State police join investigation into whether fired Manchester detectives traded favors for sexBy MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader
June 19. 2018 10:05AM
MANCHESTER — Detectives from both New Hampshire State Police and Manchester police have teamed up to investigate allegations against the two Manchester police detectives fired earlier this year, according to the prosecutor overseeing the case.
Strafford County Attorney Thomas Velardi spoke on Monday, the day after the New Hampshire Sunday News first reported that the lawyer for a local woman filed a claim against the city. The claim alleges that detectives Darren Murphy and Aaron Brown coerced her into sexual activity with offers of dropping charges against her.
Brown and Murphy are also subjects of a criminal investigation.
“We want to be as fair and transparent as possible, so Manchester police and New Hampshire State Police teamed up,” Velardi said. “We’re hoping that folks who have information will cooperate with us and answer our inquiries.”
Meanwhile, City Solicitor Emily Rice said the city’s claims adjuster will undertake an investigation into both allegations and the city’s potential liability.
Rice disputed any notion she should have informed the public or city aldermen immediately about the claim. Olivier Sakellarios, the lawyer for the alleged victim, notified Mayor Joyce Craig, Police Chief Nick Willard and City Clerk Matt Normand about the claim in a letter dated May 31.
“Making a public announcement is not part of our process, nor do I think it should be,” Rice said.
In a statement, a spokesman for Craig said the mayor confirmed that Rice’s office had received the letter and the claims review process was started.
“After learning of this claim on June 1, the mayor has been engaged with the City Solicitor’s Office and the Chief of Police as the city works to address the claim while ensuring the integrity of the ongoing criminal and civil proceedings,” wrote Craig’s director of policy and strategic outlook, Lauren Smith.
Aldermen made two crucial decisions regarding police over the last two weeks: they confirmed Craig’s nominee Assistant Police Chief Carlo Capano as the next chief and passed a city budget that increased police spending by 3 percent.
In his letter, Sakellarios alleges that Brown coaxed his client, Amanda Rogers, into sex in 2009, telling her at one point she could go to jail or not go to jail. He said that Rogers and Murphy had a six-month relationship that ended in April. During that time, Murphy said he could get a prosecutor who specializes in drug cases to drop charges and pull strings to have Rogers released on personal recognizance bail, according to the letter.
“These were services he offered in order to coerce sexual favors,” the letter reads.
Sakellarios equated the coercion to rape, claimed that Rogers suffers from mental and emotional injuries, and threatened a federal suit involving civil rights violations. He had a brief email exchange with a Union Leader reporter but did not return a telephone call.
Team of investigators
Velardi said the Attorney General’s office asked him to oversee the criminal investigation, after Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis Hogan bowed out to avoid any conflicts.
Velardi said he first met with investigators about two or three weeks ago.
In February, Willard fired Murphy, an undercover drug detective, for unspecified misconduct. At the time, Willard said the misconduct did not amount to a crime. Prosecutors eventually had to drop 35 cases, including felony drug trafficking charges, that Murphy investigated.
Hogan eventually determined that a criminal investigation into Murphy’s actions was warranted.
Then in April, Willard announced Brown’s termination. At the time, the police chief said Brown’s misconduct rose to the level of a crime and an investigation would commence.
Velardi said the investigators do not have access to the Manchester police internal personnel investigation of the two. Also, the two Manchester police detectives working the case — Ken Loui and Peter Marr — had nothing to do with the internal investigation, he said.
“It (the internal investigation) is all confidential and can’t be used in any criminal inquiry,” Velardi said. “We’re starting from scratch; that’s the way these things go.”
The two troopers involved in the investigation are Nate Zipp and Brian Strong. Eventually Velardi will have to determine if a crime took place and if any case is strong enough to bring charges. He did not give a timetable.
“We would approach it just as if it were a citizen not wearing a uniform,” he said.
Questions about disclosure
Meanwhile, questions continue about any steps toward disclosure made by Craig, Willard or Normand once they received the Sakellarios claims letter.
Alderman Dan O’Neil, chairman of the Board of Aldermen, and at-large Alderman Joe Kelley Levasseur said they were unaware of the claim until the Sunday News reported it.
“Joyce Craig said she was going to be the most transparent mayor ever, and here we go,” Levasseur said.
Last year, Craig criticized then-Mayor Ted Gatsas for not disclosing information about a 2015 rape at Manchester High School West. When contacted by a Union Leader reporter, Gatsas stressed that he was out of office on Jan. 10, when police have said they first received a complaint about Murphy.
“The current mayor has to pick up the phone and talk to you directly (about disclosing the Murphy-Brown allegations),” Gatsas said.
In her statement, Craig’s spokesman said the mayor “treats these accusations and any potential claim against the city with the utmost seriousness.”
“Since learning of the civil claim a little over two weeks ago, the Mayor has worked in concert with the City Solicitor’s office and Chief Willard to address this matter in a timely manner while following all preexisting practices and policies.
“The efforts of this administration when compared to the previous administration, which kept the rape of a student at high school a secret for nearly two years, are quite different.”
The statement concludes: “It is not uncommon for the city to be at any given time subject to dozens of civil claims, and claims in their infancy still being assessed by the City Solicitor and Risk Manager are not reported to the board. The mayor acted immediately and in accordance with all existing requirements when our office received notice of this claim, while ensuring the integrity of the ongoing civil and criminal proceedings.”
Gatsas said any notion that he hid the news of the West High rape is not true and that school officials made the Manchester school board aware of the rape the same day they told him.
And once City Hall received a claim against the city by the victim — a written claim was received the month following the October 2015 rape — Gatsas said he forwarded the claim to the city solicitor, who informed aldermen.
Rice said the previous city solicitor did nothing to address the West High claim, however.
She said she called Sakellarios on June 1, the day the letter crossed her desk and had the claims adjuster start work on it. She said aldermen get informed of claims on a monthly basis. She disputed any notion that the claim deserved further disclosure. She also noted a criminal investigation is ongoing.
“I don’t do my job based on what did or did not occur in a (political) campaign,” Rice said.