Rick's Take

Legal News of Note, Public Policy Commentary, and Other Items of Interest.

What's Up With Grafton County Attorney Dropping Theft Charges Against Bristol Police Chief?

February 6, 2019

A headline in today’s Union Leader reads Charges Dropped Against Former Bristol Police Chief Accused Of Filing False OT Reports. This headline could create concern that the Grafton County Attorney was dropping the case against former Bristol Police Chief Michael Lewis, suggesting a potential conflict of interest. For any county attorney, one of the most important endorsements he or she can receive comes from the county police chiefs. A perception that the county attorney is being over-zealous in the prosecution of a police officer could cause the local chiefs to support another candidate. This is a subtle and complex intersection of criminal law and politics than can have disastrous consequences for people caught in these cross-hairs and can lead to a miscarriage of justice.

A closer reading of the article, however, indicates that the charges were dropped because of a technical flaw in the indictments. Apparently the County Attorney will re-indict Lewis and proceed with similar felony charges. The ability of the prosecutor correct errors by dismissing charges and re-indicting is just one reflection of the awesome power prosecutors. have to shape the operations of the criminal justice system.

Lewis is charged with stealing $4500 form the Town of Bristol by charging for overtime that the town says he did not work. Allegations of misuse of overtime is becoming a common theme, as both the Salem, New Hampshire police department and the Massachusetts State Police have seen overtime practices called into question recently.

For his part, Lewis has denied the charges and alleges that the town stiffed him on pay for sick time that he did not take. Lewis claims that he is entitled to over 600 hours of sick time at an hourly rate of $38.40, a total of over $23,000.

The case appears to be headed to trial in March.

Rick Lehmann