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Weare agrees to pay $15k to settle suit against police

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 16. 2013 11:34PM

A disabled Weare resident last week dropped his federal lawsuit against the town of Weare and its police department after reaching a settlement with the town.

Selectman Chairman Thomas Clow on Monday confirmed a settlement was reached in the lawsuit brought against the town, police department and five police officers by George Hodgdon and G & E Restaurant & Pub LLC.

Town Administrator Naomi L. Bolton said Hodgdon was awarded $15,000, and the lawsuit will be withdrawn.

Hodgdon, who is permanently disabled, filed the suit in federal court in 2012 alleging the town and its police force violated his constitutional rights by subjecting him to unlawful arrest, initiating a criminal prosecution without probable cause and use of excessive force. He also alleged he was the target of false imprisonment and claimed the town was negligent in training and supervising its police force.

The complaint stems from an April 30, 2010, incident at Palmer's Tavern, a restaurant and pub Hodgdon owned and operated at 525 S. Stark Highway.

Hodgdon said he was washing dishes inside when someone yelled "fight." Police arrived and ordered everyone into the bar and kept them locked inside for four hours, according to Hodgdon's lawsuit. Hodgdon said he refused to provide police with a statement.

He also said police harrassed and intimidated him after he refused to hire police officers for "detail" work at his business. As a result, he said he was forced to sell the tavern, the suit claims.

On July 1, police executed an arrest warrant at the restaurant where Officer Nicholas Nadeau repeatedly asked Hodgdon to make a statement, the suit alleges. Hodgdon said he asserted his right to remain silent even as Nadeau warned Hodgdon he was being video and audio recorded.

After his arrest, Hodgdon said police pushed him into their cruiser, ignoring his request to loosen his leg brace so he could bend his knee and step into the cruiser on his own. Instead, he said police pushed him into the cruiser where he fell face first.

Police charged Hodgdon with hindering apprehension and unsworn falsification. Hodgdon was acquitted of all charges.

Decision to settle

Clow said selectmen turned the suit over to the town's insurance agency, Primex, which decided to settle the matter rather than it bring it to trial. The case was scheduled to go to trial in April.

Hodgdon's attorney, Stephen T. Martin of Concord, notified U.S. District Court in Concord on Dec. 3 the case had been settled.

Neither Hodgdon nor Martin could be reached for comment Monday.

Hodgdon and G&E Restaurant & Pub filed stipulations with the court on Dec. 11 and 12 voluntarily dismissing with prejudice all claims against the town of Weare, its police department and five individually named officers, only two of whom remain on the force.

The named officers are former Police Chief Gregory C. Begin, who retired in May; former Sgt. Joseph Kelly, who was fired last month; and former Sgt. Robert Peterson, who voluntarily left the department for personal reasons, Clow said. Officers Brandon Montplaisir and Nicholas Nadeau are the two officers named in the suit who still are on the force.

Pending investigation

Two Weare police officers are on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation by the state Attorney General's Office of its handling of an undercover drug operation last August. A Manchester man was fatally shot during that operation.

The Attorney General's Office said the investigation is nearing completion and its findings should be released "soon."

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