NH Supreme Court rules: Calling man 'dirty ex-cop' won't get him a new trial
CONCORD - A man the prosecutor called a "dirty ex-cop" in his closing argument will be spending time in prison - two to four years to be exact - after the state Supreme Court Tuesday upheld his perjury convictions.
Brendan Bisbee, a former 10-year veteran of the Barre, Mass., Police Department, was convicted of five counts of perjury in October 2011 in Rockingham County Superior Court.
He is the former boyfriend of Kristin Ruggiero of East Kingston, who framed her husband, Jeffrey Ruggiero, in a series of faked text messages resulting in his conviction and imprisonment on misdemeanor offenses, jeopardizing his U.S. Coast Guard career. Once police realized what happened, Ruggiero's record was annulled and his former wife was tried, convicted and sentenced to seven to 14 years in prison. She later committed suicide at the New Hampshire State Prison for Woman after the Supreme Court rejected her appeal.
On Tuesday, the high court rejected Bisbee's appeal in which he argued assistant Rockingham County Attorney Jerome Blanchard improperly injected his personal opinion in his closing argument when he twice referred to Bisbee as a "dirty cop" and called him a "mope."
"I think that's what the evidence showed," said Blanchard. "I'm very happy they upheld the appeal and I'm very happy for Jeff Ruggiero."
Bisbee contended the epithet "dirty cop" suggested to the jury that he "has negative characteristics beyond those associated with his commission of the alleged perjuries;" that it created a risk the jury "would convict on an improper basis," and improperly communicated his "personal opinion that the defendant was a 'dirty cop.'"
The court noted Bisbee made no argument about why the prosecutor's use of the term "mope" was improper or prejudicial, so they did not address it.
In his closing argument, Blanchard asked the jury to compare Bisbee's testimony to another officer's testimony: "When you go in the deliberation room you decide who's lying to you, (the defendant) or (East Kingston Police) Officer (Mark) Iannuccillo. There is a dirty cop in this case. He's right there. And it's too bad that we even have to refer to him as an ex-cop. It's a damn shame."
Blanchard also told the jury, "Their lies didn't work before, ladies and gentlemen, they're not working today. Use your common sense, look at the transcripts. The State asks that you find (the defendant) guilty of all the charges, because he is guilty. As he sits there today right over there, the dirty ex-cop, the State asked that you tell him that."
The court, in upholding Bisbee's convictions, said the prosecutor's "dirty cop" references were not improper and he was not expressing his personal opinion. The prosecutor asked the jury to compare Bisbee's alleged perjurious testimony to that of a police officer, the court said. In asking the jury to tell Bisbee he was a "dirty ex-cop," the prosecutor directed the jury to use its common sense and to look at the transcriptions, that is, to examine the evidence, according to the decision.
Bisbee was accused of committing perjury when he testified in March 2009 before a Rockingham County grand jury and on April 27, 2010, at Ruggiero's trial. The indictments alleged he perjured himself when he said Ruggiero had never been to Tennessee; he could not remember if he picked her up at the Oakland, Calif., Airport on March 20, 2008; a police officer did not come to 13 Pinewood Road on the evening of May 4, 2008; and Ruggiero had not used his cellphone to call an Epping number.