Cloudy
48°
Cloudy
Hi 56° | Lo 45°

Soltani cites morality behind his participation in high-speed chase; verdict expected today

  • Former Epsom state representative Tony Soltani takes the stand in his own defense at his trial at Merrimack County Superior Court ; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.  <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Former Epsom state representative Tony Soltani takes the stand in his own defense at his trial at Merrimack County Superior Court ; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Former Epsom state representative Tony Soltani takes the stand in his own defense at his trial at Merrimack County Superior Court ; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.  <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Former Epsom state representative Tony Soltani takes the stand in his own defense at his trial at Merrimack County Superior Court ; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Former Epsom state representative Tony Soltani takes the stand in his own defense at his trial at Merrimack County Superior Court ; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.  <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Former Epsom state representative Tony Soltani takes the stand in his own defense at his trial at Merrimack County Superior Court ; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.  <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

Facing charges of reckless and disorderly conduct, Tony Soltani, the former state representative accused of inserting himself into a high-speed police chase last spring, insisted yesterday that his actions were prompted by a selfless moral call to “serve the people” – and that his arrest was direct retribution for having chosen to answer that call.

“Ask yourself if justice it is they seek,” Soltani, a lawyer who is defending himself in court, said in a winded 45-minute closing argument. “Or if there is an undercurrent of vengeance, an undercurrent of silencing criticism, or making an example of a man who dared to speak and do what he thought and he tried to do what is right, not just for himself but to correct the systematic injustice and the abuse of power being inflicted against his people, a man who tried to hold his government and the mighty power of that government to the people who elected him to represent them.”

Soltani’s statements came on the fifth day of his trial in Merrimack County Superior Court on a felony charge of reckless conduct and a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. The charges stem from an incident last April when Soltani, then a Republican state representative and Epsom’s town counsel, allegedly drove at high speeds between Officer James Kear and a car Kear was pursuing.

Prosecutors maintain that Soltani put the public at risk by taking part in the chase. Soltani said he was trying to help, and that his arrest was in retaliation to a complaint he had made earlier that day against Kear. Soltani’s closing argument followed 2½ hours of testimony, in which he spoke at length about everything from his impoverished personal background to his training in the U.S. Coast Guard, which he described as “quite a learning experience.”

“It puts you in touch with your inner self, with your inner sense of humanity, to make the tough decisions, to make really difficult decisions about what a human being is and what responsibilities we have to our fellow human beings,” he told his legal assistant, Jason Dennis. “I know it sounds corny, but that was very important to me, in addition to the studies that I had done.”

Throughout the testimony, Soltani repeatedly turned questions into prompts for marathon narratives about his life’s shortcomings, proper police conduct and the inequality with which he was treated by Kear, who he suggested had employed “selective amnesia” during his testimony last week.

When addressing the jury he characterized himself as a “nobody.” When Dennis asked him where he was prior to the chase, he said he had gotten off work and was in “my regular car, my old, beat-up car.” And when recalling the night of the chase, Soltani insisted again and again that he had gotten involved because, given his background in law enforcement, he believed he could help.

“In the most intense moments of your life your training pops back,” he said.

At one point, after one of several objections by the prosecution, Judge Richard McNamara told Soltani, “From now on, just question and answer, no more narrative.”

Yet Soltani’s prolonged answers persisted. When prosecutor Michael Valentine asked him a question about the commonality of receiving certain paperwork when released from custody, Soltani launched into a gasping tirade about his arrest and subsequent trial.

“Uncommon? To do this to someone? Absolutely!” he said, before bursting into laughter.

“Mr. Soltani, can you answer my question?” Valentine asked.

“What, the ordeal I’ve been through? I haven’t seen that in federal court, state court, district court or . . . Guatemala district court in 22 years, sir. Uncommon? You want to get a cross and put me up? It’s unusual! Of course it’s unusual.”

During his cross-examination, Valentine tried to put distance between the morality and legality of Soltani’s actions, asking him in several instances whether he believed at the time that he had legal authority to insert himself in the chase. “Legal obligation, legal authority? No.” Soltani responded. “Moral obligation, moral authority, that’s entirely different for all presets of questions you’ve asked.”

“So it’s your testimony that if I see a car drive past me and a police officer speed past with its lights and sirens going it is my moral obligation to involve myself in that pursuit and help the officers?” Valentine said.

“No, I wouldn’t think so,” Soltani replied. “But it would depend on your moral structure, your moral being, on how you have come to be, on your soul.”

At one point, Valentine asked Soltani whether he takes medication, and if so which ones. Soltani closed his eyes and leaned his head back, as if trying to remember. He listed a few common prescriptions and then said, “If you’re implying I’m a druggie, sir, the answer is no, I’m not a druggie.”

Soltani, who has said throughout the trial that he did not have a good relationship with Kear prior to the arrest, also testified yesterday that he perceived Kear’s conduct that night to be dangerous and unprofessional. He said Kear did not secure his weapon after taking him into the police department and that he appeared overly “amped up.”

Soltani also said that during the chase he was uniquely positioned to intercept the fleeing car, a silver Mercedes, because his car could accelerate faster than both it and Kear’s cruiser – a point at which Valentine expressed skepticism.

“Let me get this straight,” Valentine said. “You’re claiming your 2003 Dodge Neon has an acceleration advantage over a late-model Mercedes?”

“An acceleration advantage based on momentum.” Soltani replied, and then went on to outline Einstein’s Law and the relative lightness of his Neon. “I had inertia,” he said. “He did not. I had the element of surprise. He did not. I had the front heavy car. He did not. That is correct, sir.”

“What is correct?” Valentine said.

“Everything I just said,” Soltani replied.

After Soltani’s closing argument, in which he thanked the jury for their patience and alluded to himself as an “unsung hero,” Valentine urged the jury not to be manipulated by the defendant’s persistent tangents during the trial.

“Why did we just spend the last 40 minutes talking about everything not at issue in this trial,” he said. “To distract you from what is at issue in the case.”

“There’s a difference between having a strict moral code and wanting to help people than inserting yourself into a high speed chase with a marked cruiser already with its lights and sirens going,” he continued later in his closing. “(Soltani) wants you to give him a pass. He wants you to treat him differently.”

The jury is expected to reach a verdict this morning.

Legacy Comments0
There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.