Weare Police Chief Apologizes for Illegal Arrest and Prosecution
Chief Velleca promises further training and education for department
WEARE, N.H., July 15, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Weare resident Bill Alleman has won a settlement in his civil suit alleging retaliatory prosecution on the part of the Weare Police Department. In July of 2011, Mr. Alleman was arrested for recording Officer Brandon Montplaisir with his mobile phone. A New Hampshire District Court judge dismissed the charges approximately four months later, noting that recording public officials is a right protected by the First Amendment. Alleman then sued the Weare Police Department for retaliatory prosecution, claiming that he was arrested and prosecuted for exercising his First Amendment rights in Alleman v. Montplaisir, et al. Federal Case No. 1:12-cv-00282-JL. On June 25, 2014, the town of Weare agreed to a settlement including a written apology from Weare Police Chief John D. Velleca.
In his apology, Chief Velleca said, "After reviewing your case and applicable case law, including the recent decision in Gericke v. Begin, we have concluded that your arrest... should not have occurred. Accordingly, we regret and apologize for your arrest and prosecution." Promising continued changes in the culture of the department, he continued, "I... provide the officers with the training and guidance that will assist them in rendering professional, intelligent, and competent police services. I will continue to educate our officers on the importance of understanding and respecting the rights of all citizens, as well as the influence new case law has on policing."
The settlement is the most recent in a string of lawsuits alleging that civil rights violations have been committed by the Weare Police Department. In Gericke v. Begin, the case Chief Velleca references in his apology, the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that gathering information on government officials "serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting 'the free discussion of governmental affairs.'"
"I feel good about the settlement, but I feel great about the fact that our police chief has, in writing, admitted that recording the police is not a crime," said Mr. Alleman. "I really hope we've seen the end of this unlawful nonsense in New Hampshire," he added. "Public servants need to understand, finally, that they're 'at all times accountable' to the people."
Mr. Alleman's attorney, Seth Hipple, echoed his client's sentiments. "The precedent set in Gericke v. Begin is just now starting to ripple through the courts," said Hipple, "and I look forward to seeing many more victories for the First Amendment and government accountability in the coming years."
For more information or to request an interview with Attorney Seth Hipple or Mr. Bill Alleman, contact Brinck Slattery at Brinck (at) SolutionsPlusNH.com.
The Law Offices of Martin & Hipple, P.L.L.C. Phone: 603.703.2846 Brinck Slattery - Brinck (at) SolutionsPlusNH.com