New Hampshire Police Chief Dodges Criminal Charges For Soliciting Nude Photos Of Underage College Student
A former New Hampshire police chief will not be criminally charged for using his office to convince a female college student to provide nude photos in exchange for having the charges against her dropped, The New Hampshire Union Leader is reporting.
On March 2, 2013, then-18-year-old Janelle Westfall was walking home from a party when she was stopped by police chief David Seastrand. She was charged with giving a false name and for being a minor in possession of alcohol.
A few days later, Seastrand called Janelle into the station, saying he needed to meet with her alone, and initially began talking to her about alternatives to punishment, such as community service. Then, Seastrand suggested the two go into the police station’s basement.
“He said would grab the station’s camera to shoot a series of nude photos of me, and then he’d hold it over my head for two years to be sure I didn’t commit another crime. That’s when it was really chilling,” she said. “He’s standing there in uniform, he had his gun strapped on his side.”
Instead, Westfall went home and called her aunt and uncle, who are both police officers. They told her to write down everything that happened, despite the police chief’s threat to the young lady that he would deny everything if confronted. Janelle’s father contacted state police.
A month later, according to Sputnik News, the police chief resigned after 27 years on the police force.
However, prosecutors declined to charge the former police chief with any crimes. Scouring the state’s law books, they later explained that the only law with which they could charge the Seastrand was “abuse of power,” which, in New Hampshire, applies to a public official only if he/she commits an unauthorized act “which purports to be an act of his office” or if he/she “knowingly refrains from performing a duty imposed on him by law or clearly inherent in the nature of his office.” The charge is a misdemeanor.
Janelle would ultimately receive a $70,000 settlement from the town, but for her, the damage is done. She has not returned to college – where she was majoring in early childhood education – and is doubtful she will ever return. She is still afraid to drive through New London.
“There are going to be people who know who I am and think I’m a bad person. I miss my friends, but I can’t go back there, it’s all really uncomfortable.”
Westfall and her attorney are pushing New Hampshire to require police to wear body cameras at all times, as well as trying to convince the state legislature to change the wording of the law that defines “abuse of power” so narrowly and only makes it a misdemeanor.
[Image courtesy of: Raw Story]