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AG: Corrections officers cleared of criminal charges in use-of-force investigation

photo of NH State Prison for Men
Dave Cummings/NH Bulletin
(file photo)

New Hampshire's attorney general says no corrections officers will be charged criminally following an investigation into two use-of-force incidents involving the same incarcerated man at the State Prison for Men in Concord.

An investigation was opened in February 2022 into 11 corrections officers for their involvement in the incident, and into three additional officers for their documentation of the events.

Donald J. Freese alleges he was violently assaulted by prison staff on April 21, 2021 while he was incarcerated on gun charges. According to Freese, he ignored an order from a corrections officer, prompting a physical response from staff. Freese alleges he was then assaulted a second time in a different section of the prison.

Court records show Freese was scheduled to appear for a pre-trial conference at the Hillsborough North Superior Court the day of the incident.

New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella said last week that after an investigation into the claims, his office concluded that "based upon the affirmative defenses available to the corrections officers and other evidentiary issues, there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any of the corrections officers involved in these incidents committed any criminal offenses.”

Freese was not mentioned by name in the attorney general’s statement, and no additional details about the incident were provided.

The Department of Corrections said in a subsequent statement that all 14 officers involved in the investigation have returned to work, and that “as part of ongoing efforts to identify quality improvements, the Department implemented updated use of force and documentation training.”

Freese is awaiting trial on charges he recklessly fired a gun in Manchester in 2020. In 2013, he was found guilty of a racially-motivated hate crime after slashing at a man with a knife while using racial slurs.

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