Charges dropped in alleged Sunapee election fraud incident

By Ray Carbone

SUNAPEE – The state’s efforts to prosecute two men who were allegedly involved in an election fraud scheme in 2016 has fallen short.

Last month, the NH attorney general’s office decided not to move forward with two charges of illegally altering an email in order to influence the outcome of an election, and one charge of forgery against Adam Gaw of Manchester.

The decision followed an October ruling handed down by Newport district judge Gregory E. Michael that dismissed the same charges against a Sunapee resident, Joseph Furlong.

The woman told police that she’d written an email that referenced some people associated with the Sunapee school board… Later, she discovered that someone had altered her message…

The two men were charged with the misdemeanor crimes after Sunapee police investigated a report from a resident that was made in March 2016. The woman told David Cahill, Sunapee’s police chief, that she’d written an email that referenced some people associated with the town’s school board, and sent it to several town acquaintances. Later, she discovered that someone had altered her message with the apparent aim of tilting the election in favor of Heather Furlong, Joseph’s wife, and sent it out to a larger group of citizens just days before a school board election. (Heather Furlong won a seat on the school board but resigned one year later after her husband was arrested.)

Cahill said he immediately notified the attorney general of a possible election fraud crime. With the AG’s support, he then began an investigation that led him to Joseph Furlong.

Furlong denied playing a role in the doctored message. Instead, he pointed to Gaw, an independent building contractor who may have been working on the Furlong house the night of the alleged crime.

Cahill initially doubted Gaw’s existence, saying he thought Furlong had invented a “straw man” to escape responsibility for his actions. Gaw sent an email to the Sunapee police claiming full responsibility for the altered email.

It was not until the early 2017 that the attorney general’s office filed formal charges against Furlong and Gaw. Shortly thereafter, it withdrew the original charges and filed new ones that it believed were more likely to lead to convictions.

But when Furlong’s case came to trial earlier this fall, his lawyer asked Judge Michael to dismiss the charges because the newer ones were filed too late – just days after the legal statute of limitations had run out.

The judge agreed and, when the AG’s office appealed his decision, he affirmed it, saying that authorities had “failed to properly investigate the facts.”

When Gaw’s case came to court on November 14, James Vera of the attorney general’s office decided not to move forward with the Manchester man’s prosecution.

Last week, Vera said that Gaw’s lawyer “would have made the same argument” that caused Judge Michael to drop the charges against Furlong.

Vera refused to blame anyone on the prosecution’s team for the outcome.

“I’m not going to say that anyone dropped the ball,” he said. “There was a decision that was made and it was incorrect.”

Vera said the state is not planning any further action related to the incident.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire, on November 28, 2017.

Advertisements

Sunapee man cleared of all charges in election fraud case

By Ray Carbone

NEWPORT – A Newport district court judge has issued a sharp legal rebuke to law enforcement agencies that were involved in a criminal case against a Sunapee man charged with election fraud.

In a decision handed down on Oct. 27, Judge Gregory E. Michael dismissed all charges against Joseph Furlong, 41, of Sunapee, stating that the state “failed to properly investigate the facts” related to the alleged crime.

“(The state) wishes the court to endorse its failure,” Michael wrote. “This court will not do so.”

Michael issued his ruling after speaking with Furlong’s attorney, James Rosenberg, and James Vera of the attorney general’s office at a public hearing earlier in October. The hearing was held following the attorney general’s official request to have Michael reconsider his original decision to dismiss all charges against Furlong.

In his Oct. 26 decision, Michael said that the state had made a crucial error when it filed its original charges in March 2016, then took too long to fix it.

The original investigation, conducted by Sunapee Police Chief David Cahill, concluded that there was “probable cause” to believe that Furlong altered the email of another Sunapee resident, and then sent it out to others in the community in an attempt to tilt a 2016 school board election in favor of his wife. As part of the case, authorities also charged that Furlong had invented a “straw man” named Adam Gaw to blame for his illegal activities.

(Adam) Gaw is still scheduled to go on trial Nov. 14 in Newport… He’s filed a plea of not guilty, but has also confessed several times…

 

By the time Furlong’s trial came around in July, however, Adam Gaw had come forward and confessed to doctoring the email, apparently clearing the local man. The state withdrew its original charges against Furlong and filed new ones, charging that the local man had worked in concert with Gaw to plan and distribute the altered email.

Just days before the trail was to begin, Judge Michael dismissed all charges, saying that the new charges were filed too late to give Furlong’s attorney sufficient time to prepare a proper defense.

At the October hearing, Vera argued that the state’s new charges dealt with Furlong’s alleged criminal behavior and that it was no different if he’d acted alone or with Gaw.

But the judge disagreed. He said the new charges shifted the primary blame from Furlong to Gaw and the Sunapee man wasn’t properly prepared for the trail – and the new charges were filed too late, after the statute of limitations had run out.

“This court believes the charges should inform (Furlong) of his alleged misconduct prior to trial, not AT the trail,” Michael’s ruling read. “When preparing the initial (criminal) complaints, the State did not believe Adam Gaw existed and based its allegation using that ‘fact’ as a predicate for the original complaint.

“The original complaint also contained an allegation that (Furlong) ‘knowing gave false information’ to a law enforcement office,” the judge added, when the local man named Gaw as the person who may have doctored the email.

Gaw is an independent construction contractor of modest means who lives in Manchester. Furlong has said that Gaw may have been among of group of contractors who were working in the Sunapee man’s home when the email message was sent out but he’s unsure.

Both Furlong and Gaw were originally arrested and charged in March 2017 but, in July the attorney general’s office set the original charges set aside and instituted the new ones, including two counts of illegally altering an email with the aim of influencing the results of an election (Class A misdemeanor) and one count of forgery (a Class B misdemeanor).

Gaw is still scheduled to go on trial on Nov. 14 in Newport District Court. He’s filed an official plea of not guilty with the court, but has also confessed several times that he’s doctored the email.

At an earlier hearing on his case, Lauren Breda, a public defender representing Gaw, indicated that if the charges against Furlong are dismissed, her client could ask the court to dismiss his charges based on the same legal issues.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire on November 7, 2017.

 

Superior Court Judge tosses out request for restraining order against Sunapee Police Chief David Cahill

By Ray Carbone

NEWPORT – A local reality TV producer and his wife have lost their fight to win a restraining order and a stalking order of protection against Dave Cahill, the chief of Sunapee police department.

In a decision handed down on Friday, Judge Brian Tucker of the Sullivan County Superior Court here ruled that Joseph and Heather Furlong of Sunapee “presented no instance of unwarranted contact (with the chief) – direct or indirect, real or threatened – that justifies a restraining order.”

The judge recognized the anxiety the couple has had regarding the chief over the last six months, but he said that “the subjective views of the Fulongs are not enough to support issuing the (restraining) order.”

During the hearing held Thursday in the superior court, several witnesses – including the Furlongs – indicated that the chief only had, at most, four incidents in the last 18 months where he’d interacted with either of the Furlongs, and Heather Furlong initiated two.

(The judge also dismissed the request for a stalking order, noting that such actions are taken in the Newport District Court.)

During Thursday’s hearing, it was apparent that the Furlongs were extremely anxious confronting the chief. Heather Furlong, the first witness, broke down in tears not long after she took the stand.

“I’m very concerned about a pattern that Mr. Cahill has demonstrated with myself and my husband,” she told the judge. “(He) has been malicious, which has resulted in substantial pain and suffering for my family.”

Joseph Furlong, who wiped tears from his eyes as his wife wept, said later that he had similar emotional problems. “I can’t sleep at night,” he testified. “(Cahill) is out to get me, to get vengeance… I want protection until I can pack up and move my family out of town.”

‘Heather Furlong, the first witness, broke down in tears not long after she took the stand… Joseph Furlong, who wiped tears from his eyes as his wife wept, said that he had similar emotional problems. “I can’t sleep at night,” he testified.’

 

Cahill, who has been in law enforcement for 30 years and Sunapee’s chief for the last 15 years, denied that he ever acted in an intimidating or threatening towards the couple. In fact, he testified that he’s had regular friendly small town-type encounters with the Furlongs for some time, particularly since his youngsters are the same age as their children.

Things began changing in 2016 after Joseph Furlong was investigated for allegedly doctoring an email with the apparent goal of swaying the election of a school board seat in his wife’s favor.

Cahill spoke with several people, including Furlong, after learning about the possible election fraud. Furlong was arrested in March 2017 following a yearlong investigation under the supervision of the New Hampshire attorney general’s office. He was charged with six counts related to forgery and making a false statement to the police.

Furlong denied the charges, and indicated that a 36-year-old construction contractor named Adam Gaw from Manchester, who was apparently working on the Furlong house, may have been responsible for the altered email message.

Shortly before Joseph Furlong was scheduled to go on trail last month, the attorney general withdrew the original charges and filed new ones, both related to actions taken during the alleged email doctoring.

A district court judge ruled that the new charges were filed after the statute of limitation had run out. He dismissed all charges against Joseph Furlong. (The AG has filed a request to have the judge reconsider his decision.)

At last week’s court hearing, the Furlongs told Judge Tucker that Cahill had friendly relationships with other residents who are their political opponents, and that the chief also harbors ill will against them because he mishandled the email investigation.

The judge listened to more than three hours of testimony, much of it related to the email investigation and the Furlongs’ reactions to Cahill and other Sunapee residents, but he made it clear that he was focused on the restraining order request.

‘I’m interested in the facts (relating to) whether I should issue an order restraining (Cahill) from seeing you, not the politics,” he told Heather Furlong at one point.

“Whether it was a bad or a good investigation really has noting to do with whether I should issue an order that Chief Cahill should stay away from you,” he said later to Joseph Furlong.

In related news, police report that Adam Gaw has twice taken full responsibility for doctoring the email messages but he recently plead “not guilty” to all related charges in district court. A hearing regarding his case is scheduled for this week.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, New Hampshire, on September 12, 2017.

 

 

 

Warner company may move if shooting range approved; MadgeTech wanted land where range now planned

 

Eric Miller submitted the above illustration showing what his proposed gun shop/shooting gallery could look like to Warner planning officials recently.

 

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – A Sutton man’s plan to build a $1.4-million indoor shooting range and retail gun store on Warner Road has won initial approval from town planning officials but it’s opposed by Norman Carlson, the founder and president of MadgeTech Inc., who says he will move his high-tech firm out of town if the project moves forward.

Norman Carlson says MadgeTech, which abuts the proposed project’s land, does $10-million in annual sales but he will move his 60-employee firm from its hometown if Eric Miller’s proposal to construct two buildings (connected by a breezeway) totaling 11,800 square-feet on 2.9 acres for a firearms operation moves forward.

Last year, Carlson tried to buy the same land in a sealed bid process from the NH division of Forests and Land, but his bid fell just $100 short. The winning bid of $57,100 was entered by Richard M. George of Webster and Carlson believes that George was somehow tipped off about his company’s $57,000 bid. George denies the claim.

Miller said he retired at 50 but he soon got bored and began thinking about options. “I began thinking, what is it that’s worth my time, that would be able to draw in enough people for it to be viable,” he recalled. “And I ended up concluding that this (shooting range and store) was a business that I could draw people in from a 30-mile radius and pull in enough people for it to be viable.”

(MadgeTech’s president Norman) Carlson believes that (Richard M.) George was somehow tipped off about his company’s $57,000 bid (on the land). George denies the claim.

The businessman said he deliberately chose the unusually shaped lot nearby Interstate 89’s exit 7.

“I needed (the site) to be commercial zoned and with the least amount of abutters,” he explained. “A gun range is definitely a thing that’s going to go thorough review from (town) zoning, planning and all that… It would have been harder if it were next to a residential area. That would have caused a lot more confusion and panic by the surrounding neighbors.”

Miller said the shooting range would be a 9,400 square-feet structure with 16 lanes; the retail store of 2,400 square feet would connect via a breezeway. The range will be built to double the noise standards required by the Department of Energy. In addition, the Department of Environmental Services’ air quality standards call for an aggressive HVAC system that eliminates any lead produced by firearms from the air before being released to the outdoors.

Miller described his planned range as an “educational facility” that will cater to a growing group of novices interested in shooting.

But that’s one of than issues that most concerns Carlson.

“You’ll have people getting in and out of their vehicles with guns. And he said he’s going to appeal to novices so you’ll have people who don’t know what they’re doing. We have (employee) picnics outside there, not five feet from that property. There’s a residence right there, a couple with two small children. Do we really want that next to a residential home?”

Carlson said he’s for the Second Amendment but he does not want the shooting so close to his growing business. He said employees have already raised concerns and he’s prepared to do anything he can to oppose the project, from exploring legal options to moving out of town.

“Our company is 20 years old,” he explained. “Everything we sell, we make and design right here in Warner. We do about $10-million in annual sales. We have two devices on the International Space Station. Almost every biotech company in the world uses our products. We have an annual growth in Asia of 32 percent, in Europe of 22 percent. Everyone here has health insurance, a 401K, profit sharing and all kinds of benefits. And we’re working on a $3 million addition here for office space and marketing.

“I hope they know what they’re giving up here,” the MadgeTech president said, referring to town leaders. “It’s too bad, because there are other towns I can move to, places that will give me tax breaks. Concord will give me tax credits to move there. I don’t want to do that, but if they want to put a gun range in there, they’re telling me they don’t value this company… I won’t stay around if Warner decides to approve a gun range there.”

In early March, Miller won a special exception from the town’s zoning board of adjustment to operate the shooting range as an approved “amusement and recreation (indoor)” facility. On March 24, the town’s planning board was scheduled to review his building application but it delayed accepting the application because Carlson filed a request for a rehearing. The MadgeTech president said that the town had failed to notify two abutters: the NH Department of Transportation and the division of Forest and Lands. The board voted to notify the two agencies and rescheduled a meeting for Monday, April 17.

Last week, the zoning board met to consider the same proposal from Carlson but the members voted 5-0 to deny the request for a rehearing. Member Corey Giroux, an attorney, said that his research indicated that the town is not required to notify state agencies about planning-related hearings.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, N.H., in the April 18, 2017.

MORE: The Concord Monitor featured an article on this week’s planning board meeting in Tuesday’s edition. Read it here.

 

 

Sunapee school board picks ex-member; Warner selectman is new to the job

SUNAPEE – The four sitting members of the Sunapee school board voted unanimously to stick with one of their own Wednesday by appointing April Royce to fill a vacant seat on the board.

Royce will serve a one-year term that opened up following the recent resignation of member Heather Furlong. Furlong’s husband was arrested last month for allegedly committing election fraud during his wife’s race for a board seat last year.

Royce had been the overwhelmingly choice of voters to serve a one-year term in 2016, but she finished fifth among five candidates who ran for a full three-year term last month. The board chose her after she and two other interested residents were publicly interviewed at a public meeting before the group’s its regular meeting at Sunapee Middle High School last week.

During her interview, Royce told the sitting board members that she believed her professional and personal experience with financial issues would help them to “reduce costs while managing results and employee satisfaction.” She said she has a good understanding of the board’s financial responsibilities and has the ability to break down fiscal information for other people “in non-financial terms.”

Royce said she places a high value on public school education and that she believes the district’s primary mission is “helping children learn to be contributing members of society.”

Sunapee selectman John Augustine, who finished third in the five-person race for two vacant seats in March, said that the board could benefit from his ‘numbers orientation and analytic mindset.’

 

Community activist Gidget Ducharme told the board that she wanted the district to develop a “clearer picture of (each) student’s strengths and weaknesses.” She promoted a community approach that would involve parents and teachers, as well as guidance councilors and educational advisors.

“I think we do a good job with kids who have challenges, and with the advanced kids,” she said, but students “in the middle of the road” could use more support.

Ducharme also promoted the idea of introducing languages in early education because research indicates that there are multiple educational and social benefits, including greater mental flexibility and higher math scores on standardized tests.

Selectman John Augustine, who finished third in the five-person race for two vacant board seats in March’s elections, said that the board could benefit from his “numbers orientation and analytic mindset.” “I have the mindset of a business owner and entrepreneur,” he explained.

Augustine also said that he’s hired many local students for his business over the years and is concerned that with their general lack of enthusiasm about their futures. “I don’t sense that be-all-you-can be passion and inspiration that I felt a generation ago,” he noted, especially given the advantages Sunapee students have with relative small class sizes and highly compensated teachers.

Board member Jesse Tyler asked Augustine about how he would work in an cooperative fashion since local newspapers have published letters the selectman wrote that were critical of current board members. Tyler said he had to talk to his young child after he was “mischaracterized as being foolish” in one of Augustine’s column.

Augustine said that he had been critical of something Tyler said at a public meeting because he did not think it was helpful to the district. “We’re not here to make ourselves look good,” he added, suggesting that the board needs to face the “reality of the situation” in the district.

Shortly after the board convened its regular meeting, the group unanimously approved Royce for the vacant position. In addition, Royce was voted to become the board’s new vice-chairman.

A March 2018 election will let voters chose who fills out the remainder of Furlong’s term.

Read about the Warner selectmen here.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record, Sutton, NH, on April 11, 2017.

Town elections vs. the Storm of 2017

Latest word from Warner town officials is that the Town Meeting election is still scheduled for tomorrow, Tues,, March 14, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. at town hall, despite the impending storm. The public meeting will take place the next day, Wed., March 15, 7 p.m. at town hall.

But Andover has already rescheduled its meeting and voting. Elections will be held Saturday, March 18, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The public meeting section will take place on Monday, March 20, at 7 p.m. Both will be at the the Andover Elementary/Middle School.

Warner Candidates – election next week!

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – With the news that selectman Allan N. Brown will not seek reelection this year, residents will have choose between two new candidates for a three-year term on the town’s leadership board.

Kimberly Brown Edelmann, who has worked as a reporter for this newspaper, is running against Paul Haganow.

The only other race on the ballot is for two three-year seats on the budget committee. Incumbent John Leavitt is running against Martha I. Bodnarik and David Minton, a local realtor. Bodnarik ran for a seat on the budget group last year.

There are no other contested races on the ballot.

Election Day: Tues., March 14 @ Warner Town Hall, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Town Meeting: Wed. March 15 @ Town Hall, 7 p.m.

Selectman, 3-year (vote for 1) – Kimberly Edelmann, Paul Hagenow

Budget Committee, 3-year (vote for 2) – Martha Bodnarik, John Leavitt, David Minton

Chandler Reservation Committee, 4-year (vote for 1) – Jonathan France

Foster & Currier Funds Almoner, 3-year (vote for 1) – Penny Sue Courser

Foster & Currier Funds Almoner, 1-year (vote for 1) – Jere Henley

Library Trustee, 3-year (vote for 3) – David Bates, Ralph Parsons, Judith Pellettieri

Library Trustee, 1-year (vote for 1) – No declared candidate

Cemetery Trustee, 3-year (vote for 1) – Kenneth W. Cogswell

Trustee of Trust Funds, 3-year (vote for 1) – David Karrick

KRSD School Board, 3-year (vote for 1) – Joseph Mendola, Faith Minton

KRSD Budget Committee, 3-year (vote for 1) – Jonathan Sevigny

KRSD Moderator, 1-year (vote for 1) – Brackett L. Scheffy

This story was first published in the InterTown Record on Feb. 21. Additional information about the upcoming town election and the annual town meeting is available here:

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑