Gag order ruled unconstitutional in case of hockey coach stunned, arrested by Salem police
Follow up to existing story from https://www.youthhockeyinfo.com/index.php?topic=102.0
BRENTWOOD — A superior court judge has vacated a gag order in the case of a youth hockey coach facing criminal charges after a scuffle with Salem police, calling the order unconstitutional and a restriction of free speech.
Prosecutors have said the gag order was necessary to prevent the case being tried in the media.
“To the extent that the case has, and may in the future, garner statewide publicity, it is unlikely to be so pervasive as to interfere with jury selection,” Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Andy Schulman wrote in court documents acquired by the Union Leader.
Gilles Bissonnette of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire called the decision a “victory for government transparency and accountability.”
“We’ve now asked Salem to provide the documents to us,” he said, referring to police reports and communications related to the Dec. 2 incident at the ICenter in Salem, which resulted in the arrest of youth hockey coach Robert Andersen of Wilmington, Mass. and the subsequent arrests in May of two parents present that day, John Chesna of Revere, Mass. and Christopher Albano of Reading, Mass.
Andersen is charged with assaulting a police officer and criminal threatening. Chesna and Albano are facing misdemeanor charges including disorderly conduct, criminal trespass and simple assault.
Earlier this spring, Albano, along with several other parents, spoke to the media in defense of Andersen, whom they say was wrongly arrested after trying to break up a verbal dispute between parents. They also criticized police for tasering Andersen.
Soon after, Chesna and Andersen were arrested. The ACLU then announced it was investigating the Salem Police Department for possible witness intimidation tactics and sued the town of Salem for documents pertinent to the cases.
In a compromise, the court allowed the ACLU to intervene in the criminal proceedings of Andersen’s case and the ACLU agreed to drop its suit.
Former New Hampshire attorney general Michael Delaney, now the director of litigation at the McLane Middleton law firm, is Andersen’s defense attorney.
Albano faces a simple assault charge. In a parent’s video of the incident he can be seen swatting the hand of a police officer who is blocking Albano’s cell phone camera with his hand. He’s also charged with disorderly conduct.
Chesna faces a criminal trespass charge and three counts of disorderly conduct. According to court documents, Chesna allegedly stepped onto the ice and yelled profanities at the referee for penalizing his son. The state cites video evidence it obtained from a person who was at the December game.
Chesna’s trial was rescheduled to Nov. 14 because he needs 90 days to recover from replacement aortic valve surgery he had on Aug. 7, according to court documents.
Timothy Bush, Albano’s attorney, said they will be going to trial likely in early 2019.
Late last month, Schulman described the gag order as “overbroad” after hearing arguments from Delaney, the prosecution and the ACLU.
Schulman chose not to replace the gag order issued by Judge Marguerite Wageling in May with a more narrow one. He also noted the unusual nature of the gag order, saying it’s not common even in first-degree murder cases in the state.