Carla Gericke Was Arrested At 2010 Police Stop of Armed Motorist
N.H. Secessionist & State Senate Candidate Was Charged with Disobeying Police Officer
Carla Gericke, the former head of the New Hampshire Free State Movement, was arrested by police in Weare, New Hampshire in 2010 after she disobeyed a police officer. The arrest happened when Gericke pulled her car up behind a police cruiser that was involved in a traffic stop of a person she says was a friend. When Gericke arrived at the scene, the police officer was questioning the driver of a car that allegedly had been going 47 mph in a 30 mph zone.
Gericke also was charged with obstructing government administration and “unlawful interception of oral communications” (violating New Hampshire’s law prohibiting wiretapping and eavesdropping) for attempting to tape the police stop.
The head of the original New Hampshire secessionist movement that seeks to make the Granite State an independent country, Carla Gericke recently was endorsed by Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican. Although Free Staters like Gericke characterize themselves as libertarians, many like Gericke herself register as Republicans rather than with the Libertarian Party.
According to Gericke’s website, Granite State Governor Sununu is quoted as saying, “Carla Gericke will provide a strong voice in the State Senate to protect our NH Advantage and to stop an income tax.”
However, in 2010 and for four years of subsequent litigation, the “stop” Carla Gericke was most involved with originated on that March night near midnight in Weare, New Hampshire.
Gericke ultimately was successfully in stripping three Weare police officers of the qualified immunity from prosecution that Donald Trump and Chris Sununu have made themselves champions of in their pitch to “law and order.”
The traffic stop and subsequent litigation helped define legal protections for video recording police officers doing their duties, including traffic stops, unless the videographer is asked to stop for legitimate safety reasons.
A car driven by Tyler Hanslin was observed speeding by Weare Police Officer Joseph Kelley at around 11:30 PM on March 25, 2010. Kelley stopped the vehicle near the Weare Middle School after his radar gun clocked the car going 17 mph over the 30 mph speed limit.
This was according to the facts established in a decision in a civil lawsuit filed in federal court by Carla Gericke against the town of Weare, the Weare Police Department, former Weare Police Chief Gregory C. Begin and three Weare police officers.
After Carla Gericke arrived at the traffic stop, the police officer asked her who she was and why she was there. She replied that she had been traveling with the party in the stopped car. Hanslin had a passenger in his vehicle, as did Gericke, who according to the judgment in a civl lawsuit filed by the Free Stater, “pulled in directly behind Sergeant Kelley’s police cruiser and stopped.”
Judge Steven J. McAuliffe went on to write, “Given the lateness of the hour, the darkness, and the presence of four unknown people at the scene (two drivers and two passengers), Kelley understandably found Gericke’s presence to be a distraction, requiring Kelley to divert his attention from the vehicle he had stopped. Traffic stops, particularly those conducted late at night, pose a risk of danger to police officers, and Gericke’s presence at least arguably added to that potentially dangerous situation [Emphasis added].”
When Sergeant Kelley went to Gericke’s vehicle and told her to leave the scene, she refused, explaining that she was traveling with the people in the stopped car. Upon being told that the car had been stopped for speeding, Gericke raised doubts about whether the traffic stop was legal. She did eventually comply with Kelley’s order, and moved her car to a parking area 30 feet away.
Sergeant Kelley went back to deal with Tyler Hanslin, the driver of the speeding vehicle. The officer claimed Hanslin claimed the stop was “bullshit” and like Gericke, questioned its legality.
According to the police officer, as reported by the judge (quoting Sergeant Kelley’s affadavit), “Hanslin then made some unusual movements with his hands around the area of his belt, and Sergeant Kelley asked him if he had any weapons. Hanslin disclosed that he was carrying a firearm. Kelley instructed him to get out of the car, so he could perform a pat-down search. Hanslin complied, and Kelley removed a Glock 9 mm semi-automatic handgun from Hanslin’s waistband.”
At this time, Gericke had left her car and “was standing behind a small fence that separated her from Sergeant Kelley. She yelled to him that she was recording his actions and pointed what Kelley suspected was a camera at him. And, although Gericke denies it, Kelley says she shouted words encouraging Hanslin not to cooperate.”
Kelley claimed in his affidavit, “Ms. Gericke verbally was encouraging Mr. Hanslin not to comply with my motor vehicle stop and shouted ‘remember our cause.’”).”
Gericke that the traffic stop was “bizarre” and presented herself as a witness to the interaction between Sergeant Kelley and Hanslin. She had a video camera with her, and though she later claimed she knew that the video camera wasn’t functional at the time of the traffic stop (the New Hampshire State Crime Lab was never able to download the files on the camera as they may have been corrupted), Gericke pointed it at the Weare police officer and claimed she was taping him.
Back in Her Car
Carla Gericke obeyed Sergeant Kelley’s order to get back in her car, and then rolled down the window and made the motions of taping him and the traffic stop. Kelley believed that Gericke’s behavior turned a routine traffic stop into a “potentially dangerous situation,” according to the judge.
She wrote “He was in the presence of four unknown people (at least one of whom had been carrying a firearm); Hanslin was being less than fully cooperative; Gericke was shouting at him and protesting the stop; and it was late at night, and he was alone. Accordingly, he called for assistance.”
The Weare Police Department sent three additional officers to the scene, including Lieutenant James Carney and Officer Brandon Montplaisir, who were named in Gericke’s lawsuit.
A third car with a driver and a passenger arrived at the scene around the time the three Weare police officers arrived to assist Sergeant Kelley. The car was driven by William Rodriguez, who got out of his vehicle.
Lieutenant Carney went to deal with the newly arrived Rodriguez and the passenger, while Sergeant Kelley focused on the Hanslin traffic stop. Officer Montplaisir dealt with Carla Gericke, after being told by Kelley she had interfered with the traffic stop and might be in possession of a video camera. A fourth police officer, Sergeant Peterson (who was not sued by Gericke),assisted the other three.
Gericke responded to Officer Montplaisir request for her drivers license and registration by locking her car door and rolling up her window so that there was just a “crack” of space that she could take to him through. She claimed that her actions were in response to Montplaisir yelling at her.
Her response to his request was, according to the judgement, “I’m confused. Is that a lawful order? I’m not driving the car, I’m parked in a parking lot. I don’t understand why I would have to give you my driver’s license — my driver’s license and registration.”
Montplaisir told her that state law required to show her license and registration when asked for it by a police officer, then asked her again for the documents. She refused. In her own deposition, she said, “So twice I said to him are you — you know, is that a lawful order, why do I have to provide it, I’m not driving the vehicle, I’m parked in a parking lot.”).
Gericke was then told by Officer that the failure to produce the documents would result in her arrest and her forcible removal from her car.
According to Gericke, she looked for her license and found her car insurance card. In her own words, she said, “…I gave that to him through the window, and he threw it back in my face.”
A clearly skeptical judge commented that Officer Montplaisir thew the insurance card “apparently through the ‘crack’ that she left in the window when she rolled it up. At that point, Montplaisir decided that he had given Gericke sufficient opportunity to comply with his (repeated) requests for identification, concluded that she was not going to comply with that directive, and told her that she was under arrest for disobeying a police officer. He instructed Gericke to get out of her car.”
Gericke refused to comply with Montplaisir’s order, according to the police officer. She was eventually persuaded to leave the car by her passenger. Upon exiting the vehicle, she was placed under arrest and handcuffed. The charge of disobeying a police officer is covered by N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. (“RSA”) 265:4.
Other violations Gericke was charged with included obstructing a government official (RSA 642:1) and unlawful interception of oral communications (wiretapping and eavesdropping — RSA 570-A:2).
The police officers from Weare took her video camera into their possession, but unidentified officers at the police station did not give Gericke a receipt for the camera when she requested one. More than half-a-year later, the Weare Police Department obtained a warrant authorizing them to search the camera for video footage they believed that Gericke had taken of them.
According to the judge, “During the search of the camcorder, digital video files were located, but could not be opened or viewed. Accordingly, the camera was sent to the New Hampshire State Laboratory. The lab encountered the same difficulties and it, too, was unable to recover the apparently corrupted video files.”
The camera was not returned to the Weare Police Department. Gericke had to file a motion in March 2011 requesting the State Lab return the camera to her. Her motion was granted.
Settlement of Federal Lawsuit
The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office refused to press charges against Carla Gericke. She later pursued a federal case challenging the Weare Police Department and officers that participated in the traffic stop and her arrest, claiming that they did not have qualified immunity against being sued.
The First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld her right to record officers during a traffic stop. Gericke claimed that Tyler Hanslin was a friend, that she had been cooperative rather than disruptive during the stop, and that at no time did the officers tell her to stop recording.
To settle her federal lawsuit after the Weare police officers were stripped of their qualified immunity, Carla Gericke was awarded $57,000.
(To be continued…)