Judge recuses self over gun case against Danville chief
SALEM — A second judge recused himself from a case against Danville’s police chief who is charged with negligently storing a handgun used by a 15-year-old boy in a suicide last year.
Judge Robert Stephen decided he could not preside over the violation-level offense pending against Wade H. Parsons this week, after realizing he had a potential conflict in the case.
Assistant County Attorney Terri Harrington said Wednesday that the chief judge of the circuit court may now decide whether to bring in another judge from outside of Rockingham County to hear the case.
Stephen was the second judge to step away from the case, citing a potential conflict.
Prosecutors brought a violation-level charge against Parsons last year for leaving his department-issued .40-caliber handgun loaded in his duty belt and sitting on a duffel bag covered with clothing inside a closet at his home, according to prosecutors.
The gun was used by his girlfriend’s 15-year-old son to shoot himself on March 13, 2013 while he was alone in the house, prosecutors said.
Another judge who briefly sat on the case refused to dismiss the case against Parsons, concluding that prosecutors were legally justified in bringing a charge, despite the boy’s intentions when he turned the gun on himself.
Defense lawyer Alan Cronheim maintained that the law was designed to hold gun owners liable for accidentally discharging their firearms.
The next judge who takes over the case will not have to preside over a regular district court trial, Harrington said.
Both sides have stipulated to a number of facts in the case and have submitted legal arguments to the court. The judge will hear closing arguments to the case and render a verdict. Parsons could be issued a fine if he is convicted.
But Harrington said she expects a guilty verdict would ultimately be appealed.
Harrington said she asked for the matter to be scheduled by the end of the month.
Earlier this year, Danville voters overwhelmingly reelected Parsons as their town’s police chief. Parsons has held the job for 20 years, and maintained the support of selectmen despite the charge brought by the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office.