By Doug Ireland
---- — Executive Councilor Christopher Sununu has come under fire from the New Hampshire Democratic Party, questioning why he was cleared of an accusation he tried to influence a judge.
Attorney General Michael Delaney recently concluded that Sununu did nothing wrong when he sent a letter of support to Judge Michael Sullivan of the 10th Circuit Court in Salem.
The letter was sent in January on behalf of friend Patrick McDougall, the day before the former Salem official was being sentenced for obstruction of government administration.
Sullivan became angry during the sentencing. Letters of support can be sent to attorneys involved in a criminal case, but not the judge.
Now, state Democratic Party officials are also angry and have filed Right-to-Know law requests with Sununu, a Republican, and Delaney, asking for all documents involved in the case.
“Councilor Sununu needs to come clean about how and why he attempted to influence the criminal sentencing of one of his Republican political allies,” Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley said yesterday.
“His troubling behavior raises serious questions about his ability to serve in public office and that is why we filed this Right-to-Know request,” he said.
Delaney, who announced Tuesday he is stepping down as attorney general, issued a letter March 1, saying his office determined Sununu had done nothing wrong. Copies of the letter were sent to Sununu and Salem police Chief Paul Donovan.
“Based on our review of the facts and circumstances of this matter, there is no basis to conclude that Councilor Sununu violated any provisions of the criminal code,” Delaney wrote. “Thus, we will be taking no further action.”
Delaney has not returned calls seeking comment on the case.
But Sununu said he complied with the request yesterday, sending the Democratic Party copies of Delaney’s letter and the letter he wrote on behalf McDougall, which asked the judge to consider his friend’s community service record when sentencing him.
Sununu questioned the timing, which came only days after saying he may consider running for governor or Congress next year.
“It’s a closed matter,” he said.
Sullivan sentenced McDougall, a former Budget Committee and Zoning Board of Adjustment member, to two days in jail for interfering with paramedics trying to take his wife to the hospital after she called 911.
Sununu, who grew up in Salem and now lives in Newfields, was shocked after learning Sullivan felt he was being pressured. Sununu said he didn’t realize it was against the law to send the letter to the judge. McDougall and his lawyer, Neil Reardon, asked him to write the letter.
Sununu has said he met McDougall at a political event a few years ago and the two became friends. In the letter, Sununu praised McDougall for his commitment to Salem boards and the Republican Party.
The Salem Police Department, which prosecuted the case, felt obligated to forward a copy of the letter, court transcripts and other information to the attorney general’s office for its review, according to Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten.
Under New Hampshire law, RSA 640:3 (b), anyone convicted of improperly influencing a public servant such as a judge is guilty of a Class B felony, which is punishable by three and half to seven years in state prison.