Charges Dropped Against New Hampshire Man Arrested For Defaming Police Chief

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The Exeter police dropped charges against Robert Frese who was arrested for criminal defamation of a police chief for a comment made online.

In a press release, Exeter police said that, “In further review by the attorney general’s office of the facts of this case and the law, it is their opinion that the state would not prevail at trial. After careful consideration of all the opinions involved, the Exeter Police Department has decided to nolle prosse the charge.”

Seacoast Online
May 31, 2018: Man Arrested On Charges Of Criminal Defamation For Critical Online Comment, Charge Criticized By ACLU New Hampshire

Robert Frese of Exeter, New Hampshire was charged on May 23 with criminal defamation of character, a Class B misdemeanor, for a post he wrote online. Frese wrote a comment on a Seacoast Online article about retiring police officer Dan D’Amato that read, “Chief Shupe covered up for a dirty cop,” referring to Exeter police Chief William Shupe.

New Hampshire’s criminal defamation law states: “A person is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if he purposely communicates to any person, orally or in writing, any information which he knows to be false and knows will tend to expose any other living person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule.”

Seacoast Online reported that Frese called this defamation charge “bogus,” claiming it is an attempt by police to arrest him for violating good behavior in regards to a previous conviction.

“They know I’ll go to jail if I get convicted of a misdemeanor,” Frese told Seacoast Online. “They want to silence me.”

The charge raised concern with the ACLU New Hampshire.

“There are serious free speech concerns with the enforcement of this criminal statute against the speech of this individual,” said Gilles Bissonnette, legal director with the New Hampshire chapter of the ACLU, as reported by Seacoast Online. “Indeed, it appears that the police may be using this statute to suppress speech that is critical of police.”

NH Rev Stat § 644:11 Criminal Complaint
SEE MORE: Libel: Protecting Vital Political Speech