By DAMIEN FISHER, InDepthNH.org
When Alexandra Drake reported that her superior in the New Boston Police Department was sexually harassing her, that he had a “rapability” scale for female drivers he stopped, and that he forced her to add lies to a police report, she was placed on leave, investigated, and then put on the state’s confidential Laurie List for police officers with credibility problems.
“I’ve been around the police business for about 35 years now and this list, the way it is done, is at best a waste of time and money, and at worst an upside down and misleading document,” said Tony Soltani, Drake’s attorney.
Drake was awarded $160,000 in 2018 as part of a settlement agreement with New Boston. She’s since left New Hampshire and has resumed her law enforcement career in another state. When the opportunity arose to challenge her placement on the Laurie List recently, Drake opted to move on, Soltani said.
“She left the state, she had enough,” Soltani said. “She’s working in another state and they agreed with her that what New Hampshire did was terrible.”
Last week, New Hampshire’s Attorney General’s Office released a partial Laurie List, also known as the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule, that included Drake’s name.
The list as released under a new law is incomplete, however. The only officers placed on the public list were those who had 90 days to file a lawsuit in Superior Court to argue to have their names removed and chose not to file suit.
Ninety names were released last Wednesday, but the Attorney General’s Office later that day removed some names from the newly public list.
Some officers had 180 days to file for removal in Superior Court and if they choose not to, those names will be public in three months. The officers who file in court for removal may or may not ever become public depending on what a judge decides in each individual case.
There have also been 29 names already removed under the attorney general’s 2018 protocol, a confidential process, with half of those taken off since the new law went into effect. There were 281 names on the list before the new law went into effect Sept. 24.
Drake’s inclusion on the list highlights a weakness in the EES/Laurie List system.
Soltani said the list was always more about politics than it was ever about police accountability. Officers with good connections will never get on the list, while officers who fight corruption get put on the list, he said.
“I’m more interested in the names not on the list,” Soltani said. “Most of the guys on the list are there for non-justifiable reasons.”
Lt. Michael Masella, the man who reportedly harassed Drake, and two other female officers in the New Boston Police Department, is not on the list released last week, and will not be on the updated list coming in the spring, Soltani said.
“He was never on the list, never was, never will be,” Soltani said.
According to Drake’s lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court in Concord in 2016, Masella sexually harassed her, and two other New Boston police officers, including former New Boston Police Officer Jennifer Watson. Masella was a long-time police officer and friends with New Boston Police Chief James Brace. The pair’s families reportedly vacationed together, according to Drake’s lawsuit.
Brace is still the police chief, but Masella’s name doesn’t appear on the New Boston police roster. Neither could be reached for comment Monday.
Masella, Drake’s Field Training Office, allegedly told Drake that he wanted to rape the women he pulled over as part of his police duties, and that he had a “rapability” scale for the women he encountered.
“Masella also made comments to Drake about female drivers that he believed found him attractive, and developed what he called a ‘rapability’ scale. After a traffic stop, Masella would test Drake on whether a particular female driver was ‘rapable,’” Judge Steven McAuliffe wrote in an order denying New Boston’s motion to have the case dismissed.
Masella was also biased against two other female New Boston officers, according to the lawsuit.
“Masella also made inappropriate comments about New Boston Police Department Officers Jennifer Watson and Kate Bragg, both of whom were Drake’s senior officers. Masella complained to Drake that Watson ‘cried all the time,’ and that Bragg was ‘full of ‘drama,’” McAuliffe’s order states.
Watson would herself file a complaint with the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission after she was fired, resulting in a $75,000 settlement in 2017. Watson’s firing in 2014 reportedly resulted in Masella and Brace trying to get Drake to lie for them, according to McAuliffe’s order.
“After Watson’s termination, Masella (and Chief Brace) asked Drake to lie to Watson to obtain information about a case Watson had been handling prior to her termination. Brace and Masella instructed Drake to falsely tell Watson that Drake was working on a particular case,” McAuliffe wrote.
Masella started showing up at Drake’s home uninvited, and once forced his way inside, making sexually suggestive comments, according to the lawsuit. When Drake tried to complain, Brace told her to take her concerns to her immediate supervisor who was Masella.
Drake worked for New Boston from June of 2013 through to December of 2015, when the town’s selectmen terminated her employment on Brace’s recommendation. Drake’s lawsuit states that she finally reported the harassment to another officer in early 2015, and then to Sgt. Richard Widener.
In April of that year, Drake applied for a job in the Manchester police department and divulged during the hiring process that she had been required to lie for Masella.
“During the pre-polygraph interview, Drake told the examiner that, in September of 2014, Masella instructed her to falsify a DWI report, and she had complied with that instruction,” McAuliffe wrote.
Manchester police still offered Drake a job, telling her they wanted to get her out of New Boston as soon as possible. She had a start date for June in 2015, but things were about to go sideways in New Boston.
Widner filed a complaint against Masella in April of 2015 based on Drake’s report. Brace then conducted an interrogation of Drake about her allegations with Widner and Masella present. Masella took the opportunity to berate Drake for the 2014 stop and this resulted in Masella calling her a liar in front of Brace.
“When Chief Brace failed to correct Masella’s behavior, Drake understood that Chief Brace would not investigate Masella’s wrongdoing, and that efforts to report Masella’s misconduct would be futile and ‘disastrous’ to her career,” McAuliffe wrote.
The retaliation soon started, according to court records, with Brace punishing Drake through the schedule.
“The very next day, Drake’s work schedule was modified from the day shift to the midnight shift, effective immediately (despite the fact that Drake had been scheduled to work the day shift through July 4, 2015). Chief Brace wrote a memo to Drake, stating that her schedule change was in the ‘best interests’ of the NBPD, and that she would not be with the NBPD much longer,” McAuliffe wrote.
Then in May of 2015, Brace started an investigation into Masella’s allegations that Drake had altered a DWI report, the report she had altered on Masella’s command.
“Around May 22, 2015, after Drake had worked a 10-hour midnight shift, Chief Brace called her to a conference room, purportedly to conduct an internal investigation into Masella’s sexual harassment. Instead, Chief Brace was initiating an internal investigation of Drake arising out of Masella’s allegation that Drake had altered the September 2014 DWI report (”September 2014 Report”) on her own. Brace did not inform Drake of her Miranda rights or give her a Garrity Warning, nor was Drake permitted to have counsel present during the interview,” McAuliffe wrote.
Brace would use the September 2014 stop to have Drake placed on the Laurie List, despite the fact that an internal investigation conducted by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department into the stop was not yet complete, according to the lawsuit.
Drake was eventually fired from the department in December of 2015, placed on the Laurie List, and given a warning for sexual harassment involving Masella, according to court records.
The written warning states: “While there is clear evidence that mutual behaviors occurred between you and Masella,
the sexual jokes or comments discussed within the report are not appropriate and cannot be tolerated in the workplace,” McAuliffe wrote.
Brace, Masella, and the investigator with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department all told the Manchester Police Department that Drake could not be trusted.
“Despite Drake’s earlier assurances of employment from the Manchester Police Department, Brace, Masella and (Gary) Fischer led the Manchester Police Department to believe that Drake lacked credibility and would be placed on ‘Laurie’s List.’ As a result, Drake’s job offer from the MPD failed to materialize,” McAuliffe wrote.
The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office did not respond to a request for comment about Drake’s placement on the Laurie List. Soltani said Drake is happy to put the whole matter behind her.
“She’s very happy, nobody’s harassed her, there’s no rapability list, she’s not been accosted,” Soltani said of Drake’s new employment.