ACLU-NH sues Salem, eyes possible retaliatory police arrests after ICenter incident involving coachBy RYAN LESSARD
Union Leader Correspondent
June 27. 2018 11:24AM
SALEM — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire is suing the town of Salem for information related to the arrests of three Massachusetts men connected to a December altercation at the ICenter hockey rink.
The Right-to-Know suit questions whether the Salem Police Department "used its immense law enforcement power to intimidate two individuals who were potential witnesses against the department in a pending criminal case."
The ACLU is investigating whether the police retaliated against Christopher Albano of Reading, Mass. for speaking to the media about his concern that police "improperly arrested and used excessive force in arresting a youth hockey coach," referring to Robert Andersen of Wilmington, Mass., on Dec. 2, 2017.
Andersen was charged with assaulting a police officer and several other charges, including criminal threatening.
After Andersen was arrested and Tasered by police, several parents of young hockey players who were present said Andersen was the one trying to break up a verbal dispute between parents. They also recorded the incident with cell phones.
In mid-May police arrested Albano, who was featured in an April news report in which he spoke critically of the officers' actions, along with another parent who was present at the altercation, John Chesna of Revere, Mass.
Police have previously stated that the arrests of Albano and Chesna happened nearly six months later because they received new video evidence in April.
Albano was charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct. Chesna was charged with criminal trespass and three counts of disorderly conduct.
All three men are free on bail.
"It's certainly odd to charge someone five months later when there were no new facts uncovered," Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of ACLU-NH, said Tuesday.
He said the three men did not approach the ACLU for assistance.
Salem police Capt. Joel Dolan said he was unable to comment.
"We are operating under the order issued by Rockingham County Superior Court, which issued a gag order on all issues related to it, and we believe these cases are related," Dolan said.
Superior Court Judge Marguerite Wageling issued a dispositional order on May 23 that states, "in the interim, the parties shall not disclose any information learned from any police report to any outside source/person without permission from the court," according to Shannon Keyes, an administrative court assistant.
The ACLU, which has submitted a Right-to-Know request under Chapter 91-A and RSA 491:22, has asked the court to vacate the gag order.
"We think the gag order violates Chapter 91-A and also violates the first amendment," Bissonnette said.
"I think transparency is good for the department ... because it builds trust and confidence among the public," Bissonnette said. "When you conceal information, it breeds distrust."
Town Manager Chris Dillon ordered an independent review of the police department. Bissonnette presumes that review is ongoing, but he said he's interested in what the findings will be and how the town conducted its analysis.
Calls to Dillon were not returned Tuesday.
The ACLU asked for a hearing in its case. No hearing has been scheduled yet.