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Alton man who twice left town hall in handcuffs awaits verdict

Union Leader Correspondent

October 17. 2017 9:35PM
Jeffrey Clay of Alton is sworn in prior to his testimony on Tuesday in the 4th Circuit, District Division Laconia Court. (Bea Lewis/Union Leader Correspondent)

LACONIA — A judge is now weighing a verdict after hearing two days of testimony in the trial of a Lakes Region man charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest for his actions at a meeting of the Alton Board of Selectmen.

Judge Michael Garner, sitting in the 4th Circuit, District Division Laconia Court, gave both sides 45 days to file additional pleadings, before he decides the guilt or innocence of defendant Jeffrey Clay.

Clay, 58, who has lived in Alton for 12 years and served 20 years in the Air Force, spoke on four separate occasions during a Feb. 22 meeting at Town Hall, during which he was arrested by Sgt. Bill Tolios, nearly two years after he was arrested on similar charges for criticizing the same board.

Taking the witness stand in his own defense, Clay testified that he believes he is being persecuted because he talks about issues town leaders don’t want to hear.

“They have it out for me; it’s a personal attack because I hold them accountable,” Clay declared.

Under questioning by his lawyer Jared Bedrick, Clay said it was never his intent to disrupt the meeting.

“I was trying to get them to do the right thing,” Clay said, agreeing that he had made some pointed comments to the board and that during a break in the meeting had referred to at least one if not two members of the Board of Selectmen as a “nitwit.”

He spoke three times during a public hearing regarding ambulance billing. During the public comment period of the regular selectmen’s meeting that followed, Clay said Chairman Cydney Johnson solicited comments on agenda items.

“I was melding my comments on ambulance billing and it would have come out in the next four or five seconds, but she kept badgering me,” Clay said. He agreed he ignored Johnson’s request that he limit his comments to agenda items because in his mind that’s where he was headed.

“I think they staged the whole thing to shut me down,” Clay testified.

He told the judge that he has been diagnosed with a severe panic disorder and has been classified as being 100 percent disabled because of PTSD. As a result, he has an involuntary reaction when he is unexpectedly touched by someone he doesn’t know.

When Sgt. Tolios approached him from behind, put his hand on his shoulder and told him he had to leave, Clay said he initially didn’t know who it was. He said his heart was pounding and his thoughts were racing when Tolios told Clay he was being detained. Clay recounted that he asked Tolios if he was being arrested and was told no, but that he was being detained, and so he became confused. He testified that he thought detained meant he was supposed to stay put. He denied that he intentionally resisted arrest.

“I just didn’t understand what was going on,” Clay said. “It was just very unfortunate for everyone involved.”

Prosecutor Anthony Estee argued that Clay’s own testimony showed that he interfered with the officer’s attempt to detain Clay by pulling his arm away.

Estee argued the state had proved that Clay engaged in conduct that disrupted the meeting when he repeatedly ignored the chairman’s request that he speak to an item on the agenda.

The prosecutor argued that Clay should also be found guilty of a second count of disorderly conduct charging that he knowingly refused to comply with a lawful order by Sgt. Tolios to leave Town Hall.

Politics Courts Crime Alton Laconia

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