Department of Corrections Hid Evidence in Use-of-Force Investigation, Documents Say

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Assistant Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Raymond.


There’s not one problem with the swift justice meted out by Department of Corrections Commissioner Helen Hanks, Assistant Commissioner Paul Raymond, and Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility Warden Corey Riendeau on Lt. Thomas Macholl for his alleged use of excessive force on an inmate. 

According to documents obtained by, there are several.

The most glaring is that Raymond reportedly ordered a witness to remain silent about evidence that cleared Macholl, and records show that witness was blocked from talking to investigators for at least a month.

Now, the Department of Corrections is ignoring an order from the Personnel Appeals Board that Macholl be reinstated and is instead appealing the decision. Macholl told he’s ready for the fight against the administration that tried to end his career and put him in jail.

“I never stood for bullies or anything like that,” Macholl said.

Macholl, a former Connecticut State Trooper and corrections officer of the year in 2016, is also a leader in the corrections officers union.

DOC officials declined to directly answer questions about Macholl’s termination, but forwarded the appeal the department filed with the New Hampshire Personnel Appeals Board which denies findings made by the PAB as well as the findings of investigators with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.

On April 27 of last year, Macholl used a pressure technique, known as a mandibular pressure point, on an inmate acting in a violent and disruptive manner inside a transportation van. Macholl was able to get the inmate to comply and safely moved out of the van and into a secure cell. Macholl wrote his report on the use of the pressure technique six hours later.

He was fired on May 8, 2023, and the termination was soon reported to the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council. Further, DOC Commissioner Helen Hanks sent a letter to New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella asking for the Public Integrity Unit to open a criminal investigation.  

All that happened before the DOC completed its use of force investigation into Macholl on May 22, 2023. 

“This isn’t just an employment matter, they tried to get me prosecuted,” Macholl said. “This is absurd what they did to me. I’ve got no other discipline on my record.”

According to Macholl, the department started its plan to get rid of him within hours of his report being completed. Riendeau told Macholl on April 28, 2023 before the DOC use of force investigation even started, that he planned to fire him for using an illegal chokehold on the inmate, Macholl said.

Riendeau was not a witness to the incident, but was instead relying on security video from the day before. Macholl explained to Riendeau that while a mandibular pressure point can look like a chokehold to a civilian, pressure is not on the neck or windpipe and the subject is not in danger.

Pressure points are considered the lowest level force by law enforcement, and are used to inflict pain on nerve centers without lasting damage or injury. Macholl said the only way pressure points are effective for officers is to ease up on the pain as soon as the subject complies, meaning the pain is deployed for seconds. 

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” Macholl said.

Riendeau waited until May 8, 2023, to fire Macholl instead, citing the excessive use of force. However, according to the New Hampshire Attorney General Public Integrity Unit report, witnesses, including other inmates, told the DOC’s internal investigator on May 4, 2023, that Macholl did not use a chokehold or any other excessive form of force on the inmate. 

In fact, on April 28, 2023, Raymond knew what Macholl did was not a chokehold, according to the reports by Public Integrity Unit investigators. It is not standard procedure for the Assistant Commissioner to get involved in a use of force investigation, Macholl said. Yet, on April 28, 2023, Raymond called Captain Scott Towers into his office to look at the surveillance video. The DOC later tried to hide that this meeting between Tower and Raymond ever took place.

From the Public integrity Unit report: “PIU Investigators find it troubling that, within a day of the incident, Assistant DOC Commissioner Raymond specifically asked Capt. Towers to review the video footage and render a professional/expert opinion. Capt. Towers, through his training and experience, is arguably one of the most qualified NHDOC members to render such an opinion in a use of force incident. It was Capt. Towers’ opinion that the video did not support that a chokehold was used, yet when he asked Assistant Commissioner Raymond if he wanted this documented he was told no. As a result, nowhere in the file is there any record of this information, which is, without question, exculpatory in nature. It was also Capt. Towers’ opinion that the review of the use of force should be completed by someone independent from DOC such as the Conduct Review Committee. “

During the PIU investigation, Towers was not allowed to talk to the investigators, according to the reports. 

“Captain Towers was required to clear such requests through the Commissioner’s Office, more specifically Michael Todd, Director of Professional Standards. During his interview with PIU investigators, Capt. Towers expressed frustration in that the approval for him to speak with PIU investigators took so long (nearly a month) and that he needed to follow up a number of times with DOC command staff as he did not want to give the Attorney General’s Office the impression that he, himself was stalling and/or not being cooperative for some reason,” the report states.

Both the PIU investigators and later the PAB members found this meeting between Towers and Raymond damning. During the April 28, 2023 meeting, Raymond did not show Towers all of the video of the incident, according to the report. When shown video from two more angles, Towers told PIU investigators his opinion about the force is stronger.

“Capt. Towers stated that, following his review of the video footage with DOJ investigators, his opinion not only remained the same as when he was asked by AC Raymond, but was supported even more by the additional video footage he reviewed during this interview. His opinion was that Lt. Macholl did not apply a chokehold on the subject but rather applied a pressure point technique (Mandibular Angle) which requires a certain amount of stabilization of the upper body/head,” the report states.

The PIU investigation finished in November and concluded that no criminal charges against Macholl would be appropriate. This spring, the PAB found the DOC’s attempted silencing of Towers disturbing, and that no evidence exists Macholl used excessive force. 

But Macholl’s firing is based on the alleged illegal force, as well as his failure to properly place the inmate into the suicide prevention program. Macholl told the inmate was not actually suicidal, but was using the program to avoid being sent to a different prison.

The inmate was scheduled to be moved to the prison in Concord after he was accused of assault inside the Berlin prison. The inmate had been giving staff trouble and finding ways to stay in Berlin in the days before the April 27, 2023 incident. Macholl told he had a rapport with the inmate and spoke to him the night before about the upcoming transport. Macholl said the inmate had to go to Concord, but the inmate signaled he was going to game the system to stay in Berlin.

“I told him he had to go down there, but he said ‘I’m just going to go suicidal again,’” Macholl said.

In the transport van at 5 a.m., the inmate began screaming “suicidal” and hitting his head against the wall of the vehicle. The diver told Macholl he could not bring the inmate to Concord and Macholl went in to get him out. 

“You got your way, we’re going to bring you back outside,” Macholl told the inmate.

But the inmate continued to act violently and now refused to get out of the van. That’s when Macholl used the pressure point to get the inmate out of the vehicle. He then placed the inmate into a cell and had him checked by staff every 15 minutes through a “behavior watch.”

DOC used this as another reason to fire Macholl. According to the termination, Macholl violated policy by failing to put the inmate on formal suicide watch. Macholl’s response is the inmate was not suicidal, but faking that to avoid leaving Berlin. 

Even if the inmate were suicidal, the PAB ruled Macholl’s failure to use the suicide prevention system is not grounds for a termination. At most, the DOC should have suspended him for the infraction, according to the PAB.

“The incident in question should have been handled differently, but the Board concluded that for someone with Lt. Macholl’s record and ability to perform, it should have been viewed as a ‘teachable moment,’rather than a basis for immediate termination,” the PAB ruled.

Rather than put Macholl back on the job, with back pay, the DOC’s appeal is seeking a full hearing on the merits. The appeal disputes large sections of the PIU’s report, even claiming Towers is no use of force expert.  The PAB has yet to rule on the appeal. 

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