CONWAY — A Conway municipal budget committee candidate was convicted on multiple charges in Circuit Court on Tuesday but plans to appeal the conviction to Superior Court.
Judge Gerard Boyle found John Greenleaf Whittier, 41, of Conway guilty on all five charges brought before him by Conway police prosecutor William Strong.
Whittier was represented by defense attorney Jonathan Cohen of Cohen & Winters of Concord.
The offenses occurred in March of last year. At the time, Whittier was a budget committee member who had been appointed to fill a vacancy. He also was a candidate for selectman.
Whittier is running for budget committee this year. The committee has four three-year seats opening, and five other people have filed.
Incumbents Michael Fougere, Ellin Leonard and Sarah Verney and Steven Steiner all have filed for another term. Newcomer Frank Jost also is running.
After Tuesday's bench trial, Boyle found that Whittier had violated a protective order when he visited his ex-girlfriend's workplace at a North Conway hotel on March 9, 2018.
He also found Whittier resisted arrest when he failed to submit to officers who came to his home later that day to arrest him; disobeyed an officer on March 12 when he failed to pull over while he was driving; and resisted arrest when tried to avoid getting handcuffed in the courthouse parking lot where he pulled over and exited his car.
After finding Whittier guilty of the charges, Boyle moved onto sentencing.
He ordered Whittier to pay $1,240 in fines, gave him a 180-day jail sentence that was suspended for two years and also imposed $2,480 in fines that were suspended for two years.
"I want to let you know that the reason I did not impose those sentences today is because I was hoping you can put all of this behind you," said Boyle. "It sounded to me as though things almost worked out a year ago just before this happened."
Reached for comment post-trial, Whittier said he was disappointed by the outcome of the case.
During his testimony, he freely admitted he went to the hotel on the day in question and that he knew his ex had worked there in the past and had no idea if she still did. The protective order was days away from expiring at the time of his visit.
Whittier said he wasn't there to see the ex but to see the hotel manager with whom he needed to speak about an unrelated civil case they were involved with. Whittier said he was under the impression the order didn't preclude him from talking to the hotel manager under those circumstances.
But Boyle didn't buy that reasoning, adding the protective order was clearly written.
"You knew you should not have any contact with her or her place of employment," said Boyle. "This contact at her place of employment happened within days of the time that order was to expire a year ago. There's no evidence before the court you went there to see or harass her (the ex), but there is clear evidence you violated the protective order."
One resisting arrest complaint said Whittier refused to leave his home when told he was under arrest by Conway Police Detective Ryan True, who was wearing a jacket marked "police," and Officer Tomasz Tepper, who was in uniform.
The officers didn't need a warrant at that time because they were responding to the violation of protective order within 12 hours of the complaints.
"The officer was trying to explain that to you, but you didn't want to hear that," said Boyle, adding that Whittier told the officer that he wasn't going with them.
During the bench trial, the officers testified that Whittier let his aggressive German shepherd out the door. Both said the dog barked and Tepper said the dog "feigned" a lunge at him though neither was physically attacked.
Cohen asked Tepper if he had drawn his weapon on the dog, and Tepper said he didn't. "I was just terrified of the dog," said Tepper. "It was completely unexpected."
Whittier replied that his dog, Chloe, isn't vicious.
Whittier said he complied when one of the officers asked him to put the dog inside. Then the officer wanted to go in his house. Whittier said that didn't make sense to him, so he called Conway Police Chief Ed Wagner and the officers left.
Whittier testified he wasn't 100 percent sure the officers at his door were in fact officers, noting that he "lives in fear of the police."
Whittier recounted that the March 2018 incidents happened just days after he withdrew a Superior Court lawsuit against the police department, which detailed what he said were a number of instances of harassment he suffered at their hands.
Whittier said the only break he's gotten from police harassment was when the lawsuit was pending.
"They were like sharks circling me constantly," said Whittier.
On the afternoon of March 12, 2018, after police obtained an arrest warrant for Whittier, while on patrol, Sgt. Terrance Spittler spotted Whittier pulling out of the driveway of his Old Goshen Road home.
Spittler put on his blue lights and sirens on Route 113 /302.
"The siren has a rumbler on it," said Spittler. "A rumbler is basically a loud siren that rumbles the ground or puts out a tone that gives a rumbling effect."
With siren and rumbler sounding, Spittler followed Whittier as he turned on to Eastman Road and then onto East Conway Road. The pursuit ended at the police station/courthouse parking lot.
Spittler and the other officers described how Whittier got out of the car and refused commands to get on the ground while clutching a bunch of papers. A number of officers took him down.
Spittler said the abrasions on Whittier's face were self-inflicted because Whittier was rubbing his face into the asphalt.
Whittier said he drove there because he was scared.
"I was always under the impression in that situation when you are in fear like that it's perfectly prudent to put your flashers on and go to a public place," said Whittier, adding he was on the way to the courthouse anyway and he was glad to have gone there because his arrest was captured by surveillance footage that was shown in open court.
Whittier denied trying to injure himself in the parking lot and said his head "was stuffed into the ground."
Boyle informed Whittier that when an officer says you are under arrest, you must submit. Boyle also said the pursuit had put the public at risk.
After Whittier told the judge he planned to appeal, Boyle warned him that if he is convicted by a Superior Court jury. he faces a year in jail and fines of $2,480 on each charge.