By Doug Ireland
---- — BRENTWOOD — A Concord attorney avoided possible jail time yesterday when he pleaded guilty to soliciting a prostitute at a Salem motel.
Richard Mooney, 53, of Bow was fined $1,000 by Judge Marguerite Wageling as part of a plea bargain reached with prosecutors in Rockingham Superior Court.
Mooney was charged with seeking sexual services from a prostitute at the Red Roof Inn in June 2011.
Salem police arrested Mooney on a warrant July 12, 2011, following a months-long prostitution investigation at local motels, according to Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten.
Mooney is a divorce and family law attorney with his own law firm, Richard C. Mooney & Associates. He remains a member of the New Hampshire Bar Association.
He also was charged with hindering apprehension for warning the prostitute that she was under police surveillance. That charge was not prosecuted as part of the plea agreement.
Mooney allegedly called the woman after Salem police spotted him leaving a room at the Red Roof Inn and stopped his Toyota sedan on Pelham Road to question him.
The prostitute, who was not charged in exchange for cooperating with prosecutors, told police that Mooney paid her $200 for the services she performed, according to a police affidavit.
Mooney has been free on $5,000 personal recognizance bail since his arrest. He and his attorney, Howard Roever, declined to comment after the hearing.
When asked by a reporter — shortly after his arrest — if he solicited a prostitute, Mooney said, “I can’t deny it,” but then added, “I’m not guilty.”
Salem police had received an anonymous call from someone saying a woman named Ashley placed an advertisement on backpage.com, describing herself as an escort. The woman was traveling repeatedly between the Red Roof Inn and the nearby La Quinta Inn to perform sexual services, the caller told police.
Detective Michael Bernard spoke to managers at both businesses and was told a man, who identified himself as Michael Powell but later turned out to be Mooney, had been renting rooms at the motels.
The woman’s appointment book included the name “Rich” along with a phone number, which matched the one Mooney gave police when he was stopped.
Mooney’s arrest came only two months after Salem police charged two women with prostitution at a local spa after they allegedly performed sexual acts on customers who received massages.
Mooney’s case was to heard in 10th Circuit Court in Salem because the two charges he faced are Class A misdemeanors, each punishable by a $2,000 fine and a year in the county jail.
But Mooney requested a jury trial, sending the case to Superior Court. The trial was to have begun yesterday. Instead, he pleaded guilty to a Class B solicitation charge.
Assistant County Attorney Kirsten Wilson told Wageling that Mooney cooperated with prosecutors and did not have a previous criminal record.
Janet DeVito, general counsel for the New Hampshire Attorney Discipline System, said her office had not been notified of Mooney’s arrest. She said her office would investigate his case once notified. An attorney found guilty of any misconduct could face suspension or disbarment, DeVito said.