Court releases records in finance director’s theft case
NEW HAMPSHIRE–In late January, a judge in Laconia unsealed some of the documents in a high profile criminal embezzlement case involving a former city finance director. The newspaper is appealing to the state Supreme Court in Concord for access to the remainder of the court record.
The (St. Johnsbury, Vt.) Caledonian-Record asked Superior Court Judge Edward Fitzgerald to unseal the court file in the case of Wendy Manning, the former finance director of Littleton, who was arrested in October 1996 for stealing $1,700 from the town. Manning’s trial is scheduled to begin in early February.
Fitzgerald sealed the court file last November after attorneys for Manning moved for a change of venue on the ground that media publicity precluded Manning from receiving a fair trial. Fitzgerald denied the change of venue motion.
According to the newspaper, the documents were available from the time of Manning’s arrest until the judge sealed the record in November. The newspaper asserted that Fitzgerald sealed the record to hinder media attempts to report on the case.
Last summer, The Caledonian-Record reported that the district attorney withdrew a plea agreement offer. According to The Associated Press, Manning’s lawyers moved the court to enforce the agreement and to gag the parties from speaking to the press. In September, Fitzgerald sealed those motions. (New Hampshire v. Manning; Media Counsel: Phil White, Montpelier)