Ex-offender humbly asks lawmakers to do right thing

David Haggett, a former police investigator and later a New Hampshire Prison inmate, deeply moved several members of the House Criminal Justice Committee with his testimony in late January for legislation to relax the punishment for witness tampering. He gave Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform permission to post his statement here. We have not verified its accuracy, but it bears malice to none. He has been to the Land of Oz and come most of the way back.  If you would liek to contact David please send a note to info@ccjrnh.org


Dear Editor 

Hello, my name is David Haggett, 

In June of 1999, I was arrested and charged with criminal threatening with a weapon, a 44 cal. handgun. The victim of my alleged crime was my wife.

I was incarcerated and eventually held without bail in the Strafford county Jail. In October of 1999, I was indicted on five counts of witness tampering. These indictments came as a result of me writing letters to my wife and daughter and sending them to my pastor in Maine. 

I was not allowed to have any contact with my wife or daughter in person or through any third party. I understood this and when I spoke with my pastor before sending any of the letters I told him of the restrictions and asked him to not pass any information or correspondence on to my wife or daughter. He agreed that he would not pass anything on. 

My purpose in writing the letters was for my mental well being, not for my wife or daughter. I wanted to keep a journal but felt that that would not work as the guards in the jail went through everything that you had in your cell on a regular basis. My thoughts and expressions were very personal and private. By writing the letters I felt as if I was conveying my feelings yet knowing that the letters were not being passed on and were not being read. As far as I knew, my letters to my wife and daughter were not known to them. This may sound strange and irrational and in hindsight I guess it was. I wasn't in the best mental state as you can imagine.

My pastor turned the letters over to the prosecutor without my knowledge or permission. He told me that he felt that if the prosecutor understood my heart that the marriage and the family could be saved. I told him that it was likely that I would be charged with witness tampering. I told him that he should have given the letters to my attorney and he would decide how to use them. 

My case went to trial in February or March of 2000. Just before the trial started my court appointed attorney came to me and stated that the prosecutor was offering a deal: if I pled guilty to the gun charge, I would get a 3 year to 6 year sentence and the witness tampering charges would be dismissed. I was told that if didn’t accept the deal and went to trial, that if I was found guilty of anything, that the State of New Hampshire would own me for the rest of my life. I refused the deal as I was not guilty of the gun offense. 

I went to trial and was found not guilty of the original charge, I was found guilty of a lesser charge of criminal threatening, words only; a misdemeanor. I was also found guilty of all five cases of witness tampering. These charges were all felonies. 

A pre-sentence investigation was done by a State of New Hampshire Parole Officer. She interviewed me on two occasions at the Strafford County Jail. She was working in conjunction with a domestic violence project that was operating out of the Strafford County District Attorney's Office. This did not appear to be an unbiased investigation. She recommended a fifteen year sentence.

It was May of 2000, when I was sentenced; I had been incarcerated for eleven months. My attorney asked for time served and probation. The assistant district attorney asked for a sentence of fifteen years. 

My sentence was as follows:

1. Time served on the criminal threatening misdemeanor.

2. Two and a half to seven years on the first witness tampering.

3. A deferred three and a half  to seven years on the second witness tampering.

4. A suspended three and a half year to seven years on the third witness tampering. For five years from the date of sentencing. Any violations or other crimes resulting in this sentence being imposed.

5. A suspended three and a half to seven years on the fourth witness tampering charge . For ten years from the date of sentencing. Any violations or other crimes resulting in this sentence being imposed.

6. A suspended three and a half to seven years on the fifth witness tampering charge. For fifteen years from the date of sentencing. Any violations of other crimes resulting in this sentence being imposed. 

These were all consecutive. I was granted time served towards my sentence. I served an additional thirty months and was on parole until June of 2006. I had been incarcerated for eleven months when I was sentenced, I was then sent to Concord State Prison, where I spent two months, and then I was transferred to the Laconia Facility.  I spent about fourteen months until I was sent to a half-way house in Manchester with about five months to go before being released on parole. I was released on parole and was out for about four months when I was violated and returned to Concord State Prison on a parole violation. 

The violation was that I had not complied with a provision that I attend a batterers’ intervention group. I had been attending a group on a weekly basis and had done so for about thirteen weeks when the facilitator of the group dismissed me. He stated that I was in denial and that I wouldn't admit to using the gun against my wife. I explained that there wasn't a gun involved and that I had been found not guilty of any gun charges. He replied that he had read the police reports. I tried to explain that at the trial the investigating officer stated, after reviewing information that he had not examined, that the incident as reported by my wife could not have happened. Therefore, it was his opinion that it had not happened. I immediately notified my parole officer and advised her of what happened and offered to go to another group. She violated me. The day I was violated I had just acquired an automobile. All my possessions and the automobile were taken and destroyed. 

I was returned to the prison and had to appear before the parole board. They asked me about the gun. I had to explain that in the United States of America, you are innocent until proven guilty and that I had not been found guilty of any crime involving a gun. They decided that I had not violated any provisions of my parole but that I would have to work myself out again, this took eleven months. 

The State of New Hampshire has an annulment procedure for those individuals who have committed crimes in New Hampshire. This procedure allows offenders to petition the sentencing court for an annulment of charges five years after being released from probation or parole, except for crimes considered to be associated with obstruction of justice. The witness tampering statute is considered to be associated with obstruction of justice. Therefore, there is no provision for an annulment.

My thoughts are as follows. An individual who has committed a theft, assault, rape or any other crimes not associated with obstructing justice, are eligible for an annulment. It would seem that this is not a well thought out procedure. In my case my wife, at the time, and my daughter were never aware, never saw or read any of the letters that I had written. No one was asked to do anything; they were not threatened or harmed. 

My thinking is that there should be a separate charge of a misdemeanor of attempted witness tampering when the circumstances are similar to my case. The conditions would be that the victim or victims were never aware of the attempt and that no threat was a part of the attempt.. What I would like to see is a new law that is outside the obstructing category so that someone such as myself could be able to petition for an annulment. I would like to see a provision included where someone like me could petition the sentencing court to go back and modify the original sentence so that an annulment could be obtained.

I was 51 yrs. of age when I was arrested.  I am now 64 yrs. of age. I have not committed any crimes and am involved in prison ministry as well as trying to make a living. Being a convicted felon has been a nightmare and has made it very difficult for me to keep and to find gainful employment. I have no pension. I lost my business when I was arrested. I don't want to be a burden on the State or anyone else. 

I was a law enforcement officer for over twenty years in the State of Maine. I served in a municipal department and then on a sheriff's department. My last four years I was the elected sheriff of the county. 

I grew up with firearms and learned firearms safety as a young child. I carried a firearm every day in the performance of my duties for twenty five years. I was a trained firearms instructor. I never pointed a firearm at anyone unless I was using it to protect myself or an innocent person who was in danger. I have never used a firearm in a reckless or dangerous manner and I have never had an accident with a firearm. 

Yes, I would like to have my case annulled, but more than that I would like to see that others don't find themselves caught in the situation that I am. It seems to me that what we are looking for in our criminal justice system is justice. I am not in favor of domestic violence in any situation, and I understand that domestic violence is a problem. I don't believe that anyone can legislate domestic tranquility. 

I do believe there are better ways to handle domestic cases that would be far more effective and more just than what we are doing today. I believe that in my case that with the right methods my crimes could have been paid for without destroying the marriage and the family and without me being a convicted felon. 

It has been my experience that sometimes laws are made as a knee jerk reaction to events that are taking place, these laws sometimes have unintended consequences. The laws and directives that come with them, sometimes overreach. This was my observation when I was a law enforcement officer investigating domestic violence cases as well as child sex abuse cases. 

I do take responsibility for what I have done and I have paid a price. Was the price that I have paid and am still paying a just price? I'll let you decide. If you don't think that it was, then I ask for your help. I am asking if you are willing to help in getting legislation drafted and introduced. It would be my hope that many members of the legislature would concur with my desires and that the law could be changed as I have suggested. 

I am willing to meet and to speak with anyone who has an interest in furthering my request. I am willing to provide whatever information that is needed to accomplish this goal. 

Thank you for your time and consideration of my request.