Prison counselor cleared in drug case

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – A former state prison social worker who was strip-searched and charged with having antidepressants at work without a prescription was cleared a second time by a judge who called the charges absurd.

A lawsuit over the search still is pending.

Harold McAllister’s case went to trial in Concord District Court after a judge initially threw out the charges as absurd. The state appealed and the state Supreme Court ordered the trial. The same judge, Gerard Boyle, heard evidence this week and acquitted McAllister.

“It’s been a long haul and a very distressing situation for Hal,” said his lawyer, Richard Lehmann. “He’s glad to have finally gotten into court and have a judge hear the facts and be acquitted.”

McAllister, 42, of Concord was charged in 2005 after a state trooper discovered antidepressants pills in a medicine bottle in McAllister’s backpack while investigating drug smuggling in the prison. McAllister said the pills were his wife’s and had spilled onto the floor of his car during a camping trip.

His lawyer says McAllister no longer works at the prison. He is suing the state, saying the strip search violated his rights.

McAllister says he came under suspicion because an inmate being investigated in the smuggling case had been trying to contact him about an appointment.

In dismissing the case the first time, Boyle said the state law cited by the police was meant to keep anyone but a pharmacist from dispensing medication, not prevent family members from having each other’s medications.

“Reading the statute as the state suggests in the complaint would lead to a patently absurd, and indeed dangerous result,” Boyle wrote in his order. “The state’s interpretation of the statute would lead to the absurd result that nearly every residence in New Hampshire would become a House of Crime, and most adults would soon be criminals.”

But the high court sided with the state that the law did apply in McAllister’s case.

Boyle heard evidence Tuesday, including testimony from about half a dozen state witnesses, and then acquitted McAllister.

Prosecutors said that ends the case.



Information from: Concord Monitor, http://www.cmonitor.com

AP-ES-07-19-07 1108EDT

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