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Alton hit with civil rights lawsuit

by Tim Croes
Staff Writer - The Baysider
January 18, 2012
ALTON — A civil rights lawsuit has been filed against the town and seven former and current police officers.

In the lawsuit, lawyers acting on behalf of a former local man and his son allege that the officers withheld evidence from defense lawyers during a criminal investigation and subsequent prosecution of both men for sexual assault of minors.

Both men were convicted of the charges and spent time in prison, but when the missing evidence came to light they were freed.

A cause of action or claim was filed in the United States District Court, District of New Hampshire on Dec. 9, and alleges Police Chief Ryan Heath, an officer at the time of the investigation, and former Alton Police Department employees Kevin Iwans, Glenna Heath-Roberts, Edward Correia, Tracy Shattuck, Tyler Hackett and Grant Nichols withheld 226 pages of material and exculpatory evidence during the two separate investigations and during the trials of the two men.

Heath is the only member of the Alton Police Department that is still working for the department.

The details of the suit available through the federal court Web site are heavily redacted, with supporting documents sealed for electronic accessing by an order of United States magistrate Judge Ladya McCafferty.

The names of the two plaintiffs are not released.

The older of the two men was convicted of and sentenced to serve up to 40 years in state prison for three counts of sexual misconduct with a child.

According to the suite, the older plaintiff was convicted on Feb. 25, 2009 of the three counts of sexual misconduct against one child. In December of 2009, Judge Larry Smukler granted the older man a new trial and all charges against him were dropped altogether on Oct. 25, 2010.

The older man was incarcerated from April 9, 2008 until Feb. 12, 2010.

The younger man pled guilty on June 9, 2007 on two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault against his stepdaughter. Judge James O'Neil vacated both his sentences on July 1, 2010.

Prison records show that he was incarcerated in the New Hampshire State Prison from June 9, 2008 until July 2, 2010 when he was transferred to Belknap County. He was released on July 12, 2010.

The suite claims that evidence was uncovered by Belknap County Attorney Office prosecutors in February of 2009 while they were preparing a second case against the older man for allegedly assaulting a second child.

Count 16 of the suit says the prosecutors found: "exculpatory evidence, consisting of pages A1-199 inclusive and B1-27, which had not been disclosed to either the plaintiff or his counsel, even though the documents had been in the possession of the Alton Police Department for approximately six, or more years."

The civil suit claims that Correia withheld information and paperwork in September of 2002 saying the alleged second victim "came to his office to complain about (a Rochester, N.Y. man) by stating (the man) had been angry at (initials) and had decided to make a false report of sexual assault against (initials) stepfather, with the sole purpose of making (initials) life miserable."

Additional materials also included statements made to Iwans that one victim allegedly was assaulted by a different man with the same first name and a similar statement made in 2005 to Nichols, and an undated report of a similar nature by Heath-Roberts.

There are four separate causes of action listed in the suit: a civil rights violation for the father and the son, a civil rights violation against the defendant, the town of Alton, and supplemental claims against all of the defendants listed individually, including a claim of malicious prosecution.

Tim Croes can be reached at tcroes@salmonpress.com or 569-3126

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