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Police: Reporter needs to pay fee to review documents in Salem hockey scuffle case

By RYAN LESSARD
Union Leader Correspondent

September 05. 2018 11:34PM




SALEM — A day after a Superior Court judge ordered the release of police documents related to a Dec. 2 incident at Icenter, police are refusing to allow a Union Leader reporter to review those documents without first paying a fee of $56.50 for a copy.

In an email message, Capt. Joel Dolan also offered to mail the copy for $60.02.

When the reporter arrived at the station to look at the documents the department was ordered by Judge Andy Shulman to make publicly available under the state’s Right-to-Know law, Deputy Chief Robert Morin told him his only option was to buy a copy.

The Union Leader did not request a copy, nor did it need one as it was satisfied with having a reporter review the public documents in person.

The documents being requested are all the police reports related to the arrest of youth hockey coach Robert Andersen of Wilmington, Mass., during an altercation with police on Dec. 2 and the subsequent arrests in May of two parents who were present at the scuffle; John Chesna of Revere, Mass., and Christopher Albano of Reading, Mass.

Andersen is charged with assaulting a police officer and criminal threatening. Chesna is charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespass, and Albano is charged with disorderly conduct and simple assault.

After a different Superior Court judge, Marguerite Wageling, imposed a gag order in May, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire sued the town of Salem to release the documents.

The ACLU said it was investigating whether the police acted inappropriately or attempted to intimidate witnesses.

Albano was one of several parents who spoke to the media this spring, saying Andersen was wrongly arrested and tasered after trying to break up a verbal dispute between parents. Eventually, the ACLU decided to drop the suit and intervene in Andersen’s criminal case instead.

After hearing arguments from the ACLU, the defense and the prosecution, Judge Shulman sided with the ACLU and defense, saying the gag order was “overbroad” and unconstitutional.

Messages left Wednesday afternoon for Town Manager Chris Dillon and Salem’s attorney, Bart Mayer, were not returned.

Gilles Bissonnette with the ACLU said he is requesting the police waive the fee in light of the $260 filing fee spent litigating the case to vacate the gag order. They hadn’t received a response by Wednesday evening.

This is not the first time the ACLU has played tug-of-war with Salem police over public documents to be released for a fee. In February, the ACLU sued the department for its $15 per report rate they were charging at the time.

Bissonnette said the court agreed the $15 fee was inappropriate and they reached a compromise of 50 cents per page, which Bissonnette said is “not ideal” or appropriate but they have not yet challenged it.

“For many individuals, it’s cost-prohibitive,” Bissonnette said.

ldnews@unionleader.com


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