Judge Denies Ex-Officer’s Motion

Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Newport — A Sullivan Superior Court judge has denied former Claremont police officer Ian Kibbe’s request to dismiss the two most serious criminal charges against him in a case alleging he performed an illegal search and falsified his report.

Kibbe’s defense attorney filed a motion in July to dismiss the conspiracy to commit perjury and attempted perjury charges, saying the allegedly false statements Kibbe made about where he found weapons during a search of Christopher Ratcliffe’s bedroom in February aren’t “material” to the proceedings because they weren’t capable of affecting the outcome of Ratcliffe’s probable cause hearing.

The prosecution objected, saying that Kibbe lied to establish probable cause to arrest Ratcliffe, a convicted felon, on weapons and other charges.

Judge Brian Tucker ruled that the question of whether the statements were material to the proceeding would be decided at trial. For someone to be guilty of perjury, he must make a “false material statement” under oath, with “material” being defined as being capable of impacting the outcome of a court hearing, New Hampshire state law states.

However, Tucker appeared to agree that Kibbe’s allegedly false statements could have impacted the course of Ratcliffe’s case.

“False statements about the circumstances of a warrantless search are ‘capable of affecting the course or outcome of the proceeding,’ because if truthful statements showed the search was illegal it would affect the admissibility of the evidence (here, the weapons) and the viability of the charges against the person arrested,” Tucker wrote.

In furtherance of that, Tucker wrote that the state may not have to prove that the alleged statements would have affected the probable cause determination, but only that Kibbe submitting an allegedly false affidavit constitutes “a substantial step toward the commission of the crime of perjury,” Tucker wrote, quoting state law.

Kibbe, in his motion to dismiss, denied ever having sworn to the affidavit in front of a justice of the peace.

Tucker denied the motion without prejudice, meaning that Kibbe can renew the motion at trial.

Tucker held a hearing on the motion in September and issued his ruling late last month.

Reached this week, Kibbe’s attorney, Eric Wilson, and Assistant Attorney General Geoff Ward, who is prosecuting the case, declined to comment. Both attorneys appeared in the Newport courthouse briefly on Wednesday for a final pretrial hearing in the case.

Kibbe’s employment on the Claremont force ended in March.

Kibbe, of Springfield, Vt., faces a total of six charges; he has pleaded not guilty to all of them. In addition to perjury, he faces two counts each of unsworn falsification and obstructing government administration.

The charges allege that Kibbe unlawfully seized items from Ratcliffe’s room and lied in an official report about how he found them, according to an affidavit. Kibbe was working in concert with former Claremont police officer Mark Burch, who has not been charged.

Burch, who spoke to investigators under a proffer agreement, told investigators that he and Kibbe lied about how they found the weapons. The felony counts against Kibbe allege he claimed in an affidavit that he found the weapons “in plain view,” when he actually unlawfully opened a suitcase and bag to uncover them, police and prosecutors say.

Kibbe is the officer who shot and killed 25-year-old Claremont resident Cody LaFont in 2016. The Attorney General’s Office ruled the shooting “legally justified,” but has since ordered a review of that case in light of the new revelations.

Jury selection in Kibbe’s perjury case is slated to start on Dec. 3.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.