By DAMIEN FISHER, InDepthNH.org
Former State Trooper Haden Wilber wants his job back after he already cost the state $200,000 in a settlement for an illegal arrest that kept a woman jailed for almost two weeks.
Wilber is appealing his August termination from the New Hampshire State Police to the Personnel Appeals Board in Concord this week. The crux of his appeal, a copy of which was obtained by InDepthNH.org, is that he misremembered facts during the internal investigation that ultimately led to his firing.
“During the investigation, Tpr. Wilber was interviewed numerous times, and he struggled to recall the incident which was several years in the past,” the appeal notice written by his attorney Marc Beaudoin states.
Wilber was a 13-year veteran of the State Police when he was put on the state’s Laurie List, also known as the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule, and fired as a result of the investigation into his alleged illegal actions. Wilber was accused of lying about evidence during the February 2017 traffic stop of a Maine woman, Robyn White. White ended up in jail for 13 days and subjected to body scans and an internal cavity exam, based on Wilber’s false statements, according to her civil lawsuit which was settled last year.
The termination letter from New Hampshire State Police Col. Nathan Noyes and Department of Safety Commissioner Robert Quinn to Wilber laying out the case for his firing was particularly damning.
“The investigation has revealed disturbing facts regarding your investigatory habits and overall integrity as a law enforcement officer,” the letter states. “Your personal conduct as outlined herein reflects negatively upon your character, the law enforcement profession, and is an embarrassment to you, your colleagues and the Division of State Police.”
During the internal investigation, Wilber was found to have also illegally searched White’s cell phone without a warrant. According to documents entered along with the appeal, at one point he took the cell phone out of the State Police Troop A evidence locker, and it hasn’t been seen since.
However, according to his appeal, Wilber claims he never lied, and that any inconsistencies in his story are a matter of poor memory years after the fact.
“Tpr. Wilber adamantly denies any alleged intentional misstatements of facts, and any inconsistencies can be clearly attributed to a lack of memory recall,” Beaudoin wrote.
The New Hampshire ACLU is currently suing the state to obtain copies of Wilber’s discipline record. Wilber was a member of the state’s Mobile Enforcement Team, the State Police unit that is known for so-called pretextual traffic stops.
Pretextual stops are when a police officer stops a car for one reason, such as a taillight being out, and then looks for reasons to expand the stop into a wider investigation. Such stops are often associated with racial profiling.
White, now 46, was stopped on Feb. 10 of 2017 on Interstate 95 on the pretext that she allegedly had snow on her rear lights. Wilber illegally searched White’s handbag during the stop, reportedly finding heroin residue, according to White’s lawsuit. Wilber then concocted a lie that White may have hidden drugs in her vagina as a reason to enhance the charges and keep her held in jail. White was subjected to illegal body searches, including an illegal pelvic exam during her 13 days in jail. No drugs were found in her person during the ordeal.
Wilber is also alleged to have searched White’s cell phone during the initial stop, looking for supposed intelligence information to build a drug case against White, according to the letter.
When confronted about the illegal cell phone search, Wilber told the investigator that troopers on the Mobile Enforcement Team “do that all the time,” according to the termination letter.
“That’s, that’s how I’ve been trained,” Wilber reportedly told investigators.
Wilber’s appeal hearing is set to start Tuesday and is scheduled for a second day on Wednesday.