Criminal Justice

Don't Bother Defending Yourself in Maine New Hampshire

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Two people in dark clothes follow you for several blocks. It's after midnight. You look back several times at them. They say nothing, but they continue to follow. What to do? Well, don't even think about menacingly gripping that pocket knife you're carrying to scare them off. They could be undercover cops conducting a training exercise.

A Kensington man was found guilty of criminal threatening for holding an open pocket knife at his side while asking two people who were walking behind him at midnight, "Why are you following me?"

The pair walking behind Dustin Almon, 28, of 27 Wild Rose Lane, were state Liquor Enforcement cops, both in plain clothes without any indicators that they were members of law enforcement, according to testimony during a Thursday Portsmouth District Court trial. Both were also carrying concealed handguns and Tasers, they testified.

One of them, Officer Anthony Cattabriga, said he was walking behind Almon on Chapel Street on Nov. 8, 2008, when Almon turned around three times to look at him and a new officer he was training. It was dark and Almon was twenty feet away when he displayed a knife with a two-inch blade the third time he turned around, said Cattabriga.

"He pointed it down by his side," the liquor officer testified, while demonstrating with Almon's seized pocket knife.

When he responded by yelling "police," Almon folded the knife, clipped it to his belt and complied with all subsequent police orders, Cattabriga testified.

Almon was initially arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct, but the charge was later upgraded to criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon.

"I feared for my safety," Cattabriga said from a District Court witness stand.

In summary, Almon was 20 feet away, holding only a pocket knife, which he immediately gave up when he realized the two officers were police. Cattabriga was with another officer, both were carrying both handguns and tasers, and they were following Almon. But it was Officer Cattabriga who apparently feared for his safety.

Thanks to William Anderson for sending along the story.

CORRECTION: As indicated in the headline, this happened in New Hampshire, not Maine.

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  1. In fairness, both officers got a C- in the “surreptitious tailing” class they were taking.

  2. Happy Monday to you too, Radley!

  3. Because the police couldn’t use other cops to follow. No, they follow innocent people around and terrorize them. I guess terrorizing innocent people is just part of the training.

    1. “I guess terrorizing innocent people is just part of the training.”

      They cover that in the first week.

      1. Gotta cover the fundamentals 1st. Walk before you run and all that.

    2. No, cause then when the shit hit the fan, there wouldn’t be anyone to pin the blame on. You’d just have 3 shot officers and no “civilian” to convict.

  4. What the fuck?! Radley, you prick. Here I am on a Monday morning with no real work to do, relishing in the fact the Patriots lost because Belichick fucked up, and you come up with this shit? I swear to science you save it for the happiest times just to bring me back down.

    1. Po, po Randy Moss.

      The bitch will NEVER get a ring.

      You run down a poor defensless metermaid with your SUV because you don’t want a parking ticket because your a big famous athlete who is above the law, karma comes around an bites you in the ass.

      1. OK, I hate to be pissy at fellow H&R readers and Balko fans, but fuck both of you. See you in January.

        1. I’m a Bills fan, so you won’t be seeing me in January unless it’s at an AA meeting.

          1. At there’s the hockey season.

      2. Shit, if that’s all the karma this shitbag has to collect, then he’s getting off very easy.

      3. Randy didn’t run her down. It was about as slo-mo as you can get in a car-pedestrian mishap.

        The local word in Mpls is that she realized the $$ potential and cashed in.

        One of my ex-clients was Randy’s old neighbor in MN and said that he was the best neighbor he had ever had. The only time there was any noise from a party, Randy came over and personally apologized for the trouble.

        Wish the Vikes had kept him.

    2. There’s nothing wrong with the Patriots that can’t be fixed by covertly videotaping opposing defenses for a few thousand hours.

  5. C-? You’re being awfully generous.

    What kind of response would the cops have thought was appropriate for a citizen who thinks he’s being followed by a couple of strangers? Would it have been more acceptable if instead he’d pulled out his wallet, thrown it to them and asked if there was anything else he could do to appease them?

    1. There salaries are paid for by his taxes if I’m correct so in a way he’s already done the first part of what you wrote…

  6. Almon was 20 feet away, holding only a pocket knife

    Dude- there was this movie, one time, where this guy could, like, make his arms get really long and stuff, and he could so totally have stabbed those guys right in the eyeball before they could do anything!!!

    Maybe the cops thought the guy should just yell “Hold everything” and call 911 on his cellphone.

  7. Reason number one million to get rid of sovereign immunity. Imagine the law suit that would result if a private security firm was training its people by having them follow unsuspecting civilians. Yet, the cops not only do this, they get to charge anyone who objects to it with a crime.

  8. Honestly, I am sure most of the cops think they were being understanding because they didn’t shoot him. That is no doubt what most cops would have done. These guys apparently are too soft to be cops.

  9. Can’t he file charges that he, too, feared bodily harm?

  10. “I feared for my safety,” Cattabriga said from a District Court witness stand.

    Sissy.

    1. they should have a screening process where they show recruits a picture of a dog. if they shit their pants, they’re hired.

  11. What ever happened to those world-weary old desk sergeants from the black-and-white movies? That crusty old geezer who would have looked at the rookie and said, “You want me to book him for THAT?”

    1. That guys have long since retired. And the ones who could have replaced them (i.e. the few cops with any common sense) either failed out of diversity training or had their careers destroyed by the craven suckasses that move to the top of these departments.

      1. ? These young cops are the wave of the future. Surveys show that the cops who oppose these new tactics tend to be over 65, while the cops who are cool with this sort of thing are hep, with-it youngsters. Stop opposing the future! ?

        1. How did you do the Ethiopian sarcasm marks?

    2. The cops were still assholes back then. The news didn’t pay much attention, though, because they kept most of their brutality focused on blacks and Hispanics.

      1. They were assholes to white people to. But they tended to at least try to be assholes to criminals and leave the rest of us alone. Now, they are assholes to everyone, which makes sense when you consider that they pretty much view everyone as a criminal.

        1. The new policy is becoming ‘shoot first’ when dealing with cops.

          They are either going to make up a crime, plant evidence, or just shoot you for no reason.

          Pigs like the fools in this article are putting a target on every cop’s head.

          1. Cuz that policy worked so well for Ryan Frederick and Cory Maye.

          2. Actually, as the general public is much more stable, honest, brave and humble than the vast majority of cops, therefore this won’t happen. Most people are still under the mistaken impression that the police are there to protect and serve, and give them the benefit of the doubt.

            Also, it helps that they are not sociopaths like the law enforcement community, and would actually feel remorse for shooting someone unnecessarily.

            1. Remove the “as” in that first sentence.

  12. I just love how they initially charged him with that wondrous catchall “disorderly conduct” before bringing it back to the DA who came up with an even better crime from their standpoint. Fucking assholes!

    1. the DA who came up with an even better crime from their standpoint. [delete period, insert (so to speak) colon] Fucking assholes!

      FTFY.

  13. “Almon was initially arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct, but the charge was later upgraded to criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon.”

    Both charges are fucking stupid to begin with but the fact that it was bumped UP and not dropped really hammers home the borderline insanity.

  14. Gotta love that “new professionalism” – the guy did what I told him and I still feared for my safety.

    And WTF with upping the charge??? The DA was terrified and he wasn’t even there?

    Last, for the people on the jury – you suck.

    1. It was a bench trial. I live in the area, and was surprised that Judge Gardner, who usually has her head screwed on straight, blew it so badly on this one.

  15. Just guess what would have happened if the guy had been walking his miniature schnauzer; those things are ferocious.

    1. It would have allowed the trainee to not only get training in surveilance but also pass his practicum in dog shooting.

  16. Was there a jury? It said a judge convicted him of the misdemeanor.

    1. According to this link and this one, misdemeanor defendants in Maine have 21 days after arraignment to demand a jury trial, otherwise the case is heard by a judge in the District Court.

      Perhaps the lawyer told his client that a judge would be more sympathetic than a jury.

      1. Or smarter. FAIL lawyer.

        1. Sorry, it was New Hampshire, and in NH he would have the right to a de novo jury trial if convicted of a Class A misdemeanor. See below. Apologies to the lawyer for confusing him with a Maine guy.

  17. Another point, is it considered a threatening display to surreptitiously pull out a knife and hold it low, by your leg? Seems to me that is simply being prepared. Not well prepared, but seemingly the best he had at the moment.

    1. I’d rather have good shoes. but a knife ain’t bad.

      1. I wonder if those neat shoes with the switch blade that pops out of the toe would be even better?

        Wrench-Knife!

    2. I did this in Italy after a pickpocket tried to steal my wallet and then kept following me.

      My main goal was to keep the knife out of his site.

      Eventually the twerp went away.

  18. To be thus is nothing,
    48 But to be safely thus. Our fears in Almon
    49 Stick deep; and in his small pocket knife
    50 Reigns that which would be fear’d. ‘Tis much he dares;
    51 And, to that dauntless temper of his mind,
    52 He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour
    53 To act in safety. There is none but he
    54 Whose being I do fear: and, under him,
    55 My Genius is rebuked; as, it is said,
    56 Mark Antony’s was by Caesar.

  19. These down east pussies don’t deserve lobstahgirl.

  20. What the fuck is wrong with Maine?

    1. it has gone over into the D column

      1. As evidenced by their two R Senators who went to all Anakin Specter and voted for the stimulus. And now one is considering support for ObamaCare.

        1. Actually, I was thinking more of the slew of stupid state laws (for the children) signed by their republican governor.

          But this happened in New Hampshire, so nevermind.

  21. Go ahead, tell me we don’t live in a police state.

    1. We don’t live in a police state.

      1. With a straight face.

  22. It sounds like this conviction came from the judge. I didn’t read anything about a jury decision.

    At least it’s being appealed.

  23. How many times do we have to explain?

    If the guy wasn’t doing anything wrong, then he has nothing to fear when the police beat the crap out of him and throw him in jail.

  24. Never mind the threaded comments –

    According to this link and this one, misdemeanor defendants in Maine have 21 days after arraignment to demand a jury trial, otherwise the case is heard by a judge in the District Court.

    Perhaps the lawyer told his client that a judge would be more sympathetic than a jury

    1. NH, not Maine, see below.

  25. Radley, this has nothing to do with Maine. This happened in Portsmouth, NH to a resident of Kensington, NH.

  26. Liquor Enforcement cops?

    At least they could have planted an open Mickey’s Wide-Mouth in his hand.

    Talk about shitty training!

  27. So pigs are now stalking people to create made-up crimes?

    Hey decent cops, this makes your jobs more dangerous.

    1. You pluralized “decent cops.” Citation needed.

  28. When they outlaw 2 inch pocket knives, only outlaws will have 2 inch pocket knives.

  29. Although he has not yet had the privilege of a jury trial, it does make me wish that the ACLU would take part of my donations and spend it funding a cartoon series that would teach children about jury nullification.

  30. Judge Sawako Gardner = retarded fetus.

    I say people start following that fucker around and see how he/she likes it.

  31. If this is a New Hampshire case, then according to this link, people charged with Class A misdemeanors get a district-court trial without a jury, with the right to demand a superior court trial with a jury if they get convicted by the judge.

    1. The link says the jury trial will be *de novo,* a Latin term meaning ‘from the top.’ So the jury presumes the defendant’s innocence, just as if he’d never been convicted.

      1. The term means literally “of or from new.”

        1. OK, fellas, let’s take it again de novo.

        2. Don’t be such a grammar [Godwin edit]. Anyway, it was a joke. A *joke!*

  32. All they had to do was yell “police” and Almon complied with everything they said?

    I wonder if that works on women…

    Also, I wouldn’t put the knife away until I saw badges/credentials.

    1. Then you would probably get shot and/or the shit kicked out of you.

      1. Maybe, but it’s been pointed out before that anyone can claim they are the police.

        1. If they pulled guns – I’d put the knife away. (I didn’t read the article.)

          1. As would I, and probably anyone else who realized they’d brought a knife to gun fight.

            But until I saw badges I would resist everything.

        2. Exactly, which is why someone yelling “police” should not be sufficient legal requirement for you to stop whatever it is you are doing or face deadly force. Bus sadly it is (as all regular Balko readers know).

          1. Is it a sufficient legal requirement? Or would the cops only like you to think that?

            1. I hope not and I am sure they would.

              Sadly, I don’t have much hope for the courts agreeing with me.

  33. Who needs to defend themselves when there are undercover cops keeping the streets clean of potential 2-inch blade knife-wielding crazies?

  34. The real lesson here? When in New Hampshire, take advantage of the open carry laws.

    1. That’s what I was thinking – these fuckers are lucky they were following a knife guy and not a gun guy.

  35. Live free or what? I must have missed something there in that second part of the state motto.

    1. new state motto “Comply or Die” ?

  36. I alaready read this in Lewrockwell.com

  37. Fuck, it was New Hampshire. As a lifelong resident, I think we should just give up and cede the south east corner of the state to Mass.

  38. WTA (Welcome to Amerika!)

  39. Since when is holding a legal blade by your side “threatening”?

    Let’s hope that judge is up for re-election soon, and draws an opponent. This was an easy dismissal on the merits.

    1. With a lecture to the 2 cops not to be so stupid in future. (Like what the judge did in Nobody’s Fool.)

  40. Let this be a lesson for everyone when dealing with cops: just lie back and enjoy it. It will be over soon.

  41. 1. There is no way on earth this guy should have been charged with a crime; but…

    2. What the hell did he think he was doing? If those guys were really armed thugs after his wallet, what good would flashing a two-inch blade do?

    I can see turning around and asking what they’re doing…and then, if they rush you, you pull the knife.

    1. What the hell did he think he was doing? If those guys were really armed thugs after his wallet, what good would flashing a two-inch blade do?

      If he was killed, the armed thugs could claim self-defense.

  42. Judge! Cops!

    What about the jury of imbeciles that found him guilty?

    1. Pay attention. It was a bench trial.

  43. Live free or die… oh wait.

  44. But it was Officer Cattabriga who apparently feared for his safety.

    Police can be such fucking pussies.

  45. 20 ft? An adult male in good health can cover that distance with a knife faster than a trained cop can draw and fire a concealed handgun. The cops had reason to proceed cautiously.

    HOWEVER.. that’s all they had. Taking this as far as an actual charge of anything is completely ridiculous. The DA who pushed it through ticks me off even more than the cops, though – he never needed to be concerned about his safety.

    1. An adult male in good health

      As the only industrialized country in the world without free healthcare, we don’t have any adult males in good health.

    2. How about a healthy adult male with a 2″ pocketknife asking the question “Why are you following me”, confronting TWO cops at 20ft, both armed with firearms and tasers?

      Oh right, the cops just stand there motionless while the guy closes the 20′ distance.

      1. You’re a moron. Twenty feet.. gun versus knife. You must be a 600 pound cop to feel this way.

  46. Can you imagine if there were like, I don’t know, a school shooting with students still inside, and cops were afraid to go in during the shooting? That’s where we’re headed with policing like this.

    1. Great ain’t it: that’s exactly the situation SWAT was invented for in the 1st place

  47. It seems NH is gonna have to change their state logo soon.

    Here’s a story about 55 college students being cited there this past weekend for “internal possession of alcohol”:

    http://www.unionleader.com/art…..0036618911

  48. Those cops were lucky they weren’t shot.

    ohh wait….

  49. In my home city of Denver, cops happen to be A)Too smart to do such a dumb and lawless training exercise (mostly for practical safety reasons.) B)Smart enough not to charge the individual who was well within their rights to feel threatened. What a bunch of asshole cops you have there. I would hate cops if i had such fascist dealings with the DPD.

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