21 Aug 2014
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Bail Argued in McDougall Case

The obstruction of justice charge against the Salem elected official was changed from a Class B to a Class A misdemeanor.

Bail Argued in McDougall Case

Salem Budget Committee and Zoning Board of Adjustment member Patrick McDougall appeared in the 10th Circuit Court of Salem Tuesday and after a back-and-forth between attorneys, no change was made to McDougall's bail.

McDougall, 37, was arraigned Tuesday on the charges stemming from his Aug. 31 arrest, including three felony witness tampering charges and misdemeanors of criminal threatening and disorderly conduct.

Following a request by Salem Police prosecutor Jason Grosky, the original obstructing government administration charge against McDougall was changed from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor.

That charge stems from a June 26 incident when he allegedly refused to allow paramedics to take his wife to the hospital after she'd called 911 complaining of a migraine. After arguing with police and fire personnel for nearly an hour, McDougall took his wife to the hospital himself.

Grosky explained after the hearing that Class B misdemeanors carry up to a $1,200 fine while Class A misdemeanors carry up to a $2,000 fine and a year in prison.

McDougall pleaded not guilty to the new misdemeanor and the previous charge won't be prosecuted. His trial on that charge was set by Judge Michael F. Sullivan Tuesday for Dec. 10.

During the hearing, the matter of bail set after McDougall's August arrest was argued by Grosky and McDougall's attorney, Neil Reardon.

The bail was for $2,500 personal recognizance and forbids McDougall from entering Town Hall except for meetings and from entering the Fire Department, where the alleged incident leading to his August arrest took place. McDougall is also not allowed to contact any town employees except during those meetings.

Grosky asked for the terms to remain the same and also apply to the new Class A misdemeanor.

Reardon objected to the terms, arguing they were unfair.

"As an elected official he has the right to speak up and talk about town affairs," Reardon said. "This order is so restrictive, I think it prevents him from exercising his 1st Amendment rights to talk about what's happening in town."

Grosky said the point of the bail conditions were to guarantee public safety.

"Mr. McDougall, at least allegedly, has been a bully, and bullied town employees, for some time period," Grosky said. "There is a legitimate fear among some town employees as to his attitude and behaviors."

Grosky went over the allegations against McDougall, saying that at the incident at the Fire Department, "individuals at the Fire Department believe a physical altercation is imminent."

Grosky said the orders were not intended to restrict McDougall's 1st Amendment rights.

Reardon questioned the new charges against McDougall including the witness tampering felonies involving Fire Chief Kevin Breen, whom Reardon said was not a witness to the original 911 call incident. 

In the complaint against McDougall it is alleged he sneered at Breen, which Reardon said is not a crime.

"This is made out to be something that it's not," Reardon said. "There's a lot of angry feelings here. I think the police are overreacting to Mr. McDougall's disagreement with them."

Sullivan said he would take Reardon's arguments on bail "under advisement" but no change was made during the hearing. 

McDougall agreed to waive his right to a speedy probable cause hearing on the three felony witness tampering charges. No future date for that hearing was set Tuesday.

As for the misdemeanor charges from the Aug. 31 arrest, they will be handled alongside the felonies if there is no resolution before a probable cause hearing date.

Should probable cause be found on the felonies they would be bound over to Rockingham County Superior Court for a possible grand jury indictment.

Grosky also withdrew a motion regarding the 911 tapes as evidence to the case, saying that if the obstruction charge goes to trial the voices on the tape could be self-authenticated during the trial instead of by someone else.

After the hearing, Reardon briefly spoke to reporters, reiterating his position the bail conditions were unfair and that he was unclear if Sullivan were going to alter them.

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