NH Newspaper Publisher Convicted

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Damien Fisher file photo

At left are state prosecutors Myles Matteson and Matthew Conley and at right table are attorney Tony Naro and publisher Deb Paul in Derry District Court during her trial.


Community newspaper publisher Debra Paul faces jail time after being convicted on five class A misdemeanor counts that she used the wrong disclaimer language on political advertising.

Paul, 64, was found guilty Thursday in a verdict issued by Derry District Court Judge Kerry Steckowych. The case was tried last month in a bench trial. Steckowych found Paul guilty on five of the six counts by the state.

Paul is now due back in court on Dec. 20 for a sentencing hearing.

According to prosecutors, Paul repeatedly broke the law when publishing ads for local political candidates and warrant articles in the Londonderry Times and the Nutfield News. The Nutfield News has since ceased publication.

Tony Naro, Paul’s attorney, said during the trial that his client never meant to break the law, and she made repeated efforts to follow the instructions she got from the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.

“Her intent is abundantly clear. Her intent was to comply with the law,” Naro said in his closing argument.

Paul’s failure to follow the law completely is due to her faulty understanding, and not an attempt to subvert democracy, Naro said.

But Assistant Attorney General Matthew Conley argued at trial that ignorance of the law is no excuse, especially when Paul can’t exactly claim ignorance.

Paul’s political ads were the subject of multiple reports to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office for years. She got warning letters in 2019 and 2021 about the way she was publishing ads, and the 2021 letter informed her that if she broke the law again she could face prosecution. 

According to testimony, Paul struggled to handle the ads in early 2022. Paul operated the two newspapers with one employee, her husband Chris Paul. The mistakes she made during the runup to the 2022 municipal elections were not intentional, Naro said.

Every advertisement used by the prosecution to bring the charges is clearly a political ad for school board candidates, town council candidates, and warrant articles, according to Naro. Paul’s crime is that she did not make sure to have the words “paid political advertisement” in each ad that she printed. Many of the ads are labeled as being a “paid advertisement,” or an “advertisement.” 

Each charge against Paul carries up to a year in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine. 

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