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Former Claremont police officer sentenced to 90 days in jail

  • Former Claremont police officer Ian Kibbe (center) empties his pockets before being taken into custody in Sullivan County Superior Court in Newport on Monday. His wife, holding their baby daughter, stands in front of him. Jennifer Hauck / Valley News

  • Valley News photographs — Jennifer Hauck Left: Former Claremont police officer Ian Kibbe listens during his sentencing in Sullivan County Superior Court in Newport on Monday. Below: The Rev. Shawn Therrien spoke on Kibbe’s behalf prior to his sentencing. Therrien asked Sullivan Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker to give Kibbe no jail time. Valley News photographs — Jennifer Hauck

  • (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck



Valley News
Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Former Claremont police officer Ian Kibbe has been sentenced to 90 days in jail for performing an illegal search of a suspect’s room and falsifying the subsequent report. The sentence was the maximum amount outlined in a capped plea agreement between the prosecution and defense that was finalized last month.

Sullivan Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker formally sentenced Kibbe to jail time on Monday after hearing from Kibbe’s attorney, Eric Wilson, who argued for no jail time, and Assistant Attorney General Geoff Ward.

Tucker also heard from the 31-year-old Kibbe, a former sergeant, who first apologized for his actions before seeming to offer excuses, including that he was working with “inexperienced officers,” had a “busy shift” and “couldn’t spare the manpower” to get a warrant on Feb. 24 to lawfully search the bedroom of Claremont resident Christopher Ratcliffe, who had been arrested for violating a protective order.

The night of the arrest, Kibbe and former Claremont police officer Mark Burch returned to Ratcliffe’s room to recover a cellphone and when they did, Burch saw a rifle in plain sight. It was at that time Kibbe opened a bag and suitcase to uncover a handgun and a baton; that was illegal because the items were concealed, so the bag and suitcase couldn’t be legally searched without a warrant.

Kibbe and Burch returned to the station and lied in their reports about how they discovered the weapons. The affidavit they produced was then used to hold Ratcliffe, a convicted felon, in jail.

“Based on past experience trying to get search warrants signed off on a weekend by a judge and in the middle of the night, I decided not to get a warrant,” Kibbe told Tucker. “I paid greatly for my miscalculation.”

Tucker asked Kibbe why – if he knew the search had been illegal – he then compounded the problem by lying about it in reports.

“Your honor, it was laziness,” Kibbe replied. “I take full responsibility for my actions. I know I screwed up.”

After Kibbe’s statement, Ward, the prosecutor, questioned whether Kibbe truly accepted responsibility and he challenged his characterization of it being a “miscalculation.”

Tucker asked Kibbe why – if he knew the search had been illegal – he then compounded the problem by lying about it in reports.

“Your honor, it was laziness,” Kibbe replied. “I take full responsibility for my actions. I know I screwed up.”

After Kibbe’s statement, Ward, the prosecutor, questioned whether Kibbe truly accepted responsibility and he challenged his characterization of it being a “miscalculation.”

“Quite frankly, what I heard a lot of was blaming the police department, blaming the work load, blaming the command staff ... It’s not simply that he was lazy and didn’t go get a warrant,” Ward said. “It was a calculated lie, one that he never took any steps to correct when he had the opportunity to.”

Kibbe didn’t tell his superiors about what took place, and it was only after a tip from a state trooper who was at the scene that February night that Claremont police went to the Attorney General’s Office about the botched search. Had the trooper not come forward, Ratcliffe could still be in jail and Kibbe could still be a uniformed officer, Ward said.

Judge Tucker ultimately sided with the state’s sentencing recommendation, and found that Kibbe’s decisions impacted not only Ratcliffe’s case, but more than two dozen other cases in the county that Kibbe and Burch had investigated. At least 30 cases in Sullivan County were dropped.

(Burch hasn’t been charged with a crime. He spoke to authorities under a proffer agreement, and told them that Kibbe, his supervisor, performed an unlawful search and that the pair then falsified their reports in the arrest of Ratcliffe. Ward said on Monday the investigation into Burch remains ongoing.)

“It was a bad judgment that affected a lot of other cases,” Tucker said. “I’ll give you credit for accepting responsibility, although I am a little inclined to agree with the state’s attorney that there was a little bit of blame that you put on to the department. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not.”

Tucker acknowledged that he could have rejected the plea agreement and imposed a higher sentence, but called the sentence length sufficient.

Kibbe showed no obvious signs of emotion after Tucker read the sentence, nor did his wife, who held their baby daughter throughout the hearing.

Kibbe was taken into custody at the close of the hearing. He paused briefly to give personal effects to his wife and take off his tie before a sheriff walked him out a side door.

Kibbe will serve his jail sentence outside of Sullivan County, officials said.

Prior to being sentenced, two people in addition to Kibbe’s attorney spoke on his behalf and asked the judge for leniency.

They included The Rev. Shawn Therrien, pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church in Claremont, and Frederick Boggess, a probation and parole officer based in the Claremont District Office of the New Hampshire Department of Corrections.

“I’m angry with him, but I don’t believe that putting him in jail is going to change anything,” Boggess said. “No one can punish him harder than he has punished himself.”

Kibbe originally faced a total of six charges, including two felonies. He took a plea agreement in December and pleaded guilty to one count of unsworn falsification and one count of obstructing government administration, both misdemeanors.

Tucker formally sentenced Kibbe on Monday to two 12-month sentences in the house of corrections, all suspended except for 90 days on the unsworn falsification charge.

As part of the agreement, Kibbe must surrender his New Hampshire police credentials for two years. His attorney said Kibbe has no intention of returning to law enforcement in New Hampshire.

Ward said he argued for jail time in Kibbe’s case in part because he wants to send a message to others that this type of behavior won’t be tolerated in New Hampshire.

Cases where police officers lie are startling, Ward said. Almost daily, Ward and other attorneys across the state rely on police officers’ affidavits to charge cases. Police officers’ statements also typically are given greater weight in court versus a defendant’s testimony, he added.

“(To) see what this defendant did here, so casually, so easily lie about how evidence was found ... it’s not an understatement to say it shakes one’s faith in the system,” Ward said.