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April 23, 2013

Verdicts set aside in Pelham road rage case

Credibility concerns involving a Pelham police officer prompted a judge to set aside guilty verdicts against a Windham man convicted of running down a motorcyclist.

Judge Jacalyn Coburn dropped verdicts against Cody Eller, 20, in Hillsborough County Superior Court last week after the prosecution failed to notify his attorney before the trial that Officer Eugene Stahl was on the state’s “Laurie list.”

Eller was convicted in November on second-degree and reckless conduct charges in connection with a crash May 13, 2011, on Windham Road in Pelham. Police have said it was one of the worst cases of road rage they had seen.

Eller was charged with nearly forcing William Hawksley, 45, of Brentwood off the road before his Ford Fusion collided with the Kawasaki motorcycle, seriously injuring the man’s right leg.

Eller could not be reached for comment, but his attorney, Jeffrey Kaye, said he and his client felt justice had been served.

“I’m thankful the judge made the right decision — so is Cody Eller,” Kaye said. “This case deserves dismissal.”

Eller faced up to seven years in state prison and a $4,000 fine on each charge. He was acquitted of first-degree assault, punishable by seven and half to 15 years in prison.

When arrested, Eller told Stahl, “I wasn’t going to let him pass me,” according to police. Stahl testified against Eller at his trial.

No sentencing date for Eller was set after prosecutors notified Kaye — days after the conviction — that Stahl’s name was on a list of New Hampshire law enforcement officers whose credibility could become an issue if asked to testify in court.

The list of officers is sealed, Kaye said. Reasons for placing an officer on the list include misconduct and lying on the stand.

“If there is someone on the Laurie list, they have to be mentioned to the defense right up front, “Kaye said. “We assumed there were no Laurie issues.”

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