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Tilton officer's credibility may affect plea deal in DWI case

Union Leader Correspondent

September 04. 2018 9:39AM
Members of the Tilton-Northfield Fire Department and crews from Rusty's Towing and Recovery work to lift a lawn care truck that crashed into the Winnipesaukee River on West Main Street in Tilton. (Bea Lewis/Correspondent)

Tilton Police Officer Matt Dawson remains on the exculpatory evidence schedule after a one-time informant he handled tarnished his reputation by allowing Dawson to unwittingly broker the sale of a stolen Lowe's rebate debit card to a relative.

TILTON — A Massachusetts man who was allegedly drunk when he drove a lawn care truck towing a trailer into the Winnipesaukee River in June is scheduled to plead guilty, but the owner of property damaged in the crash said he’s still trying to track down the driver’s insurance company.

Thomas O’Reilly, 45, of 58C Ash St., Auburndale, Mass., was arrested on June 18 and charged with two counts of aggravated DWI alleging alternate theories, as well as DWI, reckless operation and an open-container violation.

According to a police affidavit, O’Reilly had a blood-alcohol content of .169 following the crash, which occurred shortly before 9 a.m.

A plea and sentencing hearing is set for Oct. 1, but the terms of the negotiated settlement have not been disclosed.

Meanwhile James Cropsey, managing partner of Riverfront Place in Tilton, whose property was damaged in the accident, said his insurance company has been unsuccessful in contacting TruGreen Commercial’s insurer.

The case has also proven problematic for the prosecutor. In a letter dated July 2 contained in the court file, Tilton police prosecutor Jesse Renauld-Smith notified the public defender representing O’Reilly that there is “potential” evidence favorable to the defendant regarding a state’s witness in the case.

The relevant documents remain under seal at the 6th Circuit District Division Franklin Court, but the letter reportedly notifies defense attorney Kathryn Cox-Pelletier that she could arrange to access the information if she wishes.

The criminal complaints filed against O’Reilly are signed by Officer Matt Dawson. Dawson also signed the affidavit in support of probable cause to arrest.

Although the letter does not identify the state’s witness, Dawson invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to testify in 2014 in a rape case he investigated. A judge ruled that then Detective Corporal Dawson could not be compelled to testify after a hearing during which it was disclosed that Dawson was included on the “Laurie list,” a compilation of police officers whose credibility, as determined by internal investigators, has been harmed by committing a crime, lying or other inappropriate actions.

The list was established in 2004 as a way for prosecutors to identify information about a police officer’s credibility that may need to be turned over to the defendant.

It has since been renamed the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule and includes only “allegations of misconduct (by police officers), which are sustained after an investigation.”

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office has declined media requests to release the letter, maintaining the names of police officers with potential creditability issues should remain confidential, arguing that police officers’ privacy rights surpass the public’s right to know.

The Laurie list order in the Tilton case was issued after a stolen Lowe’s refund debit card ended up in the hands of Dawson’s uncle. When interviewed by the Merrimack County Sheriff’s Department, Dawson said he had no idea that the card was stolen when he allegedly arranged for a relative to buy the card that had a face value of $2,000 for $600.

Dawson was placed on administrative leave in November 2013 and was eventually reinstated, but his rank was reduced to patrolman.

Cropsey, who co-owns Riverside Place, said 74 days after the lawn care truck plowed through the iron fence and plunged into the river, he is still trying to identify who insures the TruGreen franchise that owns the New Hampshire-registered truck.

Cropsey said when divers retrieved the truck’s numerous plastic containers from the river, they were carried across his property. While the company maintains the containers held fertilizer and not herbicide, Cropsey said two trees on his property are now dying. His arborist said too much fertilizer may have caused the damage.

Cropsey said he’s unsure of the cost of repairing the fence or the cut granite blocks that were toppled into the river during the crash. He also suspects a box culvert was cracked during the mishap and will need repair or replacement. The deductible on his own property casualty insurance is $5,000.

Meanwhile, a 300-foot-long section of sidewalk that fronts the river remains closed to pedestrians and a temporary orange safety net fence has been erected to keep people out.

O’Reilly, who remains free on $5,000 personal recognizance bond, signed an agreement in late July that detailed the parties were likely to reach a settlement and that the defendant was living in a sober house and engaging in substance abuse treatment.

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