HAVERHILL – Midway through the felony trial of former Bristol Police Chief Michael Lewis, the state last week dropped charges that Lewis tampered with his hours on police-funded police details grants, in return for Lewis’ payment of $ 9,000 to the City of Bristol.
Lewis and his attorney, Eric Wilson, argue that the deal was not a “settlement” – which Wilson says involves guilt – but rather a business decision.
“He could pay $ 9,000 and ensure the case is closed, or pay his lawyer $ 15,000 to $ 20,000 to run the trial all week,” Wilson said, adding that he was convinced they would have. won at the end of the trial.
Grafton County attorney Marcie Hornick, who pursued the case, had a different take on the deal.
“The charges are pending,” she said. “They’re conditionally prossed, as long as he pays the $ 9,000 and stays in good standing for two years.” Technically, the case is still pending. … If for some reason Lewis did not meet the conditions – which I think is unlikely – we would bring the charges back and start the trial again.
Lewis said: “It boiled down to simple math. I have no doubt that this trial, like the previous trial, was going to be a quick deliberation. “
He said as they left the court, nine of the 15 jurors in charge of the case approached him and shook his hand.
“They made reference to the fact that they didn’t feel guilty by any stretch of the imagination. One of them resides in Bridgewater and said there are serious problems in that community. [Bristol] that are of concern.
Lewis maintains that the charges against him were fabricated to get rid of him.
Claiming he had waited two years to be able to speak, Lewis attributed his problems to a meeting with Bristol officials during Motorcycle Week in June 2017. At that meeting, elected officials complained that the Bristol Police Department was the only local agency not represented at regional meetings. to discuss the drug epidemic, and they asked him or a designate to attend a future session. Lewis replied that he would “skip the Danish” and instead put “boots on the ground” to support his officers as they faced the crisis.
“It was clear after this meeting that my fate would be similar to that of my two predecessors and the fire chief,” Lewis said. “You cross the path of Rick Alpers [then chair of the Bristol Board of Selectmen] and your days are numbered. Less than 90 days later, I was put on paid administrative leave.
Lewis resigned as chief of police on October 4, 2017, 30 days after being put on leave, and Bristol elected officials said they discovered discrepancies in his timesheets when reviewing the internal policies of the staff after his departure.
A Grafton County Superior Court grand jury handed over three indictments for felony against Lewis on June 15, 2018, under the direction of Hornick’s predecessor, but she failed to review the charges and complete the documents, leading to two alternate indictments against Lewis on February 15 of this year. The indictments alleged that Lewis claimed overtime that he did not work during the period from July 2012 to December 2014, and between January 2016 and December 2017, each time involving more than $ 1,500 .
Overtime for the patrols in question was paid for with grants from the New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency.
Lewis was also charged with three other counts of misdemeanor sexual assault for an alleged incident on August 31, 2017, which led to his administrative leave.
The sexual assault trial in May led to Lewis’s acquittal on these charges. Audio recordings of this trial show Wilson obtained testimony from Lt. Timothy Woodward that he and Lt. Kristopher Bean wanted Lewis to go, and that Woodward hoped to get the chief position. The alleged sexual assault victim was Woodward’s wife, Nicole, and Bristol Selectman Rick Alpers filed the complaint.
Among the evidence presented by Wilson was a text message from Bristol City Administrator Nik Coates urging Lewis to seek an opening with the Moultonborough Police Department “before Rick [Alpers] brings you out. This message was sent shortly before elected officials put Lewis on paid administrative leave.
On the witness stand, Woodward admitted he failed to follow municipal procedures requiring him to report the alleged improper touching to human resources or the city administrator. While Woodward initially said he tried to find them but they weren’t in their offices, he later admitted that he went directly to Alpers at the selected men’s home over the weekend and that Alpers had advised Woodward and his wife to file written complaints.
The administrative secretary of the police department later said that Woodward and Bean were reviewing tapes of witness interviews that had been conducted by Grafton County investigators. Woodward admitted that this violated police procedures and that, as the district attorney, he was aware of the offense.
Together, Wilson argued, the missteps proved there was a plot to oust the Chief and that the Woodwards, along with Bean, worked with Alpers to achieve that goal.
In his closing arguments, Hornick asked, “What difference does it make that they like Mike Lewis? Really, what difference does it make if they don’t follow the policy? … The elements of the case are: He put his hand on her buttocks. … It’s a crime.
The jury had 10 minutes to deliberate before lunch and returned 17 minutes after lunch with a not guilty verdict.
On August 26, the first day of the felony trial, attorney Wilson again presented Coates’ text message to Lewis, suggesting that he continue working at Moultonborough “before Rick kicks you out.”
The next day, August 27, during Wilson’s cross-examination of Police Lt. Kristopher Bean, the lawyer presented documents showing that Bean’s account of his time on the details of the special route also did not match. to the distribution files, which were the basis of the crime. indictment against Lewis.
Officers who conduct road safety patrols are expected to call the dispatcher when they begin patrols and whenever they stop a vehicle. Wilson said Lewis’s witness list included a former Franklin dispatch supervisor who was prepared to testify that on busy weekends officers didn’t always call their stops so as not to overwhelm dispatchers.
Wilson produced records showing that Bean had claimed time for hours of work which, according to dispatch, was not on patrol, and that his recorded traffic stops were double the number (four instead of two) that ‘he had actually reported to the Franklin Police Department, which dispatches to Bristol.
Hornick objected to the question line and the judge ended that day’s session. Before Bean returned to the witness stand the next morning, the attorneys met in the judge’s office and reached an agreement to drop the charges in exchange for payment of $ 9,000.
Hornick explained the reason she dropped the felony charges: “I think at the end of the day I’m still interested in trying to make a whole victim, so when her lawyer offered to pay that amount, I wanted to help Bristol get his money back. back.”
Hornick said Lewis also pleaded guilty to breaching bail conditions and contempt of court after being found to be in possession of firearms. He received a suspended $ 1,000 fine for this charge.
Hornick said there were no outstanding charges against Woodward and Bean as any alleged inappropriate conduct on their part would have been outside the scope of Grafton County’s investigation.
“Our investigation was centered on the chef,” she said. “If there had been any discrepancies that the city administration had asked us to look into, we would follow up with them. “
Wilson said that if there is an issue with an officer’s credibility, it is up to the police chief to investigate and determine if there is a problem. If so, the Chief places the officer’s name on the Attorney General’s Defense Evidence Schedule, formerly known as the Laurie List. The list is currently confidential, although the American Civil Liberties Union and several news outlets have been pushing to make these names public. The purpose of the list is to let defense lawyers know if an officer involved in a case has credibility issues.
Current Bristol Police Chief James McIntire gave a terse response to an inquiry, writing: “I wouldn’t be able to comment, and neither would I.”
Hornick commented, “I feel bad for all parties. The criminal justice system is not a perfect system, but it is time to move on and let the police do their job.