Manchester shopping cart sting case is dead, prosecutor says
By MARK HAYWARD New Hampshire Union Leader
MANCHESTER — The top prosecutor in Hillsborough County said this week the case is over against Alexander Ramasci, the south Manchester resident recently found innocent in last December’s shopping cart sting by Manchester police.
County Attorney Patricia LaFrance said she had reviewed the June 13 order by District Court Judge Willam Lyons, who wrote that the charge — theft of lost or mislaid property — did not apply in the case and found Ramasci innocent.
“As far as I am concerned, this case is completed,” LaFrance said in an email.
The case started in early December, when Manchester police arrested Ramasci after he took bagged merchandise and a purse with $60 from an unattended shopping cart at the T.J. Maxx plaza. Manchester police had placed the items in the cart as part of a sting designed to apprehend would-be thieves. Police charged him with misdemeanor theft of lost or mislaid property.
Ramasci claimed he wasn’t a thief, just an ordinary citizen who planned to bring the purse home and track down the owner.
In his ruling, Lyons sided with defense attorney Joe Kelly Levasseur. The lawyer had argued that Ramasci could not be convicted of the crime because the property was neither lost nor mislaid — police knew where it was all the time.
Despite the verdict, the case seemed in limbo when LaFrance said late last week that she would review Lyon’s order to see if an appeal was possible.
A legal expert on Wednesday said an appeal would open Ramasci up to double jeopardy — the retrial of a defendant after an innocent verdict, a practice forbidden by the U.S. Constitution.
“The short answer is, I don’t think she can (appeal),” said Albert “Buzz” Scherr, professor of law at University of New Hampshire Law School. However, a prosecutor has the ability to bring another charge against a defendant who is found innocent, as long as it did not mimic the original charge, Scherr said.
LaFrance would not address a specific question about double jeopardy. The prosecutor said she has closed the case, so she did not need to analyze it for a possible appeal.
However, she said she will keep Lyons’ order in mind when making decisions about how to charge such crimes in the future.
Levasseur on Saturday announced in the comments section of the New Hampshire Union Leader that he will run for LaFrance’s job next year, after she said she would consider an appeal. LaFrance said she would not comment on his candidacy.