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Frustrated by Repeat Offenders, Manchester’s Ruais Pushes Bail Reform

“We’re being inundated with repeat offenders,” Manchester Mayor Jay Ruais said Wednesday, and it’s past time for the state legislature to do something about it.

That was the mayor’s message during a gathering of city leaders in the Aldermanic Chambers to call on lawmakers in Concord to fix the bail system that’s made Manchester ground zero for a revolving door system for criminals.

Of the 817 people Manchester Police arrested this year alone, 306 — or 37 percent — were already out on bail for a previous criminal charge. In the last 12 months, repeat offenders made up 26 percent of the total arrests, with 1,178 people already on bail of the total 4,529.

Ruais gathered city leaders Wednesday in the Aldermanic Chambers to call on lawmakers in Concord to fix the bail system that’s made Manchester ground zero for a revolving door system for criminals.

“People need to feel safe on our streets. The safety of our citizens is non-negotiable. We cannot allow our community to experience this repeat criminal activity,” Ruais said.

As state lawmakers debate different proposals to fix the bail system, Ruais and city leaders advocated for two changes they say would have a meaningful impact: Eliminate personal recognizance bail for all felony charges, and require anyone who is arrested while on bail to go before a judge for a new bail hearing.

Assistant Police Chief Peter Marr said the problem of repeat offenders getting easy personal recognizance bail and then going on to commit more crimes is directly tied to the 2018 bail reform law. The broken system is pushing police officers to the brink, Marr said.

“It’s very tough, it is a morale decreaser,” Marr said. “It does have an effect.”

The most common charges for people on bail are drug possession, being a felon in possession of a dangerous weapon, simple assault, and criminal threatening, Ruais said.

“The questions that I would ask is this: Which of these crimes are acceptable to [allow to] occur repeatedly in our community? And what is it going to take to fix this?” Ruais said.

In the summer of 2022, Raymond Moore, now 42, allegedly stabbed and killed 75-year-old Manchester resident Daniel Whitmore. Whitmore had been walking and feeding ducks when he was allegedly killed by Moore, a man who at the time was on bail for two different cases, one involving an assault charge and one involving resisting arrest. Moore is currently being held after he was found incompetent to stand trial.

Ruais got elected with a promise to tackle crime, addiction, and homelessness that’s impacting Manchester’s quality of life. During a meeting this week with the board members of the 1269 Cafe, a Christian outreach ministry for the city’s homeless located on Union Street, Ruais said the board members expressed concern with safety in the surrounding neighborhood.

Even with statistics showing a drop in criminal activity in Manchester, that is not what is happening around the 1269 Cafe, Ruais said.

“The problem is they don’t see it’s getting better,” Ruais said.

Staff at 1269 were unable to comment to NHJournal Wednesday. Inside 1269’s facility, people were being served meals downstairs while staff upstairs assisted others with rehabilitation intake services. Outside the building a group of homeless people gathered, and there were many small sidewalk encampments throughout the neighborhood.

Manchester’s problem with repeat offender crime is a problem that affects the whole state, Ruais said. Repeat offenders drive the perception the city is not safe for businesses, residents, and visitors in New Hampshire’s largest city. Manchester can be an economic force for good in the Granite State, he said, but it is being held back by the 25 to 30 percent of repeat offender criminals.

“A thriving Manchester is good for the entire state of New Hampshire,” Ruais said.

Fentanyl Blamed for Soaring Nashua Overdose Deaths

The number of opioid-related overdoses first responders treated in Nashua rose sharply in March, up nearly 80 percent over the previous month, according to stats compiled by American Medical Resources (AMR). It is yet another sign the state’s opioid crisis continues in its two largest cities.

Chris Stawasz, the Northeast Regional Director of Government Affairs at AMR, said medics responded to 87 suspected opioid overdoses in March; 62 in Manchester – up 13 percent from February and 25 in Nashua – up 79 percent from February.

While the total number of opioid-related overdoses for the year in both cities is trending lower than last year’s record-setting high, 2023’s death count continues to rise. Last month, there were 10 suspected opioid deaths in Nashua and Manchester, with three in Manchester and seven in Nashua. 

Nashua is getting hit particularly hard this year, according to Stawasz. Suspected fatal opioid overdoses in Nashua are trending 29 percent higher than last year. Even more alarming: one in four suspected opioid overdoses (27 percent) in Nashua this year have been fatal.

AMR medics have responded to 224 suspected opioid overdoses in Nashua and Manchester through the end of Marc,h with 35 resulting in suspected opioid OD deaths; 21 in Manchester and 14 in Nashua.

Jay Ruais, who’s running for mayor of Manchester and has had his own struggles with addiction, points a finger at Mayor Joyce Craig’s management during the ongoing crisis.

“Our city needs to alter our approach to this crisis, the current trajectory is clearly unsustainable. We must grow our police department and fully empower them to go after drug dealers while building better systems for vulnerable individuals at critical intervening moments in our hospitals, jails, and schools.

“As Mayor, I will work to ensure we are coordinating with all those fighting to improve our community and save lives,” Ruais said.

Why are such a high percentage of overdoses becoming deaths? Stawasz believes fentanyl is the culprit.

“The significant increase in deaths is attributed to very potent synthetic fentanyl,l which is now found in all types of illicit substances,” Stawasz said. “People who are using illicit substances can have no idea that what they are using contains synthetic fentanyl – or how potent the synthetic fentanyl in the product is. Synthetic fentanyl can be lethal the first time you use it, knowingly or unknowingly.”

In all, there were 62 suspected opioid overdoses in Manchester during March, bringing the year-to-date first-quarter total to 173. The total number of suspected opioid overdoses in Manchester is currently trending the same as last year on an annual basis, with 12 percent of all suspected opioid overdoses responded to by first responders in Manchester this year having been fatal.

There were 25 suspected opioid overdoses in Nashua during Marc,h bringing the year-to-date first-quarter total to 51. The total annual number of suspected opioid overdoses in Nashua is currently trending 15 percent lower than last year on an annual basis, Stawasz said.

Court Docs: Spofford’s Disgruntled Ex Gave NHPR Abuse Story

When New Hampshire Public Radio reported former Granite Recover CEO Eric Spofford, a political ally of Gov. Chris Sununu, engaged in a pattern of sexual abuse and harassment, it created political shockwaves.

But what the public news outlet didn’t report is that it allegedly relied heavily on a single source: Spofford’s ex, Amy Anagnost.

According to new documents filed in the Rockingham Superior Court, Anagnost was supplying NHPR with the material while she was engaged in an ugly custody battle with Spofford. Those records also show Anagnost threatened her current husband with the same treatment Spofford got.

NHPR, for its part, denies Amy Anagnost was a source for the story.

“NHPR’s reporting about Eric Spofford is based on sources identified in the story, none of whom are Amy Anagnost,” said Jayme Simoes, NHPR’s communications consultant.

Spofford, who has denied all wrongdoing, is currently suing NHPR for defamation. The taxpayer-subsidized news outlet is seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed. But Spofford’s attorney, Michael Strauss, wrote in his objection to the motion to dismiss that new evidence showing Anagnost was the main source for the story strengthens the complaint that NHPR acted recklessly when reporting the story.

“Eric has uncovered that Amy both supplied her own false claims about him to (NHPR reporter Lauren) Chooljian and served as a source clearinghouse for Chooljian as she investigated and wrote the article and podcast. The NHPR defendants relied on Amy and the sources she cherry-picked for Chooljian, despite her obvious unreliability (after years of long-term recovery from alcoholism and addiction, she has relapsed, and that relapse occurred at or around when she started as a source for the NHPR defendants) and notwithstanding her known and unmistakable bias against and ill-will toward Eric as reflected in publicly available records,” Strauss wrote.

Amy Anagnost is involved in a contested divorce with her current husband, Alex Anagnost, son of real estate developer Dick Anagnost. According to documents filed in that proceeding, Amy Anagnost falsely claimed she had nothing to do with the NHPR reporting on Spofford.

“A recent court filing by Amy’s soon-to-be ex-husband, Alex Anagnost, confirms that Amy ‘fed questionable information about her relationship with Eric to’ Chooljian for inclusion in the Article and Podcast, which Amy then used against Eric to alienate him from their son and as a weapon in their parenting dispute,” Strauss writes.

Evidence uncovered by Alex Anagnost includes numerous text messages between Chooljian and Amy Anagnost, according to Strauss.

“Amy’s own text messages reveal that she has helped steer Chooljian’s investigation ‘[s]ince [Chooljian] started the article.’  And because of their work together, Chooljian and Amy formed a close bond, which clouded Chooljian’s judgment and neutrality—an affront to the proper ethical boundaries between a reporter and her source,” Strauss wrote.

One text from Amy Anagnost describes Chooljian as a “G”, which Strauss writes is slang for “Gangster.”

“Implying that she and Chooljian’s relationship is rooted in a loyalty and common devotion to destroying Eric,” he wrote.

Contacted by NH Journal, Amy Anagnost continued to deny she acted as a source for NHPR.

“I was never a source for the article, but thank you,” she said.

When asked about the court documents that named her as a source, Amy Anagnost continued to deny her involvement.

“I don’t believe you have any documentation that says anything because I wasn’t a source,” she said.

Strauss declined to comment on the court filings and Amy Anagnost’s denials when contacted this week.

“This is a matter for the courts. We will see what people say when they have to produce documents and testify under oath,” Strauss said.

Amy Anagnost has been open about her addiction to alcohol and opioids in the past, but while she was Chooljian’s source she was publicly drinking and posting about her exploits on social media, according to court records. Once the NHPR story was published she reportedly used it in family court proceedings against Spofford, according to Strauss’s motion. She also tried to get her son to read the NHPR stories to alienate him from his father, according to court records in the Alex Anagnost case.

Amy Anagnost also allegedly threatened to spread stories about her husband during an angry confrontation with Dick Anagnost, according to court records.

“When Amy met with Dick to discuss her alcoholism, she told him that she would ‘get Alex like she got Eric,’ and that the Anagnost family ‘would all be sorry,’” one of the court Alex Anagnost documents states.

While NHPR had few sources on the record in the articles and podcasts about Spofford, Amy Anagnost was never mentioned in the reporting. According to the objection filed by NHPR’s attorney Sigmund Schutz, Spofford hasn’t proved that Amy Anagnost is the source behind the reporting. The text messages entered into the record, for example, are not authenticated, according to Schutz.

“The procedural problem is that the key document Spofford submits, an exchange of text messages is unauthenticated and unexplained. On its face, it does not even establish who the parties to the exchange are,” Schutz wrote. 

Even if the texts are genuine, Schutz writes, it does not disprove the stories about Spofford.

“Nothing in the texts suggests that NHPR acted with actual malice. They do not suggest that anything Anagnost may have said to Chooljian was false, that Anagnost encouraged anyone else to say anything to NHPR that was false, or that NHPR knew or suspected that anything it reported was false,” Schutz wrote.

NHPR is seeking to have the case dismissed on the grounds that as a public figure, Spofford cannot prove malice on the part of the public broadcaster.

“What Spofford’s complaint does not do is allege actual facts that could support a finding that Chooljian, or anyone else at NHPR, engaged in actionable defamation,” writes Schutz. “Because Spofford is a public figure, to plead a defamation claim he must allege not just that NHPR got the story wrong, but facts that, if proven, would demonstrate actual malice—meaning that the journalists in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth of the story, or had a high degree of awareness of its probable falsity, but published it anyway.”

Spofford’s original complaint claims NHPR ignored on-the-record sources who contradicted the claims being made about sexual abuse. In one instance, one of the on-the-record sources, Piers Kaniuka, retracted his statements linking Spofford to the abuse. That retraction went unreported by NHPR, according to the lawsuit.

Spofford built a politically connected profile with Granite Recovery Centers. As the drug abuse recovery centers became the largest recovery facilities in New Hampshire, Spofford even counseled Sununu on the response to New Hampshire’s opioid epidemic.

Spofford sold Granite Recovery Centers to Bay Mark Health Services, a Texas-based treatment company last year. The sale price has not been disclosed.