Several Nashua citizens have been charged with trespassing in public buildings during normal business hours. Sadly, the animosity of City officials towards citizens has escalated over the last three years under Mayor Donchess.
Let’s review state law and compare these recent trespass cases.
I. A person is guilty of criminal trespass if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he enters or remains in any place.
II. Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor for the first offense and a class B felony for any subsequent offense if the person knowingly or recklessly causes damage in excess of $1,500 to the value of the property of another.
III. Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor if:
(a) The trespass takes place in an occupied structure as defined in RSA 635:1, III; or
(b) The person knowingly enters or remains:
(1) In any secured premises;
(2) In any place in defiance of an order to leave or not to enter which was personally communicated to him by the owner or other authorized person;
(3) In any place in defiance of any court order restraining him from entering such place so long as he has been properly notified of such order; or
(4) On any grounds, lands, or parking areas of any state correctional facility or transitional housing unit operated by the department of corrections without prior authorization or without a legitimate purpose associated with department of corrections operations.
IV. All other criminal trespass is a violation.
V. In this section, “secured premises” means any place which is posted in a manner prescribed by law or in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders, or which is fenced or otherwise enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders.
VI. In this section, “property,” “property of another,” and “value” shall be as defined in RSA 637:2, I, IV, and V, respectively.
In March of 2018, a former President of the Nashua Board of Education was issued a one-year “no-trespass order.”
- The resident was given permission by a receptionist to enter the School District building after picking up some Right to Know information that he requested at the front desk. When the Superintendent arrived, he immediately demanded that the resident leave and called the police several times. The resident sat in the public waiting area to speak with police.
- The district office was not locked, nor was it “posted” as being “closed” to the public.
- After the police explained to the resident that he should probably leave and escorted him out of the building, the Superintendent argued with the police that the resident should have been arrested.
- On the police incident report, the police “explained the criminal trespass law and how it requires a warning from the police prior to being arrested for such acts.“
- Finally, the police acquiesced to the demands of the Superintendent and issued a one-year “no-trespass order” based upon the Superintendent’s allegations that the accused created “an unsafe environment.” The police provided the accused with a trespass warning required by law based upon the Superintendent’s allegation.
- This story made the front page of the newspaper, disparaging the reputation of the accused.
- The accused made an effort to de-escalate and resolve the situation with the Board of Education. However, City Attorney Steve Bolton blocked the Board from participating in any discussions and took charge of the incident, failing to even update the Board.
- One year later, a taxpayer-funded payment of $60,000 was provided to the accused, settling the matter out of court.
In February of 2021, another resident was arrested for “Criminal trespass.”
- The resident was seeking “time and date stamps” before a deadline on abatement forms for senior residents that she was helping.
- The resident had tried repeatedly to obtain an appointment without success and decided that she needed to go to City Hall in person. As no one provided her any help, she sat down on the floor waiting for assistance, or an appointment.
- City Hall was not locked, nor “posted” as being “closed” to the public. The citizen entered the public building during normal building hours.
- She was asked to leave and the police were called. The resident decided to wait and speak with the police. She was escorted out of City Hall.
- Four weeks later, presumably after additional phone calls and pressure from City Hall, this resident was arrested for Criminal Trespass.
- The police should have “explained the Criminal trespass law and how it requires a warning from the police prior to being arrest for such acts,” but instead they acquiesced to heavy-handed demands from City Attorneys to arrest the resident for Criminal Trespass, claiming she created an “unsafe environment” by sitting on the floor waiting for assistance, or an appointment.
- The incident made the front page of the newspaper, undermining the reputation of the accused.
- The case is ongoing.
In March of 2021, another resident was arrested for “Criminal Trespass.”
- She had a confirmed appointment to pick up Right to Know information regarding the November 2020 election results and showed up at City Hall. No one asked her to leave. Not the City Clerk or the City Attorney Steve Bolton, who both spoke with her while she was at City Hall. Not the police, who showed up at City Hall twice after being called twice by City officials.
- City Hall was not locked, nor posted as being “closed” to the public. There was a greeter near the door, who recognized the resident by name as she entered. She had an appointment with the City Clerk to pick up Right to Know information.
- She spoke with the Clerk and City Attorney but was not given the Right to Know information that was confirmed to be ready for pick up. The Clerk then refused to make a follow-up appointment even though all citizens have the right to review public documents under RSA 91-A.
- It took over six weeks to get this first appointment with the City Clerk as the Clerk repeatedly failed to return calls or messages. Under the Right to Know law citizens are allowed to review and copy this information during normal business hours when the records are not otherwise in use. Why the delay in providing Right to Know access to citizens?
- Upon leaving City Hall the resident was arrested without prior warning. The police forcibly grabbed the resident from behind to arrest her, leaving her startled and bruised.
- The police should have “explained the criminal trespass law and how it requires a warning from the police prior to being arrest for such acts. The accused never received a warning for trespass as required by law from either group of policemen who arrived at City Hall.
- The police acquiesced to repeated demands from City Hall to arrest the resident for Criminal Trespass based upon allegations from the City Clerk that the resident was “banging on doors.”
- The accused videotaped both encounters with the police on her iPhone. She told the police that she had video recordings that would prove her innocence if they would only look at them before arresting her.
- The police booked the accused and then demanded that she unlock her iPhone. When she refused, the police confiscated her iPhone for eleven days, during which time they obtained a Court warrant, based upon probable cause to believe that the iPhone contained evidence of the crime of Criminal Trespass.
- Multiple files were deleted from her iPhone while in police custody after receiving the Court warrant. These files were deleted days before the iPhone was returned to the accused, who was never notified that her iPhone was tampered with. She received a copy of the Court warrant with her iPhone when it was returned.
- The iPhone indicated that files were deleted and when those deletions occurred. The iPhone provides evidence that documents, potentially needed for her defense in her criminal case, were deleted. It appears that someone with access to the evidence room tampered with evidence in a criminal case.
- Why would a court grant unfettered access to anyone’s private iPhone, which potentially gives them access to bank accounts and other private financial information?
- The newspapers have not mentioned this incident. The only reporting has been here on Granite Grok.
A pattern is emerging:
- Both City Hall and the School District office are public buildings. They are owned by the public and open to the public during normal business hours.
- During these three incidents, neither City Hall nor the School District office had posted any “no trespass” warnings to residents, who wish to enter the premises during normal business hours. Since this last arrest, City Hall has been posted as “closed,” except by appointment.
- All three situations were peaceful. There was no disorderly conduct. No damage to property was ever threatened or done during any of these incidents.
- In each case, Nashua City officials made multiple calls to the police. Those calls were designed to escalate the use of force and were successful in escalating police action.
- Nashua City officials have pressured the police to escalate charges against residents without providing them with an appropriate warning, in violation of state law, RSA 635:2 regarding Criminal Trespass.
- In each incident City officials have escalated the use of force over the previous incident.
- The most recent case is quite disturbing, as private information on our mobile phones is now at risk.
- More concerning, a Court warrant should not enable anyone to delete evidence in a criminal investigation.
Mayor Donchess is responsible for the behavior of officials in City Hall. Sadly, many residents are now afraid to do business in City Hall — even with a confirmed appointment. Do you blame them?