Embattled County Attorney Reams contests sealed reportBy JAMES A. KIMBLE
Union Leader Correspondent
December 17. 2013 9:47PM
BRENTWOOD — Embattled Rockingham County Attorney James Reams is arguing that a judge should give him access to an “interim status report” filed under seal by state prosecutors that are heading a criminal investigation into his office.
The report was submitted to a judge in advance of a court hearing Thursday that will determine whether Attorney General Joe Foster had the legal authority to temporarily suspend Reams’ in the wake of a joint state and federal probe into the county prosecutor’s office.
State prosecutors revealed for the first time on Thursday that Reams, who was temporarily suspended from office the night of Nov. 6, is the target of a criminal investigation.
The New Hampshire Union Leader reported last Tuesday that investigators are scrutinizing a forfeiture account that Reams once controlled and looking into his alleged lewd behavior toward female employees.
No criminal charges have been filed.
Reams’ lawyer Michael Ramsdell argued in court motion filed Tuesday that Foster has no authority to submit the report exclusively to Judge Richard McNamara.
“County Attorney Reams has not seen the Interim Status Report because the Attorney General apparently believes he, not this court, is empowered to determine what information the court should review (privately),” Ramsdell said in the motion.
Associate Attorney General Jane Young said on Tuesday that her office submitted the report under the seal to protect not for the ongoing probe into Reams’ office.
“We have an ongoing criminal investigation and personnel investigation,” Young said. “We want to make sure we are doing this investigation unfettered.”
She said that if someone is charged in the case, it’s the state’s responsibility to ensure that any suspect gets a fair trial.
Young said the state made a similar argument before McNamara last week when they argued against sharing evidence with Reams’ attorney.
Reams has routinely complained in court and in several recent interviews that he is being deprived of details regarding the investigation. He is contesting his temporary suspension with two lawsuits against the state and county commissioners.
Commissioners barred Reams from his office and placed his deputy prosecutor, Tom Reid, and a victim witness advocate on paid administrative leave at the request of the state.
Ramsdell has argued that Foster overstepped his legal bounds by suspending Reams, who has been elected to office eight consecutive times since 1998. Ramsdell made similar claims with the Attorney General’s decision to seal the report and keep it out of Reams’ reach.“The Attorney General did not seek the court’s approval to seal the report,” Ramsdell said in the motion.”Instead, he merely submitted it to the court under seal, presuming he had a right to do so.”Ramsdell is asking McNamara to either unseal the report, or have it stricken from the state’s argument.
McNamara approved a petition on Nov. 6 to install Senior Assistant Attorney General James Boffetti as interim county attorney during the probe.
McNamara is expected to hear legal arguments and possibly other evidence before deciding whether Reams has any legal justification for upending his suspension.