EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 10, 2012

AG'S office: McLeod probe over

By John Toole jtoole@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — WINDHAM — A state investigation of Selectman Ross McLeod is over and the attorney general won’t bring charges against him.

Attorney General Michael Delaney announced his office completed its investigation of the former assistant county prosecutor on allegations of illegal gambling, electioneering and tampering with witnesses and informants.

“After a review of the evidence collected over the course of this investigation, the New Hampshire Department of Justice has concluded that no charges will be brought against attorney McLeod.”

Associate Attorney General Jane E. Young, who led the investigation, said yesterday the matter was fully investigated and the decision not to bring charges was based on the totality of the probe.

“It was based on the facts of this case,” Young said.

While emails among McLeod and his friends discussed a fantasy football league, Young said prosecutors would have had to prove in court that money changed hands within one year’s time to obtain a misdemeanor conviction.

McLeod resigned as assistant Hillsborough County prosecutor when allegations of misconduct arose in February, but within days he attempted to withdraw that resignation to fight for his job. County Attorney Dennis Hogan refused to let him.

McLeod’s troubles started when town political activist Corey Lewandowski requested copies of McLeod’s county work emails under the state’s Right-to-Know Law and found McLeod corresponding about the fantasy football league and town politics.

McLeod denied any wrongdoing from the outset and blamed “a vindictive squabble initiated by people in town.”

Lewandowski has been allied with political rivals of McLeod.

Hogan requested the attorney general look into the matter.

Voters passed judgment on McLeod early, re-electing him in March while the investigation unfolded. Lewandowski was dealt a loss in the town treasurer’s race in the same election.

Town residents publicly debated the issue throughout the year on message boards and websites.

McLeod supporters maintained it was ridiculous he would be investigated over a fantasy football league. Critics said a prosecutor who might have to investigate illegal gaming in his duties must himself be held to a high standard.

McLeod got a boost from Selectman Kathleen DiFruscia when DiFruscia and her husband, Tony, put McLeod to work at their Massachusetts law firm in May.

The case then took an unexpected turn in July when investigators from the attorney general’s office searched McLeod’s home and vehicles, seizing electronics.

An affidavit applying for the search warrant said there was probable cause to believe McLeod committed the crime of witness tampering by attempting to get others in the league to withhold information.

But McLeod’s attorney, Rusty Chadwick, told the other players early on to cooperate with investigators.

Young said prosecutors would have had to prove McLeod intended to hinder the investigation in his communication with other players and the evidence did not support it.

After the search, Selectmen’s Chairman Bruce Breton called for McLeod to step down from the board.

Neither McLeod nor Chadwick returned phone calls yesterday.

Lewandowski said he was unsure what to make of the decision.

“They are the ones who went out and got the warrant,” Lewandowski said of the attorney general’s office.

Lewandowski said it was a long process.

“I trust our Justice Department to do what’s right by our taxpayers. If that is the decision, I’ll support it,” he said.

Young said she had spoken to the county attorney’s deputy about the probe.

She characterized Hogan’s decision to refer the matter to the attorney general as “completely appropriate” given the language found in McLeod’s emails.

Staffing and potential expenses did not enter into the attorney general’s decision, Young said.

“It was not based on manpower or an economic issue.”

The attorney general took the investigation very seriously, she said.