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Hearing held for former Epsom town attorney’s records request

  • In Merrimack County Superior Court Tony Soltani listens to prosecutor Michael Valentine as he argues for more disclosure from the prosecutor and the Epsom police during a hearing on charges of reckless endangerment stemming from a police chase last April; Tuesday, November 13, 2012.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    In Merrimack County Superior Court Tony Soltani listens to prosecutor Michael Valentine as he argues for more disclosure from the prosecutor and the Epsom police during a hearing on charges of reckless endangerment stemming from a police chase last April; Tuesday, November 13, 2012.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • In Merrimack County Superior Court Tony Soltani listens to prosecutor Michael Valentine as he argues for more disclosure from the prosecutor and the Epsom police during a hearing on charges of reckless endangerment stemming from a police chase last April; Tuesday, November 13, 2012.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    In Merrimack County Superior Court Tony Soltani listens to prosecutor Michael Valentine as he argues for more disclosure from the prosecutor and the Epsom police during a hearing on charges of reckless endangerment stemming from a police chase last April; Tuesday, November 13, 2012.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • In Merrimack County Superior Court Tony Soltani argues for more discosure from the prosecutor and the Epsom police during a hearing on charges of reckless endangerment stemming from a police chase last April; Tuesday, November 13, 2012.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    In Merrimack County Superior Court Tony Soltani argues for more discosure from the prosecutor and the Epsom police during a hearing on charges of reckless endangerment stemming from a police chase last April; Tuesday, November 13, 2012.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • In Merrimack County Superior Court Tony Soltani argues for more discosure from the prosecutor and the Epsom police during a hearing on charges of reckless endangerment stemming from a police chase last April; Tuesday, November 13, 2012.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    In Merrimack County Superior Court Tony Soltani argues for more discosure from the prosecutor and the Epsom police during a hearing on charges of reckless endangerment stemming from a police chase last April; Tuesday, November 13, 2012.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • In Merrimack County Superior Court Tony Soltani listens to prosecutor Michael Valentine as he argues for more disclosure from the prosecutor and the Epsom police during a hearing on charges of reckless endangerment stemming from a police chase last April; Tuesday, November 13, 2012.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • In Merrimack County Superior Court Tony Soltani listens to prosecutor Michael Valentine as he argues for more disclosure from the prosecutor and the Epsom police during a hearing on charges of reckless endangerment stemming from a police chase last April; Tuesday, November 13, 2012.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • In Merrimack County Superior Court Tony Soltani argues for more discosure from the prosecutor and the Epsom police during a hearing on charges of reckless endangerment stemming from a police chase last April; Tuesday, November 13, 2012.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • In Merrimack County Superior Court Tony Soltani argues for more discosure from the prosecutor and the Epsom police during a hearing on charges of reckless endangerment stemming from a police chase last April; Tuesday, November 13, 2012.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

Tony Soltani, who is accused of interfering in a high-speed police chase last April, sought yesterday to obtain by court order scores of documents he’s been unsuccessful in getting through open records requests. Soltani believes the documents, the majority of which don’t relate to the car chase, will help him prove at trial that the Epsom police arrested him in retaliation.

Judge Richard McNamara, though, called it a “classic fishing expedition.”

Still, the judge labored through the 19 requests within Soltani’s motion, stopping often to keep the hearing on topic and to question why the two sides couldn’t settle the matter without his help.

“I’m happy to go through this item by item, but, and I understand it’s difficult because you’re representing yourself, Mr. Soltani, and that’s putting another layer,” McNamara said during the hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court. “You’re a capable and experienced lawyer, but obviously it’s more personal. But I just wonder, we can go through this, I wonder if some of this can be worked out.”

As Soltani began to protest, saying that he has “made request after request” for the information with the town of Epsom, the judge conceded.

“Okay, we’ll go through it,” he said, holding up his hands as Soltani continued to speak.

“I’m going to go through your motion, Mr. Soltani,” the judge said.

But Soltani, who until his arrest was Epsom’s town attorney, wasn’t finished. He asked McNamara if at any time in his career – “as a prosecutor, as a lawyer, as a defense, as a judge” – he had seen the state refuse to hand over information like the kind he is seeking.

“Yeah,” McNamara said.

“You have?”

“Yep, plenty of times,” McNamara continued, letting out a brief chuckle. “Let’s go on.”

During an hour-and-a-half hearing yesterday, Soltani asked the judge to force prosecutor Michael Valentine to provide, among other things:

∎ Complete copies of police reports pertaining to his arrest, including draft versions that he believes are available through the reporting program used at the Epsom Police Department.

∎ Reports from all law enforcement agencies pertaining to Soltani from Jan. 1 to the present date.

∎ Police dispatch recordings and logs for an eight-hour period starting June 2.

∎ Reports of any evidence taken by the Epsom Police Department since January 2003 that was lost or stolen.

McNamara didn’t make a ruling after yesterday’s hearing, saying he’d issue one soon. But he did side with Soltani on one matter – that he is entitled to police reports pertaining to the other driver involved in the car chase.

Soltani was arrested April 6 after the state alleges he traveled up to 110 mph and put other drivers in danger while chasing a Mercedes that had fled from a traffic stop in Epsom. Soltani has said he was just trying to help, but officials classified his Dodge Neon as a deadly weapon and charged him with reckless conduct, a Class B felony.

The man officials say was driving the Mercedes, 21-year-old Dean Smith, was arrested several weeks after the car chase and charged with reckless conduct, driving while deemed a habitual offender and perjury.

Yesterday, Soltani called Smith his “co-defendant” and said he was entitled to police reports from Smith’s arrest because they could contain exculpatory evidence that would be favorable to Soltani during trial.

In responding to the request, Valentine said the officer involved in the car chase only kept one report, which has already been given to Soltani.

“So you are representing that there are no reports involving Mr. Smith that haven’t been turned over to Mr. Soltani?” McNamara asked.

Valentine clarified and said he has not personally seen other reports involving Smith, whom he is not prosecuting. Valentine said those reports were not provided by the Epsom Police Department when he asked for any documents relevant to the case against Soltani.

“So you’re relying on whether the police department thinks there is exculpatory evidence? I thought you were the prosecutor,” McNamara said.

But Valentine said reviewing reports provided by the police was enough.

“As a fundamental matter I disagree with your proposition that I can’t ask the police officers. . . . ‘When you arrested Mr. Smith did he make a statement regarding anything that involved Mr. Soltani?’ and if they tell me ‘No’ that I still have to look at those reports,” Valentine said.

McNamara disagreed.

“You’re trained. You’re an experienced prosecutor,” he said. “A police officer is a police officer. They have their skill set and you have your skill set. Your skill set is recognizing what’s valuable in a report.”

Valentine told the judge he would look at the other reports and provide Soltani with copies if they included exculpatory evidence, but that didn’t satisfy McNamara, who said he might just order Valentine to provide Soltani with the documents outright.

“Frankly, why don’t you just turn them over?” he said, adding that in his three years at the superior court he had never heard a fight like this one.

At that, Valentine said he would obtain Smith’s file from the police department and give it to Soltani.

Soltani was not as successful yesterday with other parts of his motion, such as the request for police department evidence that has gone missing since 2003.

“How can you possibly request the information . . .” McNamara asked, trailing off as he looked down at the motion.

“I’ll abandon that,” Soltani said before also agreeing to let go of his request for any complaints against the department since 2007.

Valentine also took issue with Soltani’s request for documentation of every traffic violation by an Epsom officer outside of the town’s limits since 2007.

“It would include if an officer of the Epsom Police Department got a parking ticket while on vacation in the Bahamas,” Valentine said. “The fact of the matter is it’s exceptionally overbroad and not relevant.”

“I don’t see the relevance of that either,” McNamara said.

Throughout the hearing Soltani said several times that he plans to file more motions before the case goes to trial, which is scheduled for February.

(Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or tnadolny@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @tricia_nadolny.)

Legacy Comments1

Amazing how the system balks when confronted by someone who knows his way around a courtroom.

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