Father at center of Gilford book controversy hires high-profile attorney
GILFORD — The dad who drew national attention last month when he was arrested for allegedly disrupting a school board meeting with complaints about a sexually explicit book, has hired one of the state’s top criminal lawyers.
William Baer, whose ninth-grade daughter was assigned the book “Nineteen Minutes” for her honors English class, is being represented by Mark Sisti of Gilmanton, the primary attorney at Sisti Law Offices in Concord.
Sisti and former partner Paul Twomey have represented defendants in some of New Hampshire’s highest profile criminal cases, including the murder trials of Pamela Smart in 1991.
Baer was arrested for disorderly conduct.
“It makes no difference that it’s a misdemeanor charge, it’s a criminal charge, no different to me than any other criminal charge. It’s what I do,” Sisti said.
Baer says he should not have been arrested, as he was just airing a complaint to the school board about the book, which he said contains a passage describing sexual acts by two teens.
School officials say he broke the two-minute comment period rule and began arguing with another parent about the school’s use of the book by best-selling author Jodi Picoult of Hanover.
Baer was charged with disorderly conduct and was led from the room by a police officer.
The district apologized that night to parents for not giving prior notification of the book’s use, saying it was an error.
And in the days after Baer’s arrest, district officials announced new guidelines for the next school year that will allow parents to “opt-in” or approve all of their children’s assigned reading materials.
Baer contends that school officials planned his arrest ahead of the meeting.
He has posted videos on YouTube that he claims show Superintendent Kent Hemingway signaling to a police officer at the meeting to make the arrest.
Sisti said he took the case because Baer shouldn’t have been arrested.
“I’m going to be looking over the case carefully, and film was taken of all of the meeting, so there’s some good evidence,” Sisti said.
Baer is to be arraigned June 17.