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ACLU Pries Loose Employment Record of New Hampshire Trooper Who Detained Woman on Falsified Evidence, Leading to $237,500 Settlement

by Matt Clarke

On July 6, 2022, the New Hampshire Personnel Appeals Board upheld the firing of former State Trooper Haden Wilber, who allegedly illegally searched a woman during a traffic stop, found suspected heroin residue, and then — together with fellow Trooper Matthew Locke — falsified evidence that got her detained in a no-toilet cell for 13 days, where she was subjected to involuntary body scans and an invasive body cavity search.

That led to a federal civil rights lawsuit which was settled in September 2021. There was also a separate lawsuit filed in January 2022 by the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to shake loose the fired trooper’s employment records, after the ACLU got a copy of Wilber’s termination letter, which also placed him on the “Laurie List” of law enforcement officers whose credibility as witnesses or arresting officers is suspect.

“He’s terminated, placed on the exculpatory evidence schedule [“Laurie List”], and yet we have a government agency here — the largest law enforcement agency in the state, supported by the attorney general’s office — saying that this disgraced trooper, that trooper’s privacy rights, trump the public’s right to know,” marveled ACLU Legal Director Gilles Bissonnette.

Merrimack County Superior Court Judge John Kissinger ordered the state to release those records in May 2022. See: ACLU of N.H. v. N.H. Dep’t of Saf., N.H. Super. (Merrimack Dist.), Case No. 217-2022-cv-00112.

Wilber’s saga began in 2017, when he stopped Robyn White’s car in Rockland County for “snow on the rear lights.” Searching her purse without her consent, he found suspected heroin residue inside. When Locke arrived as backup, the troopers phoned the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office because White’s driver’s license listed an address in Avon. Whoever answered the phone said the sheriff had pulled over an Avon woman six months earlier and found oxycodone pills hidden in her vagina. Suspecting White was that woman, the troopers arrested her for possession of a controlled substance and transporting drugs.

Taking her to the Stafford County Jail, they forced her to undergo an x-ray body scan. The person performing the scan claimed to find “abnormalities” in White’s digestive tract, although Rockingham County jail records later stated there were “No foreign objects detected.” That day, bail was set at $250.

Locke and Wilber allegedly then told the prosecutor about additional drug offenses they falsely attributed to White. The prosecutor used that to convince the judge to raise her bail and order another body scan. Meanwhile, White was held in isolation without a toilet while jail staff waited for something to “pass” from her digestive tract. Nothing did.

Five days after her arrest, White was forced to take a drug test. It was negative. She continued to adamantly proclaim that she was not hiding drugs in her digestive system, but to no avail, for another six days.

On the 11th day after her arrest, White’s bail was reduced to $250. The next day, the prosecutor dropped an enhanced charge, “delivery of articles prohibited,” which had been added because of the false allegations. However, the judge ordered White to undergo another body scan as a bail condition.

The second scan was conducted at the same place as the first and produced the same result — an “abnormality” was allegedly discovered. A guard and a third state trooper told White they were waiting for a search warrant to perform an invasive vaginal and rectal search, but it would take “considerable time,” so she could either wait in jail or consent to the search. “Given that threat, White agreed to go to the hospital,” according to the complaint later filed on her behalf. There, a doctor performed invasive searches but found nothing. White was released on bail later that day.

With the assistance of attorney Lawrence A. Vogelman of Shaheen & Gordon in Dover, White filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court for the District of New Hampshire against the troopers and both counties. Stratford County then settled its part of the lawsuit for $25,000. Given that Wilber’s discharge was reported to the Police Training and Standards Council as “problematic,” the state opted to settle for $212,500 on September 20, 2021. See: White v. Locke, USDC (D.N.H.), Case No. 1:19-cv-01059. 

Additional sources: Concord Monitor, Nashua Telegraph, N.H. Public Radio, Union Leader, WMUR

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Related legal cases

ACLU of N.H. v. N.H. Dep’t of Saf., N.H. Super. (Merrimack Dist.)

White v. Locke, USDC (D.N.H.)