Man arrested with Concord teacher convicted on drug charges
Matthew Peters listens as his attorney cross examines Sgt. Patrick Curran, the officer that pulled Peters over while he was driving Peggy Sinclair's car and allegedly found drugs, during his trial Merrimack Superior Court, September 12, 2013
(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
The bag containing an ounce of marijuana is presented as evidence during Sgt. Patrick Curran's, right, testimony at Matthew Peters's trial on September 12, 2013 at the Merrimack Superior Court. The bag was allegedly found in a backpack along with Peters's identification.
(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
The man arrested this spring with a Concord elementary school teacher on drug possession charges was convicted yesterday of two felony counts, capping one chapter in an ongoing legal battle.
A Merrimack County Superior Court jury found Matthew Peters, 22, of Concord guilty of possessing cocaine and a large amount of marijuana with intent to distribute.
Peters and the teacher, 50-year-old Peggy Sinclair, were pulled over April 23 in Canterbury for making an illegal pass in Sinclair’s SUV. Her car was seized after the state trooper who made the stop smelled marijuana and was denied access to search inside.
Sgt. Patrick Curran testified yesterday he had detected an “obvious, in-your-face” marijuana odor as he approached the vehicle, which Peters was driving. But when he informed them of this, he said, they replied, “No, you don’t.”
When asked, neither Peters nor Sinclair consented to a search, so Curran decided to seize the car and obtain a search warrant, he said.
A search the next day of an orange backpack inside the car unearthed a freezer bag packed with 9.76 ounces of marijuana and a small plastic bag of cocaine lodged at the bottom of a cigarette case. Peters’s driver’s license and other items identifying him were also inside the backpack.
Curran said Peters and Sinclair told him during the stop they had never seen the backpack. Curran found the bag while retrieving a jacket at Peters’s request, he said.
A container of prescription drugs also was discovered in Sinclair’s purse, and Sinclair, who resigned last month from her position at Broken Ground School, was charged with possessing pills without a prescription. That charge was later dropped after prosecutors verified she in fact did have a doctor’s consent.
But Sinclair is now facing separate charges of possessing drugs and mailing them this spring to the state prison, where Peters has been held. She and Peters are believed to be in a romantic relationship and were living together at the time of their arrests in April, according to court documents.
Peters has a criminal record. He pleaded guilty in 2010 to second-degree assault after breaking a man’s clavicle, as well as tampering with a witness and falsifying evidence related to the assault. He was released from prison on parole in August 2011 but arrested later that year for violating several parole conditions, including leaving the state without permission and stalking the witness he is said to have tampered with in the assault case, according to court documents.
Peters also is accused of stealing OxyContin and heroin during an armed robbery in February, which the police said was conceived and carried out as retribution for insults lobbed at a local white supremacist gang, Brotherhood of White Warriors. Peters is said to be a “street captain” of that group. The case has been transferred from Concord’s district court to Merrimack County Superior Court and is awaiting formal indictments. Two other people have been charged in connection to the incident in which a someone was assaulted.
The drug charges against Peters were initially dismissed in May after the state presented no witnesses at a probable cause hearing, but resurfaced in June when a Merrimack County grand jury indicted him on both.
Peters’s attorney, Ted Barnes, argued yesterday that by not retaining the backpack or cigarette box the trooper threw out potential fingerprints that could have helped determine whose they were.
“It was Ms. Sinclair’s car, it was behind Ms. Sinclair’s seat,” Barnes said of the backpack. “How hard would it have been for her to reach back and put it into the bag?”
And he argued the sheer quantity of marijuana was not enough to prove Peters, or whoever the owner was, intended to sell it. But Assistant County Attorney Susan Venus disputed that view.
“Before you have smaller bags, you have to start with the larger form.”
Neither Barnes nor Venus would comment on the verdict.
(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, email@example.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)