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Welcome to the NEW Atkinson Reporter! Under new management, with new resolve.

The purpose of this Blog is to pick up where the Atkinson Reporter has left off. "The King is dead, Long live the King!" This Blog is a forum for the discussion of predominantly Atkinson; Officials, People, Ideas, and Events. You may give opinion, fact, or evaluation, but ad hominem personal attacks will not be tolerated, or published. The conversation begun on the Atkinson Reporter MUST be continued!

This Blog will not fall to outside hacks from anyone, especially insecure public officials afraid of their constituents criticism.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Ex-Atkinson police sergeant, D.A.R.E. officer facing trial on DWI, other charges for crash

  • Updated 

  •  SALEM -- After repeated delays, former Atkinson police sergeant and D.A.R.E. officer Nathan Lyons will face trial this month on driving while intoxicated and other charges related to a crash in Newton in 2017.
    Lyons, 37, of Plaistow, will stand trial April 17 on charges of DWI, conduct after an accident, and reckless conduct.
    The case was originally set for trial in Salem Circuit Court last June, but it was postponed. It was eventually rescheduled for Jan. 23, but was delayed again after prosecutors informed the court that Emily Deguio, the alleged victim in the case, would be out of state and unavailable to testify.
    Lyons, who resigned from the police department in the wake of the charges, has pleaded not guilty.
    In addition to his role as a sergeant, Lyons taught the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program to local students.
    The case is being prosecuted by the Strafford County Attorney’s office.
    The DWI charge alleges that Lyons was driving an Acura TSX on North Main Street in Newton on Nov. 21, 2017, while “under the influence of intoxicating liquor and/or controlled drug, prescription drug, over-the-counter drug, or any other chemical substance, natural or synthetic, or any combination thereof, which impairs a person’s ability to drive.”
    Newton police have said Lyons struck Deguio’s car, failed to stop, and continued driving until he hit a utility pole on North Main Street.
    Police allege that he also drove his car recklessly on Amesbury Road by pulling in front of Deguio and attempting to have her crash into him by stopping short and not letting her pass by him.
    Meanwhile, the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council sent a letter to the court last month requesting a copy of the final outcome of his case.
    “Since Nathan J. Lyons is a certified officer with the state of New Hampshire, the matter of his arrest and/or conviction may involve action under state rules,” the letter said.

    Thursday, April 4, 2019

    Hampstead police officer sues AG and Derry for being put on a police 'blacklist'

    Lawyer: 'It's an affront to the American justice system that we have a 'Laurie List'

  • DERRY  — A Hampstead police officer is suing the New Hampshire Attorney General, the town of Derry and the Derry Police Department because of the “badge of infamy” he says he bears due to his placement on the “Laurie List,” according to the court filing at the Rockingham County Court.
    Also known as the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule or EES, the list of about 260 police officers with potential credibility issues is compiled by the Attorney General with information supplied by New Hampshire police departments. 
    Bryan Lamontagne, 27, is suing to take his name off the list.
    His name was added to the list about nine months after he was accused, then cleared, of cheating on a police academy test. Derry’s Police Chief Edward B. Garone wrote the email that added him to the list in December 2017.
    Since then, Lamontagne has been fighting to remove his name from the list because of its damage to his career. In the lawsuit, he is also accusing the police department and the Attorney General of not abiding by due process when placing him on the list.
    “It’s a blacklist,” said Lamontagne's lawyer Timothy J. Goulden.
    “It’s an affront to the American justice system that we have a 'Laurie List,'” he added. 
    In March 2018, Goulden sent letters to the Derry Police Department and the Attorney General’s office asking that Lamontagne's name be taken off the list.
    After a year, Lamontagne's name was still on the list, and February Goulden filed the lawsuit.
    “The Attorney General’s office maintains the list and can remove names,” Goulden explained. “But ultimately it is the police chief from any town who puts an officer on the list.”
    When asked about Lamontagne, Derry Town Administrator David Caron said the town has yet to be served the complaint, and could not comment on the case until it is served. Lamontagne has until April 6 to serve the town and the Attorney General’s office with the complaint.
    The Attorney General compiles the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule as a list of current and former police officers who may have credibility problems in court. Officers on the list have been connected to a variety of actions, including falsifying records or evidence, perjury, use of excessive force or other acts deemed egregious abuses of power. Prosecutors must disclose this type of information to a defense attorney when an officer is called to testify.
    “It is important to recognize that inclusion on the EES does not mean that an officer is necessarily untrustworthy or dishonest — and in many cases the designation on the EES will make clear there is no question of dishonesty," the Attorney General’s office describes in a memo to law enforcement officials dated March 21, 2017.
    However, Goulden contends that the list has not lived up to its intentions.
    “Prosecutors aren’t doing the work to check out their witnesses. It was designed to be a shortcut and it hasn’t been administered correctly,” Goulden said. “And when it’s not, it becomes a costly process to get your name removed.”
    Senior Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward, reiterated that the list is a tool for prosecutors meeting their Constitutional obligation.
    “The point of all of this is meeting our Constitutional obligation to defendants,” Ward said.
    Working in the criminal division, Ward could not comment on the case with Lamontagne, which will be handled through the civil division, he said.
    Lamontagne’s dismissal
    According to court documents, Lamontagne was questioned on March 17, 2017, by a staffer from the police academy about a study guide he was given by a roommate that contained information about test questions.
    “Lamontagne truthfully answered questions about the ‘study guide’ and reported the incident to Lt. Michaud at the Derry Police Department,” documents said. After disclosing what happened, he was subsequently dismissed, along with six other recruits, from the academy on March 21, 2017, and his employment with the Derry Police Department was terminated.
    Lamontagne and his fellow classmates appealed their dismissals.
    “All recruits were reinstated after the hearing,” court documents said. “The allegations of cheating were withdrawn, and the only substantiated allegation was possession of the unauthorized ‘study guide.’ The academy allowed Lamontagne to return to the police academy if he was a police officer. Chief Garone allowed Lamontagne to resign from the department and rescind the termination.”
    On March 29, 2017, Lamontagne resigned from the Derry Police Department. In his settlement with the Police Standards and Training Council he was allowed to return apply for entry to the academy and would have to complete it again.
    The following October he was hired by the Hampstead Police Department. During his background check there was no sign he was on the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule.
    That’s because his name wasn’t added until Dec. 26, 2017 when Garone wrote a letter to the Attorney General, adding Lamontagne’s name to the list.
    Citing Lamontagne’s dismissal from the academy, “the Derry Police did seek council from Patricia Conway, Rockingham County Attorney. RCA Conway in turn consulted with Senior Assistant Attorney General Lisa Woolford. We’ve received notice that both had concluded that Mr. Lamontagne’s name should be on the ‘EES’ list,” Garone wrote.
    Lamontagne and the Hampstead Police Department were notified of Lamontagne’s placement on the list on Jan. 5, 2018. Since then he has been working to get his name off of the list.
    The list’s history
    This list got its nickname the “Laurie List” because of a 1995 New Hampshire case, State v. Laurie, which strengthened the rights of defendants in criminal cases. The precedent for the prosecution disclosing this type of information dates back to the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland. It makes clear that prosecutors are constitutionally mandated to disclose a police officer's discipline to criminal defendants if it is considered exculpatory evidence – meaning that is favorable to the defendant – who could use it to impeach an officer’s testimony.
    Currently there is lawsuit by the New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and six New Hampshire news outlets to make the entire list public. Right now, the officers' names and the dates of the alleged incidents are blacked out on the public version of the document, which shows the names of the police departments and the types of infractions officers are associated with.
    The lawsuit may become unnecessary if a bill submitted by state Rep. Paul Berch, D-Westmoreland, becomes law.
    The House Judiciary Committee passed House Bill 155 out of committee unanimously with a bipartisan support. The bill seeks to make the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule a public document in its entirety. The House then passed the bill, and it is currently in committee in the Senate.

    Sunday, October 21, 2018

    ACLU-NH, Fight To Release Secret List of Dishonest NH Police

    By Nancy West,

    NASHUA – ACLU-NH and six news outlets argued in court Thursday that the list containing the names of 171 law enforcement officers with credibility problems should be public, while Solicitor General Daniel E. Will maintained it is confidential by law.
    Will told Judge Charles S. Temple in Hillsborough Superior Court South that the list, formerly known as the Laurie list, should be kept secret because state law – RSA 105:13-b – requires police personnel files to be confidential, except when police discipline must be disclosed as evidence favorable to a defendant.
    Gilles Bissonnette, ACLU-NH’s legal director, argued the public has a right to know the names of the 171 officers who have been disciplined for matters involving dishonesty and untruthfulness.
    “We’re dealing with misconduct that goes to the heart of what a police officer’s job is, that officer’s trustworthiness, the character traits that go to the core of an officer’s job functions,” Bissonnette said.
    Such misconduct includes lying, falsification of records or evidence, any criminal conduct, egregious dereliction of duty and excessive use of force, Bissonnette said.
    “This is serious misconduct,” he said. “The law does not protect these officers with the benefit of confidentiality.”
    Bissonnette told Judge Temple the list, which is now called the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule, is not part of an officer’s personnel file, but a separate document not covered by the law mandating confidentiality.
    Who is the department protecting under this policy? Bissonnette asked.
    “It would include, for example, the two Manchester police officers that currently are under investigation and were subsequently terminated for soliciting sex from a suspect…” Bissonnette said. “The public interest in disclosure is high.”
    Bissonnette, and the state’s top 1st Amendment lawyers, Gregory V. Sullivan and William Chapman, all argued to Judge Temple that RSA 105:13-b doesn’t apply in this case as Solicitor General Will insisted.
    It is a separate document containing limited information about sustained police wrongdoing that is kept by the Attorney General’s Office. The police personnel file is kept by the officers’ employer, they argued.
    “We think it clearly doesn’t apply to the (Exculpatory Evidence Schedule),” Bissonnette said.
    Right-to-know lawsuit
    The ACLU-NH, the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism, the named plaintiff in the case which publishes, and five of the state’s biggest news organizations filed the lawsuit. The Nashua Telegraph, the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Concord Monitor/Valley News, the Portsmouth Herald/Foster’s Daily Democrat, and the Keene Sentinel, also joined the suit. All were originally denied access to an unredacted list of officers.
    The officers’ names were redacted in the list that was released, but most of the departments that employed the officer were included and a very brief description the wrongdoing. Some also stated the date the officer’s name was added to the list.
    Concord attorney Chapman of Orr and Reno made clear why the news organizations and the ACLU-NH believe the names should be a matter of public information.
    “Without knowing the names of the police officers on the (Exculpatory Evidence Schedule) list, there is no way the public can hold the police – whether the police department, whether it’s the county attorney, whether it’s the Department of Justice – is fulfilling their Brady obligation. Without knowing who the officers are, the public has no ability to do that,” Chapman said.
    Chapman was referring to a prosecutor’s constitutional obligation under the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brady v. Maryland. It requires evidence that is favorable to a defendant, including discipline that could negatively affect an officer’s ability to testify truthfully, be disclosed to the defendant before trial.
    Failure to disclose could mean reversing a conviction if discovered later on. A prosecutor who withholds such evidence could be disciplined as well.
    New Hampshire’s secret police list has been controversial since the public first learned of its existence in 2012. Defense lawyers say there is no way to be sure the favorable evidence is turned over as required. Police argue, too, that their careers can be ruined by being arbitrarily placed on the list because defendants could use the information to impeach an officer’s testimony.
    New protocols
    On April 30, Attorney General Gordon MacDonald issued a memo to clarify an update on EES that had been released March 17, 2017, by his predecessor, former Attorney General Joseph Foster.
    The  Exculpatory Evidence Schedule after MacDonald updated the policy, is intended to alert prosecutors when testifying police officers have credibility, excessive force or mental health issues that resulted in discipline so they can disclose as required.
    Sullivan’s take
    Attorney Sullivan, representing the New Hampshire Union Leader, said the state is basing its arguments favoring secrecy on the wrong statute.
    “There is no law enforcement exemption in the right-to-know law,” Sullivan said.
    Sullivan said the state Supreme Court recognized that in the Lodge v. Knowlton case and created a test to determine when law enforcement records should be made public.
    Would release of the document interfere with law enforcement proceedings, deprive a person of a right to a fair trial, or constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy, Sullivan asked. The answer is no in each case, he said, so the list should be public.

    Sullivan went over the 10 sections in the state’s motion to dismiss the right-to-know lawsuit, taking note of the fact that the state based its argument for secrecy by claiming the list is part of the officer’s confidential personnel file.
    “We’re not talking about a personnel file,” Sullivan said. “We’re talking about a separate government document, an (Exculpatory Evidence Schedule) list maintained by the Department of Justice.”

    Solicitor General’s view
    Solicitor General Will said the reason the state Attorney General’s Office is involved in the case is simple.
    “… the reason why we are having this dispute is because we are enforcing the current law,” Will said.

    Will referred again to RSA 105:13-b claiming it clearly mandates the confidentiality of a police officer’s personnel file, except under Brady disclosure requirements.
    “If the legislature had said, your honor, these police personnel files should be public, those files would be public,” Will said. “The legislature hasn’t said that.”
    Instead, the legislature has made it clear – unequivocally and unambiguously – that police personnel files are strictly confidential except to discharge a prosecutor’s obligations to turn over favorable evidence to a criminal defendant, Will said.
    The fact the list is located outside of the police personnel file makes no difference, Will said.
    “The petitioners’ argument is best placed before the legislature,” Will said. “We’re here because our obligation, our job is to enforce the law as written.”
    New information
    Senior Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey W.R. Ward said the list of 171 names isn’t necessarily what the new protocol calls for. Instead it is a work in progress since all of the departments haven’t yet been certified to the new MacDonald standards.
    For the first time, the new protocol offers police officers an avenue to remove their names from the list if they believe they were wrongly added.
    Ward explained that the policy is new and still in flux.
    Some officers on the list may have been placed on the list by police chiefs who were erring on the side of caution and some may not have exhausted their right to challenge the placement as now required, he said. The new protocol requires an officer be given due process to remove his or her name before being added to the list.
    There may still be officers who didn’t know they were on the list who come forward to challenge placement, Ward said.

    Sullivan was concerned the process of seeking removal from the list will continue as long as there is a list and shouldn’t hinder the release of the names presently on the list.
    “That process is going to go on ad infinitum,” Sullivan said, adding the lawsuit doesn’t seek the names of the officers who have already asked to be removed.
    Judge Temple allowed for both sides to file written briefs and responses.
    After the hearing, Ward said of the 246 towns and law enforcement agencies, there remain 78 agencies that haven’t been certified to the new protocols.

    Thursday, February 22, 2018

    BOE reverses January decision about Green complaint

    Sends sends former school board member's objection to DOE

    PLAISTOW — The state Board of Education has reversed its previous decision ordering School Administrative Unit 55 to hold a hearing about a complaint by former Timberlane Regional School Board member Donna Green, and referred the complaint to the state Department of Education for further review.
    Green said that she was relieved by the turn of events.
    "I have an important complaint," Green said. "So far I've been through one procedural obstruction after another thanks to SAU 55's extravagant use of legal resources. I look forward to my complaint finally being examined on its merits now that the Department of Education is taking it under investigation."
    Superintendent Earl Metzler said that he is confident the DOE will also dismiss the complaint.
    "I would say this brings yet another political stunt to end by Donna Green with the same result," said Metzler. "She wastes time and money for her own political resume. This was nothing more than a lame attempt to obstruct the work of the SAU."
    The complaint process began in July 2017, when Green asked the BOE for a hearing about her complaint against SAU 55 — which encompasses the Hampstead and Timberlane school districts and shares a superintendent — claiming that the SAU violated state law in regards to setting salaries for employees.
    Specifically, Green questioned the legality of the June hiring of Business Operations Coordinator Thomas Geary, arguing that the SAU 55 board did not set Geary's salary, as is required by state law. 
    Because this issue was not discussed at the local level first, the BOE dismissed Green's initial request for a hearing until the SAU 55 board could hold a hearing.
    During the Oct. 4 SAU board meeting, the board discussed and dismissed Green's request for a hearing, which then prompted Green to file a new request with the BOE.
    The SAU's attorney followed by filing a motion to dismiss the complaint, citing a lack of jurisdiction.
    While the state hearing office recommended that the BOE dismiss the case because of jurisdiction, at their Jan. 11 meeting, the BOE decided to hear the case and ordered the SAU to hold a full fact-finding hearing on the issue.
    The SAU then filed an appeal with the state.
    On Feb. 14, the BOE rescinded its decision about the SAU hearing, and referred Green's complaint to the DOE for further review and investigation.
    Metzler said the SAU attorney is following up with the DOE to understand the next steps and how to file an appeal.

    Sunday, January 21, 2018

    Search for solution in Timberlane default budget disagreement

    Metzler says he will provide school board with documents outlining legal obligations for special education

    PLAISTOW — Members of the Timberlane Regional School Board and the administration disagree over the financial obligations of the district, causing concerns that 2018-19 default budget would lead to deficits or legal issues. 
    The $71.3  default budget — approved by the school board in a 5-4 vote — budgeted $9.3 million for special education and $3.1 million for student transportation. In a draft of the default budget created by Timberlane Business Administrator Geoffrey Dowd, the district budgeted $9.9 million for special education and over $3.6 million for transportation.
    According to state law, a default budget — which comes into play if voters reject the district's proposed budget — equals the amount of the operating budget from the previous year, plus any increases from contracts or legal obligations and minus any one-time costs.  
    However, the district and some school board members disagree about those legal obligations and one-time costs, meaning there is a $2 million difference between their budgets.
    Superintendent Earl Metzler and Dowd argue that the default budget underfunded both student transportation and special education, which would have major negative impacts on the district. Because the district is required to fulfill all special education needs and provide adequate transportation for students, if those lines in the default budget do not increase, the district would be forced to pull funds from other areas in the budget.
    Disagreeing with the administration, School Board Chairman Brian Boyle said he is confident all aspects of the default budget were created legally and properly. He said that he spoke with four different New Hampshire lawyers to confirm the default budget is in compliance with the appropriate RSAs.
    "We followed that process right to the letter of the law," said Boyle. "I take the duty and responsibility of chairman of the school board very seriously."
    Boyle explained exactly how the default budget follows the law. 
    For transportation, the default budget shows level funding because there is currently no new contract approved. Once the district accepts and approves a new bus contract, the student transportation line in the default budget will be adjusted to reflect the increase of the new contract.
    Boyle also told the Tribune that the school board has not received any documents from the district that demonstrate a contract or legal obligations for special education that amount to the increase outlined in the district's original draft of the default budget. Therefore, without a contract or proof of legal obligations, the school board cannot legally increase the special education line of the default budget.
    "Our hands are tied in the terms of how the default budget is calculated," said Boyle.
    However, Metzler said the legal obligations for the district to meet Individualized Educational Plans and special education needs are very real and the district is prepared to justify and show all legal obligations.
    "We will provide Chairman Boyle with whatever documentation we can legally provide so that the default budget is both accurate and legal," said Metzler.
    He added, "We will go line by line and justify every single expense."
    Metzler said he spoke with Boyle Friday morning following the lengthy school board meeting Thursday night, and he said the two — alongside Dowd — hope to meet early next week to clarify the districts legal obligations for special education spending.
    "My goal is to have the business administrator, the superintendent, and the chair all in agreement so that I can support the default budget," said Metzler.
    Boyle said for the special education line in the default to change, the information provided from the district, "has to be monetary and has to be contractual."
    "We will clearly honor all contractual obligations of the district," said Boyle.
    The school board is slated to join the budget committee next Thursday at their supplemental public hearing to discuss the proposed operating budget and all monetary warrant articles.
    The hearing is to be held Thursday, Jan. 25 at the Timberlane Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m..
    While the hearing is hosted by the budget committee, the school board will also be joining the committee on stage at the PAC to give a short presentation about the default budget and answer any questions from residents.

    Thursday, March 30, 2017

    Grosky named Selectmen Chair

    ATKINSON — The Atkinson Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to name Selectman Jason Grosky the new chairman of the board Monday night, replacing the recently reelected Harold Morse.
    Although Grosky is entering the last year of his first term on the board, it’s not the Salem prosecutor’s first rodeo in a chairman’s seat.
    He served as Timberlane Regional School Budget Committee Chairman in 2014.
    “I’m honored that my colleagues gave me the opportunity and trusted me in doing this,” Grosky said when reached for comment. “That was very kind of them.”
    “Before becoming a selectman, I was chairman on the school budget committee over at Timberlane, which, at different points in time, can have significant upheaval,” he said, noting that he had learned a great deal on the committee.
    Selectman Phil Consentino, reelected vice chairman, said he had been slated to become chairman this year, but recused himself from the role for health reasons.
    “I turned it down because of my health,” Consentino said. “And I let Grosky take chairman.”
    When asked to clarify about his health, Consentino explained that he did not want to leave the board short if he were to be indisposed by illness.
    Grosky explained that he does not see a big difference in power between the chairman and the rest of the board.
    “The chairman has no more power than any individual member has,” Grosky said, adding that the difference is that he and the town administrator set agendas for each meeting.
    “My vote is 20 percent and it is no greater than that or less than that, whether I’m chairman or not,” he said.
    He sees the next year as a continuation of providing services with an eye towards keeping costs down.
    “As far as the next year, it’s a lot of the same issues that you deal with in town government, trying to make sure that you’re providing the services that your neighbors need, that you’re doing so at a reasonable cost,” Grosky explained.
    “Atkinson is known to have a very low tax rate, despite being a community that has very little business base, and that’s definitely our target.”
    As to what projects Grosky thinks the board will tackle during his year-long tenure, he pointed to long-running issues facing Atkinson, including adding a cell tower and studying the police station.
    “The building of a new cellphone tower at the highest point in town ... that hasn’t been resolved yet,” he said, adding that the access road, High Hill Road, poses problems related to repair and ownership.
    “The Atkinson Police Department is in an old, almost one-room school house if you will — it’s nowhere near a modern police station,” Grosky said.
    “So those discussions have just started, as to what the needs are going forward,” he added, saying that the time frame is years, rather than months, on big changes.
    The headliner event for the year, he noted, has to be this summer’s celebrations for the town’s 250th birthday.
    “We’re going to have a great celebration — if there is a headliner for this year it would be that,” Grosky said.
    Town Administrator Alan Phair, who works closely with each chairman, said that Grosky will bring new energy to the board.
    “I think he’s a bright young man and I think that he’ll bring a lot of energy to the board, not that we haven’t had it in the past, because I thought that (former) chairman Morse did a very good job,” Phair said.
    “(Grosky) has got a good background, so I think he’ll do well,” he added.
    Grosky himself feels that the opportunity is a good book end to his first term as selectman.
    “This is a nice way to wrap up this first full term,” Grosky said.

    Sunday, March 12, 2017

    Really NH????

    Bride, 13, was divorced in 4 months

    Four months after a judge gave permission for a 17-year-old Newmarket boy to marry his 13-year-old pregnant girlfriend, the girl was back in court - seeking a divorce.

    The teens had told the court their religious beliefs compelled them to marry after they found out she was pregnant.

    "We are 6-months pregnant, and it is important to us that the baby is born to a set of married parents, as we have been taught by our Southern Baptist church home," they wrote in a marriage petition filed on April 11, 2013, in Dover.

    "We know we are young, but with the support of our parents and the congregation, we are committed to bringing our son into a loving and healthy environment."

    A state law dating back to 1907 allows girls as young as 13 and boys as young as 14 to marry, with permission of a parent or guardian and approval by the family court.

    That remains the law of the land after the House on Thursday effectively killed a bill that would have raised the minimum age for marriage to 18 and eliminated the court review process.

    According to state vital records, courts have allowed 810 minors to marry here since 1989. The 13-year-old bride in 2013 is the youngest person granted permission during that period.

    A judge from the 7th Circuit Court family division agreed to allow the marriage after a 30-minute hearing on April 24, 2013, in Dover, where the teens appeared with both of their mothers.

    In her May 8, 2013, order, Justice Susan Ashley clearly had misgivings. "The initial thought of a 13-year-old getting married weighs heavily against granting this marriage petition," she wrote. "Nevertheless, this very idea is clearly contemplated, and allowable, by the ... statutes."

    Ashley noted that the family court only sees the unsuccessful marriages. "To be frank, this court could imagine protecting (the teenagers) from the emotional havoc from 'marrying too young.' Yet, the court also knows all too well that such havoc may ensue whether or not (they) marry each other," she wrote.

    Ashley said "trying to protect and guide these two young people is simply not the job of this court; it is the job of their parents."

    All four parents had given permission for the teens to marry, she noted, and she cited their "desire to act in accordance with the tenets of their religious instruction" for her decision.

    At the hearing, the couple "spoke of their Christian beliefs, which prompt them to take responsibility for their actions and do what is best for their child," the judge wrote. "They believe that their child should be born to married parents, as a symbol of their commitment to each other and their child."

    The couple's baby boy was born on Aug. 3, 2013, according to court documents.

    On Sept. 20, the girl, who had turned 14, filed a petition for divorce, citing "infidelity and domestic abuse" as the cause. The following January, she filed a motion to amend the petition, changing the cause to "irreconcible differences" (sic).

    The divorce was granted on Jan. 9, 2014.

    Efforts to reach the teenagers and their parents last week were unsuccessful.

    Judge Edwin Kelly, administrative judge of the circuit court, said the judge's order in the 2013 case makes it clear she was concerned about the girl's young age.

    But, he said, "it's pretty hard to say no when you've got a statute staring you in the face saying yes.

    "Despite the fact it is 100 years old, it wasn't changed on the date that this case was heard. A statute in most cases will create a presumption that it's OK."

    Rep. Jacalyn Cilley, D-Barrington, was the prime sponsor of House Bill 499, which would have raised the legal age of marriage to 18. She said the House vote to "indefinitely postpone" the bill last week was "devastatingly disappointing."

    Her original bill would have raised the marriage age to 18, but allowed teens aged 16 or 17 to petition for court approval. The House Children and Family Law Committee amended it to remove the judicial review, and voted 11-0 to recommend it "ought to pass."

    On Thursday, however, five members of that committee, including its chairman, Kimberly Rice, R-Hudson, and vice chairman, Daniel Itse, R-Fremont, voted to indefinitely postpone the bill.

    Opponents argued that such a law would prevent young service members from marrying their teenage sweethearts before deployment, depriving them of family benefits.

    The motion to postpone passed 179-168.

    Watching from the House gallery on Thursday was Cassandra Levesque, a 17-year-old senior at Dover High School.

    She began researching the effects of child marriage two years ago as part of her work on advocacy for her Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouting. It was Levesque who approached Cilley about sponsoring the legislation; she also testified before the committee.

    After the House limited debate on the bill and then voted to kill it, Levesque said, she was "a little bit discouraged."

    "But then I took a breather and said, I'm not going to give up. I'm going to keep fighting for this bill and this cause," she said.

    Levesque said the argument that it would harm military members isn't accurate. "I'm from a military family," she said. "Getting married, when you're in the military, that young is not a good start."

    Changing the marriage age is a policy matter that is up to the Legislature, Judge Kelly said, noting the current law "is pretty wide open."

    But here's his perspective: "On the one hand, if you were to ask people what's the youngest age at which someone should get married, I doubt they would say 13 and 14."

    However, he said, "I do think whatever system we have ought to maintain flexibility for special circumstances and put someone who is neutral in the middle to make that determination, which is the role of the court."

    Cilley said she won't give up on changing the law, but the House vote to indefinitely postpone means it cannot take up similar legislation for two years.

    "That drove a stake through the heart of this bill," she said.