LACONIA — A Belknap County Superior Court judge is being asked to issue a gag order to halt pre-trial publicity after the defendant in a marijuana sales case wrote a letter about the case that was published in a newspaper.
On May 22, Deputy Belknap County Attorney Keith G. Cormier filed a motion for a court order prohibiting pre-trial publicity in the criminal case pending against a Belmont man, Richard E. Bergeron III, 41, who was indicted in May 2019 on six counts of sale of a controlled drug.
Bergeron, who is representing himself, has pleaded not guilty to felony charges that he sold less than one ounce of marijuana to an undercover police officer assigned to the Attorney General’s Drug Task Force in January and December 2018.
The state argues that a letter to the editor Bergeron wrote that was published in the May 20 edition of the Laconia Daily Sun is an effort to “sway public opinion in his favor and influence the potential jury pool in this case.” The trial is scheduled for early October.
Cormier maintains that Bergeron should be held to the same rules of professional conduct standards as a licensed member of the bar and not be allowed to disseminate via public communication statements that “will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.”
The motion further alleges that in an email to Belknap County Attorney Andrew Livernois that the defendant “made clear that he intends to continue to use pre-trial publicity to improperly affect the outcome of this litigation.”
“Extra-judicial statements in the media strike at the heart of the fair and impartial administration of justice and threaten to undermine the integrity of the criminal justice system, and therefore cannot be allowed,” Cormier wrote.
Bergeron asserts that he is not a lawyer and cannot be held to the same standards. He further argues the letter to the editor was not an effort to influence any jury.
“Anyone who reads it that way is not actually reading the content with an objective eye. Bergeron’s intent, which he will support with the attached affidavit and evidence, is to end this case before it gets to a jury,” he wrote.
“Bergeron seeks to reach the taxpayers of this state and explain to them what their tax dollars are really paying for. He also seeks to reach the County Attorney himself to initiate a complete dismissal,” he continued.
He maintains the state is complaining that he is exercising his right to free speech “to illustrate the facts of the case and his personal beliefs about the cases’ weaknesses.”
“Livernois and now his assistant, continue to misrepresent and warp the facts of this case and even the law itself to support their incessant need to silence Bergeron’s true accounting of how this case unfolded,” he wrote.
On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire filed a friend of the court brief in opposition to the state’s motion noting that they had just learned of the prosecution’s actions and intended to file a more detailed motion outlining their position by Friday.
Judge James D. O’Neill III has previously denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss and to recuse Livernois from prosecuting the case.