LRC Blog -
Around midnight the morning of November 8, 2008, Dustin Almon of Kensington, New Hampshire was walking by himself when he noticed two disreputable-looking people following him.
Understandably concerned that the stalkers meant to do him bodily harm, Almon pulled a small pocketknife from his pants pocket and, holding it at his side, exclaimed: “Why are you following me?”
Unfortunately, Almon’s antagonists weren’t ordinary street criminals, who might well have left him alone. Instead, they were undercover state Liquor Enforcement officers. One of them, Officer Anthony Cattabriga, was harassing Almon for the purpose of training a new tax-feeder.
When Cattabriga yelled, “Police!” Almon responded by folding up his pocket knife and complying “with all subsequent police orders,” observes the Portsmouth Herald. In spite of this, Almon was arrested for the non-crime of “disorderly conduct,” which was upgraded to an equally spurious count of “threatening with a dangerous weapon.”
Neither of the officers displayed any law enforcement insignia. Both of them were carrying concealed handguns and Tasers. Almon, who had no criminal record, was twenty feet away from the officers when he displayed his tiny pocket knife, made no threatening move in their direction, and eagerly complied with their demands when they identified themselves.
“A crime was not committed,” Almon’s defense attorney Patrick Devine correctly observed in his summation. “He [Almon] was protecting himself against unknown people following him.”
All of these facts were rendered moot when Cattabriga, in his court testimony, simpered that “I feared for my safety.”
This open confession of pathological cowardice was sufficient to convince Judge Sawako Gardner that Almon was guilty of “criminal threatening.” He imposed a suspended sentence of 30 days in the Rockingham County House of Corrections and a $500 fine, with half of it suspended pending “good behavior.”
In other words, Almon had to pay a $250 fine, as well as the legal expenses for his trial (and for the anticipated appeal), because he scared a police officer who hadn’t identified himself as a cop and who was harassing him for no justifiable reason.