Vershire man pleads guilty to drug trafficking

By JOHN LIPPMAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 04-12-2023 5:02 PM

CONCORD — A 31-year-old Vershire man, who police say hid inside his impounded BMW on the Lebanon Police Department’s lot the day after he was arrested on a charge of drug possession at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center birthing pavilion, has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking in federal court.

Damien Rousseau pleaded guilty to unlawful possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine in U.S. District Court in Concord on Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Hampshire said in a news release. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 27.

Earlier, Rousseau had won a legal victory when a trial court judge last October agreed with his claim that Lebanon police had unlawfully towed his vehicle to the impound before obtaining a probable cause warrant and therefore evidence inside the vehicle was improperly seized.

The state appealed the judge’s decision to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which has agreed to take up the case for review.

Rousseau was charged by federal prosecutors last August after DHMC security personnel had detained him the previous May on suspicion of possessing narcotics while visiting his girlfriend and their newborn child at the hospital, according to court documents.

Police said they observed “in plain view” suspected drug paraphernalia inside Rousseau’s white BMW X3 parked outside DHMC’s main entrance and had the car transported to the Lebanon Police Department’s impound parking to be searched pending a warrant. Rousseau was arrested that day and released on bail.

The next day, Lebanon police noticed that Rousseau had trespassed onto police property and was inside his impounded BMW, wearing a face mask. Police surrounded the vehicle and took Rousseau into custody without incident, they reported at the time.

After police received a warrant to search Rousseau’s BMW, they discovered nearly one pound of methamphetamine, 0.2 pounds of cocaine and 10.6 grams of fentanyl, plus more than $2,000 in cash and three loaded firearms inside the vehicle, according to court documents.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Over Easy: Retirement 2.0
Lithium-ion batteries, electronic devices could soon be banned from NH landfills
Lebanon landfill gas to energy project under construction
Enfield rejects appeals of approvals for housing development
Thetford Academy forum focuses on cell phone bans in schools
Cyanobacteria warning placed on Mascoma, Pleasant lakes

Then last August, when federal prosecutors charged Rousseau with similar drug offenses relating to the incident, Grafton County prosecutors dropped their charges in Superior Court.

But Grafton County prosecutors continued to press another set of charges, including falsifying evidence, resisting arrest and violating bail conditions in regard to Rousseau’s alleged trespassing onto police department property and occupying his impounded BMW.

Rousseau’s public defender, Jason Novak, in August filed a motion to suppress evidence in Superior Court, alleging that Lebanon police “lacked probable cause and exigent circumstances necessary to justify the tow before obtaining a search warrant.”

Superior Court Judge Peter Bornstein, in a 10-page decision in October that closely examined the timeline of Lebanon police actions from Rousseau’s first arrest on May 11 at DHMC to his second arrest on May 12 inside the police impound lot, ruled in favor of Rousseau, finding the state’s argument that “exigent circumstances” called for police to tow the vehicle before getting a warrant unpersuasive.

Novak did not respond to a message for comment on Wednesday.

In January, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office — which represents state appeals before the state Supreme Court — filed a notice of mandatory appeal with the New Hampshire Supreme Court asking it to rule on “whether it was error for the trial court to suppress all of the evidence underlying the charges against (Rousseau) that relate to him breaking into the police impound lot.”

The five member high court bench accepted the case on Feb. 28.

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com.

]]>