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Manchester chief wants state probe of alderman's claim of intimidation

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 28. 2013 11:02PM
Joe Kelley Lavasseur holds a catering order in the kitchen of Theo's Restaurant on Elm Street in Manchester in January 2010. (Union Leader file photo)

MANCHESTER — The city's police chief has requested that the state attorney general investigate Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur's allegations that he was subject to intimidation by a member of the force.

The allegations concern an incident outside City Hall in January when Officer Steven Maloney, the president of the patrolmen's union, allegedly thrust a finger in Levasseur's chest and verbally abused him, as well as recent comments Maloney made about the alderman on a local blog.

In a letter sent to Attorney General Joseph Foster earlier this week, Police Chief David Mara wrote that the allegations "necessitate a criminal investigation," and that he couldn't take on such a review since Levasseur alleged that he had "covered up past incidents of intimidation."

Levasseur did not request the investigation, but last month he again complained to Mara about Maloney after he posted negative comments about him on the blog of radio host Rich Girard. Levasseur said he wasn't confident that the attorney general would find fault with the police.

"Steve Maloney should just sit back and enjoy a cocktail at the beach because ... we all know the Attorney General's Office doesn't have a good record representing ordinary Americans in complaints against the police," he said.

Levasseur had sent an email to Mara July 31, alleging that Maloney "continues to intimidate me as an elected official," pointing to the comment the officer made on the blog,Maloney was responding to a post Girard wrote about a case involving Levasseur's client, a woman who was allegedly abused by a Manchester police officer. The officer, William Soucy, is awaiting trial on a charge of misdemeanor assault against the woman.

Maloney wrote in part: "If Levasseur wants to chase ambulances, that's fine. If he wants to use his elected office to drive after the flashing lights, I have a serious problem with that. When is the city going to demand that he step down? When is the NH Bar going to stop this blatant misconduct?"

Levasseur has represented several citizens with grievances against the police and has had an acrimonious relationship with the department.

Maloney confirmed that he made the post on the blog and welcomes an investigation by the attorney general. "It's not the first time he's made wild accusations," Maloney said of Levasseur. "And now he may be called out on it, and when the facts come out I'm going to request that he be charged with making a false report."

Levasseur said he wasn't being paid to represent the alleged abuse victim or other clients that had disputes with the police. "They get paid $45 an hour to stand around a hole, so they can't imagine anyone working for free," he said, referring to the police.

The same day he sent Mara the email complaining about the blog post, Levasseur also requested information about the alleged visit 10 days earlier of a police officer to the home of the mother of his client, the alleged abuse victim. She had told Levasseur that the officer was there to inquire about a car parked on the lawn.

Levasseur said it was unusual for police to respond to such matters. Mara responded in an email that "we have no record of any police officer responding to that address."

Levasseur has alleged that police dragged their feet in arresting Soucy, a veteran officer whose uncle is a former city police chief. Levasseur has said that high-ranking officers intimidated the alleged victim by showing up at her door before she felt comfortable making the charges. Police have said they reached out to assist her and offer services, and that any delays in arresting Soucy were related to jurisdictional issues with Hooksett, where the incident took place.

The main incident involving alleged intimidation of Levasseur took place outside City Hall Jan. 15, after an aldermen's meeting in which Maloney and other members of the force called on Levasseur to step down for comments he made that they said disparaged the police.

Following the meeting, Levasseur alleged he was confronted by Maloney.

"He was within three inches of my face and screaming at me in a hostile and menacing manner. He also placed his hands on me and poked me in the chest while you watched him do so," Levasseur wrote in his July 31 email to Mara, which was attached to the letter to the attorney general.

Maloney said it was Levasseur who approached him and another officer after the meeting. He insisted he did not touch Levasseur, and that this account would be confirmed by other witnesses.

"Joe Kelly Levasseur isn't getting threatened by anyone," he said. "Joe Kelly Levasseur is the one who does the threatening."

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