Anyone else see a pattern here? At least this case is playing out in public. How did they get away with having a personnel matter out in the open when our BOS will not ????
– Portsmouth Herald April 8, 2013, via the Nashua Telegraph
What kind of message is the New Hampshire attorney general’s office sending to police officers in the state by refusing to press charges against the New London police chief, who resigned after being accused of trying to coerce a female Colby-Sawyer student into giving him nude photos of herself in exchange for dropping underage drinking charges?
Here’s what the AG said in a press release sent out April 4:
“On March 6, 2013, a complaint was made with the Attorney General’s Office regarding then Chief (David) Seastrand’s interaction with an adult female who had been arrested a few days prior. The complainant reported that Seastrand indicated her charges would be dropped if she allowed him to take a series of nude photographs of her. Based on this complaint, a criminal investigation was initiated. Earlier today, pursuant to a negotiated disposition, Seastrand agreed to immediately resign as the chief of police and permanently relinquish his certification as a police officer. Given this resolution, the state’s investigation will be concluded and criminal charge(s) will not be brought in regard to Seastrand’s conduct on March 6, 2013.”
Reporting on the case, the Concord Monitor wrote: “Richard Lehmann, the woman’s lawyer, said the incident happened three days after she was charged with underage drinking and giving a false name to the police. Lehmann said Seastrand asked her to come to the police department, then harassed her for three hours. ‘There was an extended attempt to bargain away her criminal charges in exchange for her allowing herself to be photographed naked,’” Lehmann said. “’Obviously she refused.’”
These allegations suggest a deeply disturbing misuse of police authority by the former chief. If true (and why would the chief have resigned and relinquished his certification if they weren’t?), this is a classic case of a sexual predator using his position of power and authority to sexually exploit his vulnerable victim.
Allowing the chief to simply resign with all his pay, benefits and pension intact sends the not-so-subtle message to others in the state in positions of authority that they can get away with preying on the vulnerable, and even if they are caught, the worst they will get is a slap on the wrist.
It also sends the message to victims that the state does not stand behind them to the fullest extent of the law.
The Monitor reports Associate Attorney General Jane Young saying her office decided against bringing charges because the alleged victim and Seastrand were the only ones in the police station when the incident occurred.
Sadly, here at the Portsmouth Herald, we have had our own firsthand experience with the attorney general refusing to bring the full weight of its office to prosecute a police officer accused of sexually assaulting one of our reporters.
In that case, as in this one, the AG said it couldn’t do much because they viewed it as a case of “he said, she said,” even though their own investigating trooper reported five crimes had been committed.
What we say is that the victim deserves her day in court. If a victim is willing to pursue charges, the attorney general should be her advocate, not a deterrent throwing up hypothetical roadblocks about how difficult it will be to prosecute the case.
In the case in New London, as in our own experience, smart, strong women with legal representation were able to get some degree of justice, but not full justice.
And we can’t help but wonder how many women are out there who have been exploited or extorted and who are without the means to hire legal representation to fight back.
The attorney general needs to do a better job of standing up for victims of sexual assault and exploitation, and its role becomes even more important when the alleged abuser is a police officer empowered by the public’s trust.
– Portsmouth Herald April 8, 2013