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State Police sergeant raised concern about drug case years before N.H. trooper's firing

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A State Police sergeant expressed concerns about a state trooper’s actions in a drug case in April 2017, years before the trooper was fired and added to a list of officers with credibility issues for his conduct in the same case.

The case involved a February 2017 traffic stop by Trooper Haden Wilber on Interstate 95 in Portsmouth. After finding what looked like a small amount of heroin during a search of the car, Wilber also accused the driver — Robyn White of Avon, Maine — of carrying additional drugs in her body. She spent 13 days in jail, underwent an invasive body cavity search and was eventually released when no drugs were found.

The sergeant, Melissa Robles, criticized the case in an email to a prosecutor two months later, according to records obtained by the Granite State News Collaborative. At the time, the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office was deciding whether to move forward with the original possession charge.

“If this is the one I’m thinking about with Haden Wilber … I completely agree with you,” Robles wrote on April 26, 2017. “I thought it was complete horseshit, but he and his supervisor don’t want to hear that they’re doing anything wrong. I personally don’t care if he gets dragged through the fire during a suppression hearing, but whatever you want to do.”

State Police fired Wilber in August 2021, after determining he had illegally searched White’s phone without a warrant and made false statements during an internal investigation. He was added to the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule — a list of officers with findings of misconduct that could undermine their credibility at trial — around the same time.

Robles’ 2017 email does not further detail her concerns about the White case or name the supervisor she refers to.

Robles, who is no longer with State Police, declined to comment. A spokesperson for the agency also declined to comment, citing a pending lawsuit over Wilber’s personnel records. An attorney for Wilber declined to comment on Robles’ email.

‘Disturbing facts’

The investigation that led to Wilber’s firing began after White filed a lawsuit in October 2019 accusing him of illegally searching her purse and fabricating evidence.

Prompted by the lawsuit, State Police officials forwarded her complaints to the N.H. Attorney General’s Office in early 2020 to review whether any criminal conduct had occurred, according to a letter from the head of State Police terminating Wilber. Once that review concluded, State Police launched its internal investigation in December 2020.

In his Aug. 9 letter terminating Wilber, Col. Nathan A. Noyes wrote that he’d lost faith in the trooper.

“This investigation has revealed disturbing facts regarding your investigatory habits and overall integrity as a law enforcement officer,” Noyes wrote. “Your personal conduct as outlined herein reflects negatively upon your character, the law enforcement profession, and is an embarrassment to you, your colleagues and the Division of State Police.”

Wilber is challenging his termination. His attorney, Marc Beaudoin, said last week that Wilber did not intentionally make false statements, saying State Police misconstrued memory lapses from a years-old case.

Beaudoin also stated, in an August letter to State Police, that Wilber “is adamant that he acted within Constitutional guidelines” in searching White’s phone.

The White case began on Feb. 10, 2017, when Wilber pulled her car over on Interstate 95 in Portsmouth, ostensibly because it had too much snow on it. After finding what seemed to be heroin residue, according to his report, Wilber arrested White on a drug possession charge.

Wilber also asserted that White could be transporting additional drugs, potentially in a body cavity, though she denied it.

Wilber’s report said he based that conclusion on evidence of drug use, White’s hours-long round trip from Maine to Massachusetts, and a sheriff’s deputy from White’s home county in Maine telling him about a different person, in an unrelated case, who supposedly had drugs in their body when booked into a New Hampshire jail.

Though Wilber didn’t include it in his report, he had also read a message on White’s phone. According to the State Police’s investigation, he texted the sheriff’s deputy, Stephen Charles, that White’s phone “said she picked up a ‘good and a half’” — which Wilber interpreted as a drug reference. State Police would later determine that was an illegal search.

When a strip search at the Rockingham County jail did not yield any contraband, Wilber told corrections officers that White could still be carrying something inside her body. White was then transported to the Strafford County jail for a body scan.

Wilber claimed the scan showed “two (2) unidentified packages,” though White’s defense attorney said jail staff told her the results were “inconclusive.”

Wilber added a charge alleging White had brought drugs into the jail.

After 13 days in jail — including time in a “dry cell” that allowed corrections officers to monitor whether she passed anything — White underwent another body scan as a condition of her bail.

Wilber reported that someone at the jail told him it indicated an “item” in White’s “vagina cavity.” But Rockingham County jail notes that appear to refer to that scan, which Noyes cites in his letter, state it detected no foreign objects.

White was then transported to a hospital, where a doctor performed a vaginal and rectal search and found nothing.

The charge of delivering contraband to the jail was ultimately dropped.

Suppression issues

The heroin possession charge was still pending when Robles, the State Police Sergeant, sent her April 2017 email to prosecutor Aaron Dristiliaris. The Collaborative obtained the email through a public records request to the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office.

Deputy County Attorney Melissa Fales said Dristiliaris had contacted Robles to seek her position on dropping the White case.

“He laid out his concerns regarding suppression issues in the case and what his thoughts were about how a suppression hearing might unfold,” Fales, who handles the office’s media requests, said in an email to the Collaborative. A suppression hearing is held when a defense attorney challenges evidence on the grounds that it was obtained illegally.

Prosecutors ultimately decided not to move forward with the possession charge. They concluded that Wilber had lacked reasonable suspicion — the necessary legal standard — when he began openly using the traffic stop to probe for drugs, according to Noyes’ letter. Any evidence he obtained after that, including the heroin residue, would therefore have been inadmissible in court.

The state settled White’s lawsuit last fall for $212,500 without admitting wrongdoing.

In January, the ACLU of New Hampshire sued the New Hampshire State Police seeking records related to Wilber, arguing they could reveal more about his misconduct and how his superiors “managed, investigated, and supervised” him.

“This statement from a state police sergeant confirms what we already know — that Mr. Wilber’s conduct in enhancing Ms. White’s charges despite no evidence of drugs in her body and forcing her to undergo a body cavity search was outrageous,” Gilles Bissonnette, the ACLU-NH’s legal director, said in a statement after reviewing Robles’ email. "This sergeant’s statement further proves that there is a compelling public interest in disclosing any misconduct records concerning Mr. Wilber.”

This article is being shared by a partner in The Granite State News Collaborative as part of our race and equity project. For more information visit collaborativenh.org. Reporter Paul Cuno-Booth can be reached at paulcunobooth@gmail.com.

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