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35 of Manchester ex-officer's cases to be dropped

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 21. 2018 8:56AM

Former Manchester police officer Darren Murphy was involved in the case of Amanda Montplaisir. Facing drug charges that could have netted her 15 years, she accepted a plea bargain Tuesday of seven months in jail. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Prosecutors will have to drop 35 pending felony drug cases — some involving allegations of significant trafficking in fentanyl and heroin — that involved Darren Murphy, the undercover Manchester police detective who was fired in early February for unspecified misconduct, according to Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis Hogan.

Hogan said his office is also reviewing another 34 convictions that relied on investigations involving Murphy, but no decisions have been made about what to do with those.

Hogan said he informed Manchester police of the news last week.

“Just to lose one case for something that didn’t need to happen, I would call it painful,” Hogan said. “Every case has a lot of work go into it.”

Hogan provided the New Hampshire Union Leader with notes that identify the cases that prosecutors won’t proceed with. Prosecutors have not dropped all cases as of yet, according to court records.

Several are high-profile cases. They include:

• Christina Stratton, who was arrested in November after police raided her Smyth Road home and discovered $58,000 in cash, fentanyl, marijuana and prescription drugs, some stowed away in her child’s bedroom. She was indicted on 15 charges, and federal prosecutors were considering taking the case, according to court files.

• Edgar Caliz and Tiara Cyr Cullinane, who were charged with fentanyl sales and felony weapon charges after undercover buys last July. A raid on a West Side apartment connected to their case uncovered $24,000 worth of fentanyl, police said at the time. Their cases were dropped last week.

• Amanda Montplaisir, who appeared in Hillsborough County Superior Court-North on Tuesday. Facing a fentanyl possession charge that could have netted her 15 years in state prison, she accepted a plea bargain that called for seven months in the Valley Street jail and two years of probation. Prosecutors dropped drug-sale charges, which Murphy had investigated, Hogan said.

• Steven Acorn, who faced felony drug charges after police uncovered crack, heroin, prescription drugs and $20,000 in cash when they raided a Laurel Street apartment in December 2016.

• Shane Masci, who faced 12 felony drug charges following an investigation last June and July. Lois Masci faced four drug charges.

Misconduct, not crime

A Manchester native, Darren Murphy had been a city police officer for 10 years and was terminated on Feb. 2 after police received a complaint about him on Jan. 10, police have said.

When Police Chief Nick Willard confirmed the termination, he said the misconduct did not rise to the level of a crime.

Murphy worked in the Special Enforcement Division, which handles drug investigations in the city. Detectives in drug units routinely deal with drug users, dealers and prostitutes. Detectives often try to coax them to become confidential informants and work on behalf of police.

“We take a breach of public trust seriously from any of our officers,” Lt. Brian O’Keefe, the department spokesman, said in a statement he read to a reporter. “In this particular case, we took swift and immediate action and terminated Mr. Darren Murphy.”

Willard has said in the past that he could not reveal Murphy’s misconduct, saying it was a personnel matter. Hogan said he reviewed Murphy’s personnel file and agreed with Willard that the misconduct was not criminal.

He would not describe the misconduct in detail, but said “anyone would agree that you’re not supposed to do that.”

He said the misconduct may have started around June 2017.

A prosecutor must inform defense attorneys of any misconduct on the part of a police officer involved in a defendant’s case. Any misconduct would affect the credibility of a police officer if he or she were called to testify at trial.

Another 34 cases

Hogan said he made the decision to drop the charges after conferring with veteran prosecutors in Nashua, who handled a similar issue with Nashua police years ago. A prosecutor could technically push the case but would end up spinning his wheels, Hogan said.

He said Murphy worked on another 34 cases in which a conviction or plea bargain has already taken place. They go back to June 2015. He said a decision has not been made about them, but he will likely send a letter to the lawyer who handled the cases.

One defendant is Juan Lassalle Cortes, who was arrested in November 2016 when police raided a Manchester apartment while Willard cradled a toddler and said that was no place for a child to be.

State prosecutors said Murphy was involved in the prosecutions of two cases they recently brought to trial — convicted carfentanyl dealer Jon Orme and convicted murderer Paulson Papillon.

In both cases, Murphy was a non-essential witness and defense attorneys were informed of the internal investigation involving him, said Lisa Wolford, chief of the Attorney General’s Criminal Justice Bureau.

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