MANCHESTER— Attorney Joe Kelly Levasseur went to Hillsborough County Superior Court North Monday morning seeking a reversal of City Clerk Matt Normand’s closure of TN Convenience, 90 Bridge St., last Thursday, after sending three stores notices.
The store was closed as the number of overdoses by people using spice, a synthetic form of marijuana, rose rapidly last week.
Police sought to halt the sale of a bubblegum-flavored spice called Smacked.
Levasseur said if the stores had been asked to stop selling the spice in question, they would have stopped.
He said shutting a business down is extreme.
Levasseur told Judge Diane Nicolosi: “They’re losing $10,000 a day.”
He said seven employees are idled and the owners haven’t been able to take advantage of the fluctuating price of gasoline.
“They didn’t do anything wrong,” said Levasseur.
An attorney for the city, Peter Chiesa, presented a report that included specifics about overdoses and where the spice was purchased. Levasseur, saying he had just received that report, noted it wasn’t sworn to and said he objected to its inclusion if the person who wrote the report was not present at the hearing.
Chiesa said the officer who wrote the report and several who interviewed overdose victims were in the courtroom. Chiesa said of Officer Fred Gillis, who was in the courtroom and could testify, “He interviewed a person who overdosed on bubble gum” spice.
Chiesa said the person said he bought it at TN. He said the overdose victim said the clerk would only sell the spice to him if there was no one else around.
Nicolosi said the issue is due process, not whether TN’s owner should keep his licenses.
Levasseur offered the judge a flash drive that he said contained video of the police search of TN Convenience last week.
Levasseur said three officers did not have a search warrant, but asked permission to search. He said the employees were intimidated.
TN owner Saif Nourie said police asked, “Where’s the stuff?” He said: “I was scared.”
Levasseur said the officers searched shelves, behind the counter, in drawers and a safe and found no trace of the incense in question.
“Shutting them down is completely illegal,” he said.
Nicolosi said she would try to have a decision by mid-afternoon Monday.
A quorum of aldermen are scheduled to meet Tuesday at 3 p.m. to discuss restoring the license, but Levasseur, who is also an alderman, questioned why a quorum couldn’t have been assembled last week.
After the hearing, police spokesperson Sgt. Brian O’Keefe said that since the publicity: “It’s been a tremendous decrease” in the number of spice overdoses.
But over the weekend, regular users have complained they are “dope-sick” and are unable to buy the bubble gum Smacked brand anywhere in the city.
Levasseur, who said he was confident the judge would rule in his client’s favor, said the closure decision, which also affected Han’s Food Mart, 353 Maple St., and Union Street Market, 621 Union St., was really Mayor Ted Gatsas’ decision.
“He wanted to make a statement,” said Levasseur, who also suggested the mayor was using the situation for political advantage.