MANCHESTER, NH – After more than seven months of investigation by a special team assembled from the Strafford County Attorney’s office, there will be no criminal charges brought against two former Manchester Police officers, accused last year of misconduct.
Speaking at Manchester Police headquarters on Wednesday, Strafford County Attorney Thomas Velardi said based on “thousands and thousands” of pages of evidence, which included several interviews, electronic and text messages, they concluded that there was no basis to file criminal charges against Darren Murphy or Aaron Brown, two former Manchester police officers.
Velardi was tasked by NH Attorney General Gordon McDonald to take on the case in May of 2018. In conducting the investigation, Velardi and Deputy Attorney Patrick Sullivan were looking at numerous allegations against the former officers, including sexual assault charges against both Murphy and Brown, witness tampering against one of the two, possible criminal mischief against the other, as well as looking at insurance fraud.
“None of [the allegations] were substantiated with any credible, reliable evidence,” Velardi said. “We were strictly looking at whether the criminal element could be proved within a reasonable doubt.”
A related civil case has been filed and settled with the city solicitor’s office, Velardi said.
One of two alleged victims in the case declined to cooperate with the investigation, Velardi said. Brown volunteered to be interviewed by the county attorney’s office, but Murphy declined, ” which is his right to do so,” he said.
Both officers were fired by Manchester Police Department in early 2018 after allegations of misconduct arose implicating both officers. Two teams from Strafford County, working as specially appointed Hillsborough County attorneys, independently investigated allegations against each officer.
Although there was some professional overlap, there was no evidence that the officers conspired together to commit any criminal activity.
Because allegations in the case went back as far as 2009, Velardi and his team worked with Manchester Police closely to access prior material on file. They did not have access to all internal affairs reports, which are sealed, so some of the material had to be recreated by Strafford County staff.
“The city cooperated as much as it could, but we did have to duplicate some of the internal affairs investigation,” Velardi said, which included working with city detectives and many man hours of interviews.
“Looking backwards at it, Manchester Police Department did many things correctly here in reaction to that first report and protected the public from any further misconduct by these two men,” Velardi said. “I have admiration for how Manchester Police Department conducted themselves and for being so open with us and with New Hampshire State Police. I’m confident that it was a fair neutral investigation. Attorney Sullivan and I are not beholden to anyone. Our job is to make sure [investigation is] as fair, neutral and detached as it could be.”
The lack of criminal charges does not negate allegations of behavior unbecoming of a police officer, or the possibility that one of the cases could be reopened at a later date, Velardi said.
“Although one case is conclusively over because that victim did cooperate, the other could be revisited, should the victim who chose not to participate change her mind,” Velardi said.
Velardi described the case as a “monumental undertaking,” but it is part of his job when asked to step in for such investigations, and there will be no cost to the city, or to Hillsborough County for Strafford County’s time on the investigation, he said.
“There were two victims and two accused officers and many, many interviews. Basically Manchester Police Department conducted hours of interviews, and we had thousands of pages, of text messages and electronic data to go through. It was quite a monumental undertaking, but we wanted to be thorough so that if anyone came and looked at it, we really wanted to it to be clear that we did cover as much as we humanly could,” Velardi said.
Manchester Ink Link has requested a copy of the official findings under the state’s Right to Know law. We will provide more information as it becomes available.
Below is a statement issued by Manchester Police Department on the resolution of the Strafford County Attorney’s investigation: