John Doe Ex-Keene Cop Cleared from ‘Laurie List’ of Dishonest Police

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Keene Police Facebook photo of James McLaughlin while he was still an officer. It said on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, the New Hampshire Police Fire and EMS Foundation would hold its Eighth Annual Awards Banquet and present Keene Police Lieutenant James McLaughlin with a Lifetime Achievement Award.


A retired Keene police officer is getting his name removed from the state’s Laurie List, now called the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule, thanks to a new review of his alleged misdeeds from the 1980s. 

The alleged misconduct detailed in the John Doe lawsuit match the discipline records for former Keene Police Lt. James McLaughlin, which were obtained by  through a 2022 right-to-know request. 

McLaughlin, an investigator who gained national fame conducting internet stings on sexual predators, was named on the first public Laurie List released by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office on Dec. 29, 2021. See list here: See the list here:

The inciting incident that got McLaughlin on the list is that he reportedly falsified records.

However, McLaughlin’s name, and the names of several other officers, were re-redacted within hours of that Dec. 29, 2021 release. Pending litigation was given as the reason for the change.

McLaughlin is currently a part-time investigator for the Cheshire County Attorney’s Office. The John Doe lawsuit seeking the officer’s removal from the list of cops with credibility problems reached a deal earlier this year to allow his misconduct reviewed by current Keene Police administrative staff to determine if he belongs on the EES.

In 2022, asked for all internal affairs reports regarding McLaughlin, and the city supplied reports on two incidents: one in which McLaughlin was suspended for lying about shooting his gun, and another in which he “accidentally” destroyed an audio recording that could have put him in a bad light.

 The records obtained by indicate there are more internal affairs reports dealing with McLaughlin, which the city has so far not provided. The city did not explain the omissions.

McLaughlin didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment and has declined to talk with about his placement on the list.

The incidents and dates in McLaughlin’s file match the discipline at the heart of the Doe lawsuit, according to the redacted Doe filings available in Cheshire Superior Court. 

Keene Police Chief Steven Stewart submitted a letter on April 15 clearing Doe based on his review of the records. Stewart does not appear to have conducted any interviews or investigation beyond reading the disciplinary records.

McLaughlin was disciplined for shooting a beer keg while responding to an underage drinking party, and then lying to superiors about the shooting. According to the records, McLaughlin told two superior officers the teens at the party set off fireworks. Then-Police Chief Harold Becotte recommended McLaughlin get a four-day suspension without pay for showing poor judgment in firing his weapon. 

But Stewart wrote Doe did not violate any misconduct law by firing two rounds into the beer kegs. As for lying about the fireworks, Stewart wrote there was no context in the records indicating whether or not Doe was actually lying or simply joking. 

“I would not consider a statement made as a joke or in an informal context to rise to (being a violation,)” Stewart wrote. 

When reviewing the complaint about the alleged argument and tape erasure, Stewart again wrote he could not find conclusive proof in the records that Doe violated any law. McLaughlin and Doe were both disciplined in 1988 for such an incident.

In the spring of 1988, McLaughlin received a letter of reprimand from then-Chief Thomas Powers concerning a December 1987 heated verbal confrontation with a civilian on the phone, and later inside the station. It was during this incident that the audio recording of the phone call was destroyed under suspicious circumstances, according to Powers.

 “In the subsequent interview concerning the incident, no reasonable reason for the blank tape was found and an electronic examination of the tape revealed unintelligible voices,” Powers wrote. “You provided statements that you had ‘words’ with the complainant and had rewound the tape to get his name, yet did not purposefully erase and part thereof. You could not explain the misfiling of the tape, nor why the log did not indicate the tape cleaning or changing at 2400 hours.”

Powers indicates that McLaughlin already in 1988 had a record for bad behavior as a police officer.

 “I reviewed your personnel files and several internal affairs investigations. While you have accumulated a number of praises in your career, a disproportionate number of serious accusations and violations have significantly detracted from your record, including a one-week suspension,” Powers wrote.

Powers called McLaughlin’s explanation for the tape erasure “unacceptable,” though he did not impose any suspension for the matter. Powers encouraged McLaughlin to use the reprimand as motivation to change his attitude.

Stewart decided upon reviewing the matter that the argument with the civilian did not rise to being any form of official misconduct. While a 1987 investigation by the FBI found that the tape was intentionally erased, Stewart said there is no evidence Doe is the one who did the erasing.

“I do not find evidence that is sufficient to have proven (Doe) altered or misfiled the tapes,” Stewart wrote. 

Stewart notes in his letter that Doe, like McLaughlin, was never suspended to the tape erasure, indicating former Chief Powers did not have enough evidence at the time. 

A law that went into effect in September 2021 was intended to make public the names of the law enforcement officers on the then-secret list. But the law gave police on the list the opportunity to file as John or Jane Doe under seal in Superior Court to argue why they shouldn’t be on the list and many are in court still.

This week, the state Supreme Court heard six appeals from John Doe officers. According to Attorney General John Formella’s most recent quarterly report about the EES, 214 names have been made public, 59 remain confidential involved in pending lawsuits and 23 are temporarily not public because they are involved in pending grievance processes. At least 30 names were removed from the list by a confidential process in the Attorney General’s Office.

See April 3, 2024 updated list here:

See April 3, 2024 report by Attorney General John Formella here:

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, McLaughlin would become a celebrity investigator, gaining fame for his then-innovative use of the internet to catch child sex predators.

 He would also travel the country teaching his methods to other police officers. McLaughlin made cases against the suspects by posing as a teen in online forums and engaging in sexually charged conversations with adult men.

 At his peak, McLaughlin made 400 arrests on his own, according to a 2003 Boston Globe profile.

The Laurie list has been controversial since the public first learned more than a decade ago that prosecutors kept secret lists of officers with sustained discipline in their confidential personnel files that could negatively reflect on their credibility to testify in court.

The U.S. Supreme Court in the Brady v. Maryland case over half a century ago made it clear that criminal defendants must receive all exculpatory evidence, or evidence in their favor, or the conviction could be at risk of being overturned or the case tossed out altogether.

The constitutional guarantee of all favorable evidence for criminal defendants was brought home in New Hampshire in 1995 when Carl Laurie’s murder conviction was overturned because then-state prosecutors John Davis, who went on to become a federal prosecutor, and Diane Nicolosi, now a Superior Court judge, withheld evidence that the main police investigator in the murder investigation was known to have been disciplined for dishonesty and other serious issues.

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