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New Hampshire

December 6, 2009

NH lawmakers may consider changes to annulled records law

Resignation of Rockingham sheriff prompts review

More than 4,000 people had their arrest records wiped clean in New Hampshire last year. Once someone's record has been annulled, anyone who mentions it could be charged with a misdemeanor themselves, under New Hampshire law.

The state has rarely, if ever, prosecuted someone for divulging an annulled record. But last month, Rockingham County Sheriff Dan Linehan and Maj. Mark Peirce resigned in order to avoid prosecution for doing just that.

An investigation by the Attorney General's Office revealed the two top ranking members of the county sheriff's department leaked information to two newspapers about the annulled record of David Lovejoy, who was running against Linehan for sheriff at the time.

Peirce directed information be leaked to Electra Alessio, publisher of the Carriage Towne News, according to Attorney General Michael Delaney. The Carriage Towne News is owned by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., the same company that owns The Eagle-Tribune. The information also was sent to Karen Dandurant, then a reporter at the Portsmouth Herald.

The Portsmouth Herald published a story Oct. 27, 2008, outlining Lovejoy's conviction for simple assault in 1989, a conviction that was later annulled.

The Attorney General's Office investigated a complaint that the sheriff's office was the source of the leak. Upon completion of the investigation, Delaney agreed not to prosecute Linehan or Peirce in exchange for their immediate resignations. They resigned Nov. 24.

Shortly thereafter, Lovejoy sued Linehan, Peirce, Dandurant and the county. He is seeking $250,000 apiece from Linehan and Peirce.

Lovejoy's court filings include a copy of Dandurant's story, which reported Lovejoy was convicted of simple assault in 1989. Lovejoy said the conviction stemmed from spousal abuse his wife alleged during divorce proceedings, according to the story. He said the charges were later thrown out by a judge.

Lovejoy alleges Linehan, Peirce and Dandurant broke the state law prohibiting disclosure of an annulled record. State prosecutors believed that Linehan and Peirce could have been convicted of a misdemeanor, according to a statement from Delaney.

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