January 24. 2014 10:41PM

Danville chief's lawyer files to dismiss negligent firearms charge

By Jason Schreiber
Union Leader Correspondent

SALEM — The lawyer for Danville Police Chief Wade Parsons is asking a judge to dismiss a charge accusing the chief of failing to secure a handgun used by a teenager in a suicide last year.

Alan Cronheim has filed a motion in the Salem Circuit Court seeking to toss the negligent storage of a firearm charge filed in the wake of 15-year-old Jacob Carver's death inside the chief's Danville home on March 11, 2013.

According to court documents, Parsons admitted that his loaded Glock-22 .40-caliber handgun was in his duty belt that was left sitting on a duffel bag and covered with clothing inside a closet on the night of the suicide.

Authorities said Carver used the handgun issued to Parsons by the Danville Police Department and shot himself while he was alone inside the house; Carver was the son of the chief's girlfriend.

Cronheim, an attorney for Sisti Law Offices, argues the state law used to bring the violation-level offense doesn't apply in this case because the death resulted from a suicide.

Under the law, RSA 650-C:1, a person can be charged if a child gains access to a loaded firearm and the firearm is "negligently or recklessly discharged."

In this case, Cronheim maintains that law can't be used because the state Medical Examiner's Office ruled Carver's death a suicide following an autopsy.

The handgun in question was "intentionally discharged" and "not discharged negligently or recklessly," Cronheim wrote in his motion to dismiss.

The Legislature, in writing the law, "declined to have the statute applied to circumstances where a child obtains a firearm and chooses to knowingly or purposely discharge the firearm. In making this determination, the Legislature reasonably and understandably defined the statute so as to avoid penalizing an individual for a circumstance where a child chooses to knowingly or purposely discharge a firearm in a circumstance where the owner of the firearm has not given permission to the child to use the weapon," the motion said.

In reviewing the legislative history, Cronheim maintains that those who supported the law overwhelmingly focused on accidents involving firearms.

"While some supporters of the legislation referenced suicide, there is an absence of discussion by them of the statutory terms included in the legislation," he wrote.

Salem Circuit Court Judge Michael Sullivan is now deciding whether the case can move forward based on the language of law.

Parsons has remained on the job despite the case and has received the support of selectmen, who insisted that Parsons shouldn't be held responsible for Carver's death.

Assistant Rockingham County Attorney Terri Harrington, who's prosecuting the case, could not be reached for comment Friday on the motion to dismiss the case. She has until Feb. 3 to file a written response to the motion. A hearing is expected to be held Feb. 24.