By Doug Ireland
---- — BRENTWOOD — A former Epsom man faces 21 to 42 years in state prison after he was convicted yesterday of hitting a Windham police officer with a car following a bank robbery.
Clint Pickering, 27, was found guilty by a jury on eight of 10 charges in Rockingham Superior Court. He was already serving more than 11 years in prison for his role as the getaway driver in a heist at the Bank of New England in Windham on Sept. 18, 2009.
The jury deliberated for nearly three hours yesterday before convicting Pickering on three reckless conduct charges and single charges of second-degree assault, conduct after an accident and disobeying a police officer with serious bodily injury resulting. All six charges are felonies punishable by three and a half to seven years in prison.
Pickering was also convicted on two misdemeanor charges of disobeying a police officer, but found not guilty on two felony criminal threatening charges. The misdemeanors are each punishable by up to a year in jail.
Officer Jason Dzierlatka was out of work for more than two and half years after he was struck by the car. Dzierlatka, who fractured his foot and ankle, returned to the force in May, according to Windham police Capt. Mike Caron.
“For him and his family, it’s been a long ordeal,” Caron said of Dzierlatka. “They are happy justice has been served.”
Windham police were happy with the verdict yesterday as well, he said.
“I think on behalf of the Windham Police Department, we are very pleased,” Caron said.
Pickering had been sentenced previously, in July 2010, for his role as the getaway driver. At that time, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph DiClerico had ordered that Pickering serve 137 months in prison and pay $118,339 in restitution to Dzierlatka’s insurance company.
A second man, Patrick McKeen, also has been convicted in the bank robbery. McKeen, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in June 2010.
McKeen walked into the b
ank about 4:30 p.m. and demanded money from a teller. He received $865, got into the green Dodge Avenger driven by Pickering and they sped off.
Police began pursuing the car when Windham Officer Scott Rogers saw the vehicle head down Route 111. Rogers commandeered a civilian vehicle and began pursuit.
More officers joined the chase as Pickering turned on to Interstate 93. Pickering allegedly swerved at and hit Dzierlatka while trying to avoid a tire-deflation device the officer placed on the highway.
With two tires deflated, Pickering continued down I-93 south at speeds of about 90 mph. Pickering and McKeen eventually abandoned the car in Dracut, where they were tackled and shot with Tasers by New Hampshire State Police and Salem police.
The three-day trial began Thursday before Judge N. William Delker and included testimony from law officers involved in the case. Closing arguments took place Friday and the jury began deliberating about 10 a.m. yesterday. Pickering did not testify during the trial.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant County Attorney Brad Bolton while Pickering was represented by attorney Neil Reardon.
Reardon said although he was disappointed in the jury’s verdict, he was glad Pickering was found not guilty on the two criminal threatening charges. The charges, each punishable by 10 to 30 years in prison, alleged Pickering’s actions threatened the safety of two other police officers.
Reardon said that since his client had already been convicted, he should not have to face a second set of charges in the case.
“In my opinion, why should he be sentenced two times for the same offenses?” Reardon said.
Rockingham County Attorney James Reams said he is pleased with the verdict.
“I am glad that the criminal case is over for Officer Dzierlatka,” he said. “The entire event was difficult for all of the officers involved and serves as another reminder of how quickly police work can become deadly or life threatening. Fortunately, Officer Dzierlatka and his family can go forward now and not think about Clint Pickering again.”
A sentencing date has not been set.
Pickering has a lengthy criminal history, including convictions for theft, larceny, drug possession and possession of a dangerous weapon (knives).