Dating cops

This image showing Manchester police officers Canada Stewart and Michael Roscoe was part of a court pleading submitted by the lawyer for Chasrick Soren Heredia.

MANCHESTER — The man looking at a prison sentence for his actions in a brawl last spring between Manchester police and bar patrons is demanding a new trial after learning that two of the officers who testified against him are dating, according to recent court filings.

Chasrick Soren Heredia, 24, was convicted last month of felony resisting arrest and felony riot outside the now-closed GlowBar in May. He was cleared of attempted murder and two felony assault charges against Manchester police officer Canada Stewart.

But in papers filed last week in Hillsborough County Superior Court, Heredia’s public defender said he recently learned about a romantic relationship between Stewart and Michael Roscoe, another Manchester police officer in the brawl who testified at trial. Defense lawyer Julian Jefferson faulted prosecutors for not divulging the relationship.

“It is plain that the evidence withheld was favorable, material and consequently has the effect of undermining the confidence of the guilty verdicts in the case,” Jefferson wrote.

A key part of the trial was a bystander video of the arrest. The video, played repeatedly for the jury, shows Heredia pulling Stewart’s hair. After a few seconds, the video returns to Roscoe repeatedly punching Heredia from behind.

Jefferson has speculated that Roscoe inadvertently struck Stewart while punching Heredia, delivering the blows that injured her. In his request for a new trial, Jefferson said the knowledge of a relationship would have strengthened his defense.

“Defense counsel was prevented from bolstering this argument with evidence that a boyfriend (who happened to be a police officer) reacted to seeing his girlfriend having her hair pulled by another man and lost his cool; using excessive force and creating a violent situation in which another officer was injured,” Jefferson wrote.

Prosecutors are required to turn over all favorable evidence to defense attorneys before trial.

In an email, Manchester police Capt. Brian O’Keefe said the department does not have a nepotism clause, so officers are free to date and marry whomever they wish. Manchester police find themselves in adverse and violent situations more often than not, yet they handle themselves professionally in each and every case, he said.

“The Manchester Police Department has the utmost faith in our legal system and respects our magistrate’s decision regarding all cases involving our officers. Therefore, the Manchester Police Department will continue to answer adverse, dangerous and violent calls regardless of the outcome of any specific trial or case,” he wrote.

Heredia has yet to be sentenced.

In a response to Jefferson’s filings, Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Donald Topham said his office had no knowledge about a relationship between the two before trial, so he could not have provided that to Jefferson.

He said his office does not investigate the private lives of witnesses, which would violate privacy protections in the New Hampshire Victims Bill of Rights.

“What the defense is requesting that this court mandate that in the future Police Departments create what is in essence a ‘Laurie List’ for police officer relationships,” Topham wrote.

The term “Laurie List” refers to a confidential list of police officers with credibility issues that is maintained by prosecutors across the state.

In his request, Jefferson included images from the Facebook pages of the two officers. Stewart’s Facebook page could be viewed publicly on Wednesday and included an image of her posing with Roscoe.

Neither Stewart’s nor Roscoe’s pages could be accessed on Thursday.

Superior Court Judge Amy Messer has scheduled a hearing for March 15 to consider the request for a new trial.

Besides requesting a new trial, Jefferson wants an order prohibiting Roscoe and Stewart from altering their Facebook pages, access to any Manchester police policies that address officer dating, any use of force reports covering Roscoe and a reduction in Heredia’s bail to personal recognizance.

Jefferson also wants a hearing to determine the “full extent” of the violation of discovery provisions. That would include him questioning Stewart, Roscoe, the prosecutors and victim-witness advocates in the case.

On Wednesday, Messer closed her courtroom to hear Topham’s argument to seal Jefferson’s request for a new trial.

Topham had argued that the relationship was personal and private and any court filings should be sealed.

But in an order signed late on Wednesday, Messer noted the two testified at trial and had publicly posted a picture of themselves together on Facebook.

“While the (Victim Rights) statute provides important protections to victims of crime, the protections are nonetheless subject to the constitutional provisions governing access to court records and hearings,” Messer ruled.