The Attorney General, as mentioned here, has assumed the “Control, Direction, and Supervision of Criminal Law Enforcement Functions in Hillsborough County.” The letter from AG MacDonald to Michael Conlon highlights exactly how much of a failure Michael Conlon has been as the County Attorney.
For clarity, Michael Conlon is and still will be the County Attorney, unless he resigns or is impeached by the House of Representatives. The Attorney General has exercised powers granted under RSA 7:6, 7:11, and 7:34. As the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of New Hampshire, the Attorney General has the ability and duty to ensure all County Attorney’s offices are fulfilling their duties as required by law.
State v Ahern
The Hillsborough County Attorney’s office has had a litany of problems and systemic failures since Conlon took over. In State v Ahern, not even 4 months into Michael Conlon’s reign of horror at the office, prosecutors entered into an illegal agreement with a defendant without even talking to the victim. The AG wrote in March:
First, we are unaware of any legal authority that would permit making the conditional nol pros agreement in this case confidential…
Second, the victim was not notified of the confidentiality provision. It was represented during the meeting that the victim was consulted prior to entering into the agreement where the charges were conditionally nol prossed….
This failure to inform the victim about this provision prior to entering into the agreement violated the victim’s rights as set forth in RSA 21-M:8-k…
Third, particularly in light of the confidentiality provision, this agreement lacks any meaningful method of enforcement. A confidentiality agreement such as this requires a victim to remain silent and is, in essence, protecting the defendant from the public knowing what conditions he must abide by pursuant to the conditional nol pros. The confidentiality provision will stymie law enforcement’s ability to respond to violations of the agreement. It also has potential long-term impacts on the victim with respect to the victim’s ability to discuss the terms during other court proceedings where they may be relevant, including, but not limited to, matters related to child custody, restraining orders, or divorce.
|AG MacDonald to County Attorney Conlon, 14 March 2019
*Nol Pros is a term for “dropped” charges, “no longer prosecute” is the direct translation.
Wow. So Conlon’s office exceeded their legal authority, failed to consult with the victim as required by law, and entered into an illegal and unenforceable agreement? Woof. Big Fail. No Justice.
Then, in July, the AG again had to reprimand Conlon for his failures. In the case of Damien Seace, Attorney Conlon wasn’t even aware of the charges!
“When you spoke with Deputy Attorney General Jane Young yesterday, you stated to her that you were not aware that the charges against Mr. Seace stemming from his arrest on October 29, 2019, had been nol prossed by your office on February 13, 2019. Those charges were as follows:
• Charge 1557952C: Second Degree Assault-Strangulation
• Charge 1557953C: Obstructing Report of Crime
• Charge 1557954C: Criminal Threatening-Terrorize (telling victim he was going to murder and bury her)
• Charge 1557955C: Simple Assault Domestic
Somehow, the County Attorney wasn’t aware of the prosecution of a person charged with Assualt-Strangulation, Criminal Threatening/Terrorize, Domestic Assault, and the Obstructing Report of Crime. And his office dropped the charges! The AG took this one more seriously, as Conlon’s second major infraction within months, and ordered him to shape up.
In order to ensure that a nol pros is the only available option, effective immediately, I am directing that you personally approve the nol pros of any charge within your office. Any such approval must be accompanied by an explanation in the file outlining the reasoning for the nol pros. Your analysis must include a determination of whether the particular case can be proven without the testimony of the victim. I am also directing that, within thirty days, you implement a protocol which establishes an internal process for approving any no/ pros in your office. Please provide me with a copy of that protocol once it is in effect.
Unreal. The only real question here is why did the AG wait so long to take over the office? It was obviously FAILING under Conlon’s leadership, or lack thereof. This should have happened months ago, and maybe, just maybe, some additional justice would have been served.
Finally, the Attorney General had had enough of the miscarriages of justice in Hillsborough County, and took over day-to-day operation of the office.
As you acknowledged, prosecutors in your office have made critical decisions with respect to the disposition of these matters without your involvement or knowledge, without consulting with the investigating agency, and in some instances, without informing the victim(s). These ongoing issues evidence systemic failures in the leadership of the prosecutorial function of your Office. Despite my Office’s repeated efforts to provide any assistance necessary to enable you to effectively execute the responsibilities of your Office, there has been no improvement. The administration of justice and the protection of the people of Hillsborough County requires swift action to ensure there is adequate leadership and oversight of prosecutorial functions.
Pending [David Mara’s] appointment, Deputy Attorney General Young, Senior Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Agati, and Assistant Attorney General Erin Fitzgerald will be dispatched to the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Offices to discharge these duties, to conduct an assessment of the needs of the Office, and to provide leadership and support to the dedicated assistant county attorneys, advocates, and professional legal assistants. Deputy Attorney General Young will be at your office on Monday, September 9, 2019. This assignment will continue until I notify you otherwise.
Thank you again, Attorney General MacDonald, for stepping in and ensuring the People of Hillsborough County can count on a fair and just legal system.9.6.19_Letter-to-County-Attorney-Conlon