EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

January 18, 2013

Executive councilor denies trying to influence judge

Police forward case to attorney general for review

SALEM — Executive Councilor Christopher Sununu insists he didn’t use his political position to influence a judge sentencing a friend.

The Attorney General’s Office is being asked to see whether he did.

Circuit Court Judge Michael Sullivan became angry during a sentencing Tuesday after receiving a letter from Sununu about Patrick McDougall, a former Salem official being sentenced for obstruction of government administration.

Sununu’s letter, written on Executive Council letterhead, asked the judge to consider McDougall’s community service record when sentencing him.

Sullivan did not appreciate the input.

“My decision on sentencing today has to be on what I hear in this courtroom,” he said from the bench.

Letters of support can be sent to attorneys involved in a criminal case, but not to the judge.

Sullivan said he found the letter on his desk Monday. Once he opened it, he said, he didn’t read beyond the first sentence, calling receipt of the letter “a highly unusual event.”

The Salem Police Department, which prosecuted the case, is forwarding a copy of the letter, court transcripts and other information to the state Attorney General’s Office for its review, according to Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten.

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, reached shortly after the sentencing, was flabbergasted to hear the judge objected to him sending the letter.

“What?” he said. “You’re kidding me.”

The executive councilor called it a “procedural oversight.”

Sununu, who grew up in Salem and now lives in Newfields, said he was only writing a letter in support of a friend and didn’t realize it was against the law to send it to the judge. McDougall and his lawyer, Neil Reardon, asked him to write the letter.

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