Soltani fined $3,000 for role in high-speed chase
Former state representative Tony Soltani was fined $3,000 yesterday for his involvement last year in a high-speed police chase.
Judge Richard McNamara handed down the sentence shortly before noon, after denying Soltani a series of motions regarding his weeklong jury trial earlier this year at Merrimack County Superior Court.
Soltani, a practicing attorney and former police officer, was accused of inserting himself last April in the pursuit of a fleeing vehicle in Epsom. He argued throughout the trial that he was merely trying to help. The jury acquitted him on a felony charge but found him guilty of two misdemeanor counts, for reckless and disorderly conduct e_SEnD each of which carries a maximum 12-month jail sentence and up to $2,000 in fines.
All but $1,000 of the fine is suspended for two years, McNamara said. The remainder will be deferred pending an appeal to the state Supreme Court, which Soltani said he plans to file within 30 days. McNamara also issued two suspended 12-month jail sentences, which, pending good behavior, would likely be waived after two years.
Prosecutor Michael Valentine had recommended a harsher sentence, including a driver’s license suspension for six months and a mandatory mental health evaluation.
McNamara said the health evaluation was unnecessary because no evidence had been presented during the trial that Soltani’s actions were the result of a mental illness. He said the license suspension was “appropriate” given the physical danger Soltani’s speeding vehicle posed to others, but ultimately beyond his authority to issue for a violation of the criminal code.
Soltani said after the sentencing that he plans to appeal the original verdict on several grounds, including prosecutorial misconduct by Valentine, whom he accused of withholding evidence before the trial and harboring a personal grudge against him.
Soltani’s apparent frustration with Valentine surfaced during the sentencing. He accused the prosecutor of “character assassination,” and described his suggestion for a mental health evaluation as baseless.
“This is just wrong, dead wrong,” he said, interrupting Valentine. “For him to diagnose me with something right now and not provide the evidence in advance is against ethical rule and against (American Bar Association) standards and New Hampshire law.”
But Valentine defended his position.
“I don’t have evidence that this is the particular cause of the defendant’s behavior,” he said. “What I do have is that in my experience this kind of behavior is caused by something. . . . Whether that be drug- and alcohol-related or mental health related, I don’t know, and I don’t have the answer to that question.
“What I do know is that the defendant’s behavior in this case represents a sharp divergence from what we expect as members of society. . . . I don’t know what’s at the root of it, but I think it’s incumbent upon the court to find out.”
Soltani filed three motions pertaining to his February trial, each of which McNamara denied. They included the assertions that the verdict should be set aside because he had not intended to negatively interfere in police action, that he had not been properly notified of the type of misdemeanor charges filed against him and that a witness may have shared information with Valentine during the trial about Soltani’s children.
Unlike the trial, which received relatively high publicity, the courtroom yesterday was mostly empty. Gone were the news cameras, the spectators, the friends and relatives.
Shortly before the court recessed about 10:30 a.m. to give McNamara time to determine a sentence, Soltani rose to say a few final words.
“Judge, you have been more fair to me than anybody else in this room,” he said. “You had a very difficult defendant, and a very difficult lawyer for a defendant – which was all in one person.”
Soltani said since the trial he has spent ample time reading and reflecting on himself and his actions.
“I have searched my soul – introspection – to find out where my conduct diverged from the ‘social norms,’ ” he said, noting Ayn Rand, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. as historical figures whose work he’s read.
“I can’t tell you I won’t do it again,” he said. “I can tell you I almost certainly won’t do it again with a motor vehicle – unless under extreme circumstances.”
Soltani also claimed that he had been humiliated by the trial and that his children had been subjected to “scorn and ridicule” throughout the ordeal. If a jail sentence were to be imposed, he suggested that he serve it on weekends, in order to continue working.
Asked after the sentencing hearing why he plans to appeal the verdict rather than simply pay the fine and move forward with his life, Soltani said he felt compelled to fight because he had been treated unjustly and had the “means” and the “skill” to make a difference.
“The bottom line is I’m in love with the notion of justice,” he said. “And I’m in love with my state, and I don’t want it sullied.”
This article has been amended to reflect the following correction: A previous version misstated Prosecutor Michael Valentine’s recommended jail sentence. He recommended the same suspended sentence that was issued by Judge Richard McNamara.
(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319,
firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)