By Damien Fisher, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — Lawyers for the woman who claims she was assaulted by former Canaan Police Officer Samuel Provenza say they need the town’s report from the independent investigation released before they can go to mediation. Provenza is now a state trooper.
Crystal and Doug Wright are suing the town in federal court over the alleged assault, and the lawsuit is scheduled for mediation in December. The town hired the firm, Municipal Resources Incorporated, or MRI, to investigate Wright’s complaint that she was assaulted by Provenza during a 2017 traffic stop.
Despite a Superior Court order, the town refuses to make the report public. Provenza’s appeal of the Superior Court ruling is currently before the state Supreme Court.
Wright’s attorney, Samantha Heuring, told Judge Andrea Johnstone on Monday that after reading correspondence between MRI and town officials about the investigation, it is clear the report needs to become evidence.
“I have the engagement letter and contract with the town and MRI. That solidified for me that the MRI documents are needed for her case,” Heuring said.
The town contends, through attorney Samantha Elliott, that the documents are privileged and cannot be made public. Elliott agreed to letting Heuring see the documents under certain conditions that would keep them from going public, but Heuring declined.
Johnstone cautioned that if Heuring files a motion to compel the town to release the documents, the court might not get a decision before the Dec. 22 mediation hearing.
Crystal Wright accused Provenza of assaulting her during the 2017 traffic stop, prompting the MRI report. Valley News Journalist Jim Kenyon filed a request for the documents, prompting the state lawsuit filed in Grafton Superior Court.
According to the Superior Court Judge Peter Bornstein’s ruling, the MRI report found that Wright’s excessive force allegation against Provenza was “not sustained,” though nothing is known about how that conclusion was reached. Bornstein ruled that the report must be released.
According to the federal lawsuit, Provenza had a well-known reputation for use of force when he pulled Wright over on Nov. 30 of 2017. During that stop, Provenza reportedly acted in an aggressive manner that escalated to violence.
Provenza allegedly grabbed the 5-foot, two-inch 115-pound Wright by her ponytail and dragged her out of her car as she was screaming and begging for someone to help, according to the lawsuit. He handcuffed her and hit her in the knee, despite the fact she was not resisting, according to the lawsuit. That blow to the knee tore her ACL, according to the lawsuit. Though Provenza’s police cruiser was equipped with a dashboard camera, that camera was not turned on during her stop, according to the lawsuit.
Crystal Wright was eventually charged with resisting arrest for the incident, but was later found not guilty, according to the lawsuit.