MANCHESTER, NH – A scathing indictment of the city solicitor’s office under the direction of Attorney Thomas Clark points to a lack of competency so deep in its handling of domestic violence prosecutions, that it has resulted in the endangerment of those who sought protection from their abusers.
And based on reaction from city officials to the investigation, “corrective action” may include firings.
An investigation was launched in March of 2017 into Manchester City Solicitor’s Domestic Violence Prosecution Unit (DVPR) after the Attorney General’s office fielded complaints from Manchester Police officers, victim/witness advocates and a circuit court judge as to procedures and outcomes.
Results of the investigation were presented to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen during a closed-door session following Thursday’s special Board of Aldermen meeting, and a joint public statement was then issued Mayor Ted Gatsas and Alderman Pat Long.
It reads in part:
“What has been outlined by the Attorney General’s Office is unacceptable, it is inexcusable and it will not be tolerated by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen. We take these findings very seriously and we are angered by them. These cases have victims, they deserve justice, and our police department needs to be supported in their pursuit of justice.”
Much of the criticism is focused on professional lapses by city Prosecutor Andrea Muller, citing her lack of grip on “basic principles of cross-examination,” and competence as a litigator, and her “seemingly arbitrary, excessive and unchecked use of conditional nol pros, a Latin phrase that means “will no longer prosecute,” and amounts to a dismissal of charges by the prosecution. More than 74 percent of cases handled by Muller resulted in nol pros, compared with 10 percent, which is considered the average number of dismissals.
Also noted, an “apparent lack of oversight” over Muller’s case management and litigation practices
In his assessment, NH Attorney General Gordon MacDonald enumerated a series of action steps that must be completed by Aug. 10, many of which are underway, including advocacy training at UNH School of Law and an upcoming conference on Domestic Violence.
“I feel this is about lack of leadership,” Long said Thursday night. “We were told that Chief Mara raised these issues two years ago with Tom Clark. We need answers. We need to know why nothing was done to address the problems back then, and why they have continued.”
The executive session Thursday was the first time Long had heard about the investigation.
“This is unacceptable for our city,” Long said. “I’m livid.”
MacDonald also put County Attorney Dennis Hogan on notice that his office is ultimately responsible for “the integrity of prosecutions at the local level,” citing changes made 15 years ago to the state law governing prosecutorial procedures.
Hogan was called on to meet with Associate Attorney General Jane Young and Assistant Attorney General Lisa Wolford by Aug. 10 to review compliance with MacDonald’s directives.