MANCHESTER — Donald Topham, the county prosecutor whose plea bargain in a fatal child overdose case last month prompted the Attorney General takeover of the Hillsborough County Attorney’s office, was officially fired last week.

Topham’s termination was expected ever since County Attorney Michael Conlon suspended him with pay in early September. Conlon did so after Manchester police vocally complained about a 5- to 10-year sentence, plus two years of residential drug treatment, for Joshua Garvey.

In the case prosecuted by Topham, Garvey pleaded guilty to the negligent homicide of his toddler son Tayden, who died of a cocaine overdose last year.

Topham has repeatedly defended the plea bargain, calling it in line with similar cases and maintaining the case would be difficult to prove at trial. He had also said that police demanded a minimum 20-year sentence, and police should not have veto power over a prosecutor’s decisions.

“I don’t think scapegoating me worked for Mr. Conlon,” Topham said this week, noting that it did not stop Attorney General Gordon MacDonald from assuming oversight of prosecutorial functions of the office. At the time, MacDonald cited the Garvey case as one of three cases that prompted the move.

Conlon confirmed that Topham was terminated as of Oct. 1 but said little else.

“It’s a personnel matter that I won’t be discussing,” Conlon said.

Topham was hired in May 2018, and his last day of employment was Oct. 1, according to County Administrator Chad Monier. His annual salary was $85,900.

Conlon, a Democrat with no experience in criminal law, was elected last November.

Topham, a former public defender hired by previous County Attorney Dennis Hogan, handled some of the office’s high profile cases.

He lost a trial involving former Hillsboro-Deering High School student John Thomas, who joked about bringing a gun to graduation.

He oversaw a complicated case involving the assault on a police officer outside a downtown bar. A jury threw out attempted murder and assault charges against defendant Chasrick Heredia but convicted him on lesser charges.

Then Topham accepted a plea bargain for Heredia, after a judge ordered a new trial because two of the Manchester police officers who testified in the trial had been dating.

In another case, Topham told a reporter that Jeremy Winlsow, the man who drove the car in which murder victim Tanya Hall was shot after an altercation at Club ManchVegas, should be very concerned about being judged by his creator.

The County Attorney’s office, which had earlier been at full staff, is now down five prosecutors, Conlon said.

Meanwhile, Joe Quinlan, a prosecutor in the County Attorney’s Manchester office, died of cancer over the summer. And Michele Battaglia, a prosecutor in the Nashua office, left on Oct. 1.

Conlon, who retains the ability to hire and fire prosecutors, said he will post the openings and interview applicants to select the best fit for the office.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019
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