ACLU makes rare request to join defense, citing public interest in knowing what happened
By Breanna Edelstein Aug 22, 2018
BRENTWOOD — Robert Andersen, an assistant youth hockey coach arrested at the Icenter under contentious circumstances in December, will face a jury trial in May. Andersen's attorney Mike Delaney appeared in court Wednesday for a dispositional conference hearing along with Assistant Rockingham County Attorney William Pate and New Hampshire American Civil Liberties Union Legal Director Gilles Bissonnette.
Judge Andy Schulman agreed to Delaney's request for a trial eight months away after being briefed on a vast number of witnesses the defense plans to interview. The trial is expected to last between five and seven days.
Bissonnette and the ACLU filed a Right-to-Know request in mid-May, calling into question the limited access to information — including police reports — surrounding the cases. By the end of the month, a gag order had been placed on the files, blocking all access to them. The ACLU dropped its case against the Salem Police Department and instead asked to join Andersen's criminal trial to petition for the documents.
Bissonnette reiterated that "the public has a right to know what's happening in this case," including the police reports and details of the circumstances leading to arrests of the three men. The prosecutor argued that he doesn't want the case tried in the media and releasing police reports before a case goes to trial could do just that.
Andersen, of Wilmington, Massachusetts, was stunned by a Taser and then arrested after police responded to a call about a fight at the Icenter on Dec. 2. Police and Andersen agree there was a situation after the game, but they dispute who was involved. "This is a big case, in the sense of there being many, many witnesses," Delaney said. "There was a full ice hockey stadium." According to police, Andersen charged at one responding officer with his arms raised and hit another in the jaw with his leg. He was shocked multiple times with the stun gun before being arrested, according to his attorney.
Andersen said that he was trying to break up a cluster of fighting parents before police intervened. He was the only person arrested that day and charged with simple assault and criminal threatening of a police officer. He pleaded not guilty to both charges. Cellphone video that captures the end of the fight — shows Andersen screaming from the floor as four Salem police officers pin him down.
Bissonnette and the ACLU got involved with the case in June, when another man was arrested after publicly criticizing police response at the Icenter that day. Christopher Albano, of Reading, Massachusetts, is charged with simple assault. A third man, John Chesna, of Revere, Massachusetts, was arrested about the same time and charged with two counts of disorderly conduct. Court documents attribute Albano's delayed arrest to video obtained months later that was cross-checked with a witness list provided by Andersen's attorney. Those two pieces of information, according to police, allowed them to positively identify Albano as the man who slapped a police officer's hand away when they tried to "get his attention" while he recorded the fight. Police said Chesna's arrest resulted from referencing the witness list as well.
You got all you needed to know out of that from the following three words- Wilmington, Reading and Revere. Enough said.