Danville police chief's trial moved from Rockingham County over judge
PLAISTOW — A charge brought against Danville Police Chief Wade Parsons will be moved to a court outside Rockingham County after prosecutors argued a local judge's recent comments suggested she may not be impartial.
Judge Sharon DeVries, who presides over cases in the 10th Circuit Court in Plaistow, will be recused from the case following a pretrial hearing Aug. 8 at which she told Parsons that she was "surprised" to see him before the court and that she has known him for as long as she's been on the bench. Parsons was charged after a teenager allegedly committed suicide with the chief's handgun.
The comments "manifest an appearance of a lack of impartiality" as required by state Supreme Court rules, Assistant Rockingham County Attorney Terri Harrington wrote in her motion to have DeVries pulled off the case.
"The judge's impartiality can reasonably be questioned. The judge's statements give the impression that the judge is partial to the defendant due to her long-standing working relationship with him as the Danville chief of police," Harrington's motion said.
Harrington further argued that DeVries' statements "would create in the mind of a reasonable, disinterested person fully informed of the facts a perception that the judge's impartiality is impaired and are cause for recusal."
The court granted the motion but has not yet reassigned the case.
Parsons has pleaded not guilty to a violation of negligent storage of firearms charge. He is accused of leaving his Glock 22 .40-caliber handgun on top of a safe inside his home at 53 Caramel Drive on March 11.
Rockingham County Attorney James Reams has said Parsons' girlfriend's 15-year-old son, Jacob Carver, accessed the firearm and shot himself. Reams has called the shooting a suicide.
Under state law, a firearm owner can be charged if a weapon is not properly secured and is accessed by someone under the age of 16.
Parsons faces a fine of up to $1,000 if convicted of the violation.