icenter brawl
A scuffle with police took place at a local arena in December 2017. A youth hockey coach from Massachusetts was arrested.
 

SALEMOne of the two hockey parents who were arrested in connection to a December altercation at the ICenter accepted a plea deal at Salem District Court Wednesday morning.

According to the terms of the deal, defendant John Chesna, 53, of Revere, Mass., pleaded guilty to one violation-level charge of criminal trespass and the prosecution agreed to suspend three disorderly conduct charges, two of which are Class A misdemeanors, as long as he doesn’t get charged with any crimes for the next two years.

Chesna was ordered to pay half of a $500 fine. The other half was suspended for two years. And he was required to serve 10 hours of community service, which he already completed.

Chesna was also ordered by the terms of the arrangement to stay off the ICenter property for two years.

According to police reports, Chesna lost his cool during a youth hockey game on Dec. 2. He allegedly came out onto the ice and yelled profanities at a referee. Multiple parents and players were also allegedly yelling profanities, according to witnesses. The referee ended the game early as a result.

The verbal argument between parents spilled out into the waiting area and grew heated enough that police were called to the scene.

That night, police arrested an assistant coach, Robert Andersen of Wilmington, Mass., who was trying to mediate a dispute at the time. Police said Andersen was resisting arrest and they used a stun gun on him five times before he began to cooperate.

One of the officers who arrested Andersen was injured in the process.

Chesna and another parent, Chris Albano of Reading, Mass., were arrested months later in May. Police say that was because new evidence, such as witness statements and video footage, came to them from parents after a WBZ-TV report in April conflicted with their recollection of events.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire began investigating Salem police for possible witness intimidation since Albano was one of several parents who spoke to reporters in defense of Andersen. ACLU-NH filed a lawsuit to unseal police reports, but later dropped its suit when it reached a compromise with prosecutors who agreed to let them intervene in Andersen’s criminal case, which is in Rockingham Superior Court.

A judge later agreed to lift a gag order and make the police reports public.

After conferencing with the lawyers in the case, Judge Robert Stephen approved the plea deal and spoke to Chesna.

Both Stephen and Chesna have twin 14-year-old boys, according to Chesna’s attorney, Donald Blaszka. Stephen said his boys also play a lot of sports.

“I know that it can be challenging, but you need to walk away from any frustration in the future,” Stephen told Chesna.

He said a wiser course of action would be to file a complaint with the league when he disagrees with the actions or behavior of a referee.

Chesna told Stephen it was a “lesson learned.”

Salem police were in favor of the terms of the plea deal, according to Blaszka.

“My client was cooperative with police when they arrived,” Blaszka said.

Albano is likely to head to trial in Salem District Court in January, according to his attorney, Timothy Bush. Andersen’s trial is scheduled for May.

Andersen is represented by former New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney, who is currently the director of litigation at the McLane Middleton law firm.

ldnews@unionleader.com