By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
On Monday night, Strafford County Sheriff Brave agreed to go out on paid leave rather than face a petition for removal the county commissioners threatened to file if he refused to do so by noon Tuesday.
The embattled sheriff posted his decision on Twitter, again proclaiming his innocence after being charged last week with stealing $19,000 from the county, falsifying evidence and perjury, eight felonies in all.
Brave is the first Black man elected sheriff in New Hampshire. He has claimed the allegations are racially and politically motivated.
“As I continue to ensure that you are all informed of processes, I wanted to let you know that I have made the difficult decision to take administrative leave while the investigation, due diligence and the legal process continues,” Brave wrote. “While I maintain that I am innocent, and none of my spending of out of state line items was due to deceive the county or the people of Strafford County I do want to make sure that the wonderful team at SCSO is able to function without added stressors to their already difficult positions.
“I do not want to add any distractions to their lines of duties. This is a personal fight that should not impact the office. My physical and mental health has taken a major turn and I need to start thinking about taking care of myself and my daughter. Again I thank you for your support through all of this, and look forward to moving on from this and. #Straffordcounty strong.
At a special meeting Monday, the commissioners voted unanimously to offer Brave paid leave until the criminal charges against him are resolved, which could take many months or even years.
Or they threatened to initiate a petition for removal that is rare and not yet known exactly how that would have played out.
On Thursday, Attorney General John Formella held a news conference detailing alleged crimes against Brave who lives in Dover, charging him with eight felonies after an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office into Brave’s alleged misuse of Strafford County credit cards.
Brave is facing up to 31½-to-64 years in prison and fines of up to $32,000 if convicted on all counts.
The arrest affidavit detailing allegations against Brave can be read here: https://indepthnh.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Brave-affidavit-2.pdf
The affidavit details Brave’s meetings and travels with different women, including Freezenia Veras who was hired by the sheriff’s office in March 2022 as an executive assistant II in the prosecution unit making $57,408 a year.
In October 2022 Brave created a new position for Veras without county approval as public information officer making $79,830 a year, more than what sworn deputies earn, according to the affidavit.
Brave is charged with one count of theft by deception for stealing approximately $19,000 in Strafford County funds by submitting personal expenses for reimbursement with fraudulent justifications; two counts of falsifying physical evidence – one for submitting false reimbursement justifications, and one for altering a receipt submitted for reimbursement; and five counts of perjury for lying in his testimony before the Strafford County Grand Jury during the course of the investigation, according to a news release issued by Formella.
The affidavit alleges that Brave spent approximately $19,000 on personal expenses – including airfare, hotel stays, and dinners for personal trips to Boston, Florida, and other locations.
Brave was released on personal recognizance bail.
Brave is accused of deceiving Strafford County officials and attempting to hide the personal nature of purchases by falsifying one receipt to remove the identity of a female companion, and by submitting numerous false justifications for reimbursement. The false justifications included attending conferences and meetings that he did not attend, that did not exist, or for organizations that did not exist, Formella said.