Ashland teen, accused of provoking riot, has no criminal record; wants PR bail

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Daniel Zeron was held without bail pending the judge’s ruling following a hearing Wednesday. Photo/Pat Grossmith

NEWS UPDATE JUNE 4: ⇒Ashland teen to remain jailed – for now

MANCHESTER, NH –  Daniel Zeron,  the Ashland teen accused of authoring a Facebook post calling on “the masses” to riot yesterday at a South Willow Street shopping center, should be held without bail because there is clear and convincing evidence the teen is a danger to the public, a prosecutor told a judge Tuesday in 9th Circuit Court – District Division – Manchester.

Assistant City Solicitor Jeremy Harmon said overnight Tuesday police arrested 13 people – most on disorderly conduct offenses – in the general area of the Manchester Community Shopping Center, 401 South Willow St. That is where Zeron in his post  urged people “to march willow street and let our voices be heard (sic).”  He also wrote, “(P)olice cars will be tipped.  Graffiti is welcome.  Bring masks. Take examples from riots in other cities.”

By the time the post was taken down by Facebook, at the request of police, four people confirmed they would attend the protest, 27 people said they were interested and the page was shared 25 times.

Harmon said as a result of that post – and hundreds of calls to law enforcement agencies from concerned citizens – the state’s Emergency Operations Center was opened, the National Guard was activated and businesses in the vicinity of 401 South Willow St. boarded-up windows.

Earlier Tuesday night about 700 people attended a peaceful candlelight vigil at Stark Park but when it concluded 50-100 people broke off and gathered on South Willow Street.

Some set off fireworks and others threw objects at police cruisers, according to authorities.

At 12:15 a.m. Wednesday 293 off-ramps from South Willow Street were shut down as police tried to control the protesters.  The incident ended just after 1:30 a.m.  Police said a couple of Dumpster fires in the vicinity were extinguished by firefighters.

Public Defender Jillian Rizzo said this case shines a spotlight on what is happening across the country: people protesting the lack of transparency and lack of accountability of police over excessive force and police brutality.

It is a speculative leap, she said, to believe that people gathered on South Willow Street because of a post that was on social media for less than 24 hours.  She said there is general unrest all over the country because of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.  Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Those charges were upgraded Wednesday to second-degree murder. He is accused of pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, killing him.

On Wednesday three other officers involved were expected to be charged.

Rizzo asked the judge to release Zeron on personal recognizance bail on a criminal threatening offense.  She said Zeron, 19, of 9 High St., Ashland, has no criminal record.

His father, mother and brother listened to the proceeding over the telephone but were outside the courthouse because public access is limited during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rizzo said Zeron is a 2018 graduate of Plymouth High School and works as a server at a restaurant in Ashland.  She said when he is not working, he takes online courses in preparation to attend college to study music production.

She said Zeron is thoughtful, well-spoken and “very scared as a 19-year-old with no experience with the criminal justice system.”

She questioned whether a 19-year-old with no criminal record has ever been detained on no bail on a single charge involving a threat to damage property.

“It is not a threat to commit bodily harm.  It is not a violent offense like rape, murder or assault,” she said.

Rizzo said people who are charged with aggravated felonious sexual assault and kidnapping are released on bail every day.

She requested he be released with conditions that he have no contact with Manchester police unless required; he not enter the city of Manchester; he live in Plymouth; and he have no access to his social media accounts.

Rizzo said the case raises constitutional issues concerning the right to assembly and free speech.  She also argued the Manchester court lacked jurisdiction in the case since the allegation is that a threat was made in Ashland.  No element of this offense occurred in Manchester, Rizzo said, yet the charge is being “brought here without jurisdiction and with the pressure from the police department and the chief of police making public statements about this charge.”

Judge Lyons took the matter under advisement.