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Some candidates in Concord city election have faced criminal charges



Laste modified: Monday, October 07, 2013
Both men challenging Mayor Jim Bouley for his seat this fall have faced criminal charges in New Hampshire in the last several years.

Mayoral candidate Chris Booth faced misdemeanor charges of criminal mischief and threatening in Canterbury in 2011, and charges of resisting arrest in Hinsdale in 2010. But the 64-year-old participated in a mental health court program, according to court records, and all charges against him have been dropped.

John Cook, who also challenged Bouley in 2011, had three encounters with the Concord police since 2005 that resulted in convictions. In each incident, the police alleged he was intoxicated. His past convictions include disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and criminal mischief.

Booth and Cook are not the only candidates on the ballot this fall with criminal records. At-large city council candidate Timothy Willis is a registered sex offender; he was convicted in 2003 by a Maine jury of unlawful sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl. City Councilor Fred Keach, who is running in the same citywide race as Willis, was convicted in 2010 of driving while intoxicated.

Mayoral candidates

In March 2011, the police alleged Booth tore down an exit sign at Canterbury Shaker Village and defaced it with a political slogan. Booth, who was living on Shaker Road in Canterbury at the time, also allegedly threatened to slash his neighbor’s tires if his neighbor parked where Booth wanted to plant a tree. He was also charged with trespassing; the police said he entered Canterbury Shaker Village after an officer ordered him to stay away, at the request of the village’s director. All three charges are misdemeanors.

Booth said this week that he had simply been riding his bike at the time of the alleged trespassing, and the sign that he allegedly tore down had fallen down.

“None of this is important, though,” he said. “All the charges were false, and they were all dropped.”

Court records indicate that a judge in Concord’s district court ruled Booth incompetent to stand trial in April 2011. In June 2012, court records stated Booth would be admitted to mental health court.

The program takes several months and requires participants to attend weekly meetings with therapists, consistently take medications and stay out of trouble. Participants attend court weekly at first, and less often as they progress. Upon graduation from the mental health court program, cases are dismissed.

A judge dismissed Booth’s charges in Concord’s district court in January.

Booth also faced charges for resisting arrest and disobeying an officer in Hinsdale in December 2010.

He allegedly refused to give his name and proof of ownership of a car he was driving to a Hinsdale police officer, according to court documents. The police then said he pulled his arms away and would not allow an officer to handcuff him.

Those charges were dropped in Keene’s district court in July 2012, one month after his Concord court files indicate he was referred to mental health court.

Booth declined to comment further on the charges or his experience in court. He said candidates’ criminal records should not be reported in the media.

“If you cannot say something good about somebody, don’t say anything at all,” Booth said. “It’s not appropriate to try to make people look bad or insult them, because everybody is basically good and you need to look for the good in somebody.”

Booth lives in an apartment on Loudon Road and said he was running for mayor because he disagreed with the city council’s vote to purchase an armored BearCat vehicle with federal grant funding. He also ran for the U.S. Senate as an independent in 2010.

Cook, who is also running for mayor, had three encounters with the Concord police in the last several years.

The latest incident resulted in charges against Cook for disorderly conduct and exposing himself to two police officers. In that 2011 incident, Cook was arrested after the police said he was walking in the middle of the street dancing and yelling outside his house. After he did not cooperate with the police, he was arrested.

As the police searched Cook at the police station, he allegedly undressed entirely when asked to remove his snow pants and jacket. While the police tried to take his booking photograph, Officer Brian Womersly wrote in the arrest affidavit, Cook “stated that he would give me something to take a picture of, stating ‘my d---’ and attempted to climb up on the bench.”

During his last campaign for mayor, Cook called the police report embellished and said he had been unfairly detained. He said this week that he will not speak with the Monitor during this campaign.

Cook reached a plea deal for those charges in September 2011 – six days before he filed to run for mayor. He pleaded no contest to the disorderly conduct charges and paid a fine, according to court records. The exposure charge was set aside.

Cook also faced disorderly conduct charges in 2007, after the police said he yelled, screamed and destroyed furniture with a baseball bat outside his Union Street property. He told the Monitor during his last campaign for mayor that he had been frustrated that day after going to city hall to ask about dividing his property or demolishing one of his buildings. He said he went out drinking, returned home and destroyed furniture in his driveway out of frustration.

Cook pleaded no contest to that charge, according to court documents, and a $500 fine was suspended one year, pending good behavior.

In 2005, Cook faced charges for an incident in which he was accused of kicking two police officers. The police had found him intoxicated and unable to keep his balance, according to an arrest affidavit. He was arrested and taken to Concord Hospital. The police said he resisted arrest, kicked the officers and tried to kick out the passenger door of the police cruiser. Cook pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and criminal mischief, according to court records. He paid fines and restitution to the city.

Cook last ran for mayor against Bouley in 2011. He earned 15 percent of the vote.

Bouley, who has been mayor since 2007, has no criminal record, according to the district court clerk’s office.

At-large candidates

Willis, a 48-year-old Thorndike Street resident and at-large city council candidate, was arrested on sexual assault charges in 2002.

He was accused of approaching a 14-year-old girl in a bedroom while he was visiting friends in Kittery, Maine, according to a police affidavit. The police alleged he tickled the girl beneath her clothing and touched her breasts. The girl told the police he penetrated her vagina with his hands and forced her to perform oral sex against her will, according to court records, though Willis was acquitted of those allegations at trial.

When the case went to trial in 2003 in Maine, a jury convicted Willis of unlawful sexual contact and assault for touching the girl, but acquitted him of the two more serious felony charges, gross sexual assault and sexual abuse of a minor.

Willis was sentenced to 364 days in jail each for the two convictions, with all but six months in jail suspended pending good behavior and two years of probation. He was ordered to register as a sex offender. The corresponding crime in New Hampshire is a misdemeanor charge of sexual assault of a minor, according to Willis’s record on the state sex offender registry.

Willis maintains he was wrongfully convicted. He said the girl who accused him was an acquaintance of his daughter. He said he was in a home with the girl on the evening she accused him of sexual assault, but that he was never alone with her.

“I really find this whole thing irrelevant to my purpose and my goal, which is to serve the city’s need and to represent the citizens,” he said. “If . . . I really was a person that is what I’m purported to be on paper, why would I put myself out there like this? It’s very risky.”

In 2005, Willis’s probation was partially revoked when he failed to participate in sex offender counseling and maintain employment, according to Maine court records. He was sentenced to jail for 60 days of his suspended sentence. His probation was again partially revoked in 2006, and he was sentenced to 120 days in jail but received credit for time he had already served.

Willis said he had failed to participate in counseling because he did not have a job and could not afford to pay for the counseling program.

“So it was not for lack of trying,” he said. “I couldn’t pay for it.”

Willis was charged in 2008 with failure to report as a sex offender in New Hampshire. He pleaded guilty, according to court documents, and received a one-year sentence that was suspended pending good behavior. He acknowledged he had reported to the police late that year; sex offenders on the state registry must report within five days of their birthday every year.

“I was late doing it,” he said. “Just one of those things, you get busy and there’s no excuse for it. It happened. I went in maybe a week or two after that.”

Willis said the judge’s understanding in giving him a suspended sentence for that latest conviction was evidence of his good behavior, as is the fact that he was granted custody of his young daughter.

“My point being that I would be hard-pressed to find a reason why the state of New Hampshire would give custody of a minor child to a sex offender unless they really believe that person was not a threat,” he said. “And I think it’s important for people to know that I’m a good parent, a caring parent and I try very hard.”

Keach, who has represented East Concord on the city council since 2007, also has a criminal record and is competing in the same race as Willis to become an at-large councilor.

Keach was arrested after he started to pull out of the Memorial Field parking lot with his daughter and another girl in the backseat after a Concord High School football game in October 2010. He pleaded guilty to aggravated driving while intoxicated and endangering the welfare of a child. He paid a fine and lost his driver’s license for 90 days.

“It’s certainly not one of my proudest moments, but I paid the penalty and I have moved on,” he said last week. “I guess I hope that voters would judge me on the totality of my record and not that one incident.”

Keach and Willis are running in a six-way race for two at-large positions on the city council.

The other candidates for the two council seats are: Samantha Clattenburg; City Councilor Amanda Grady Sexton, who now represents Ward 4; Josh VanBuskirk; and Scott Welch. None of those four candidates have faced criminal charges in New Hampshire, according to clerks for the state district court system.

Other candidates in contested races this fall do not have criminal cases on file in New Hampshire, according to the state district court clerk’s office.



(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)