complaint against Reams does not accuse Conway or her husband of having any role in removing Lamb’s name from the Laurie list. Lamb struck an agreement with the town of Salem in October 2009 allowing him to retire from the police department after he appealed his termination, according to a civil lawsuit filed by Lamb against the town.
Salem Police Chief Paul Donovan wrote to Reams in 2008 saying that Lamb, a 13-year veteran of the police department, had two Laurie issues for allegedly failing to comply with orders and allegedly lying during a hearing in the chief’s office, according to documents filed in his lawsuit.
Union Leader Staff Writer Dave Solomon contributed to this story.