PARIS — A Rumford-area woman was sentenced to nine months in jail after a jury in Oxford County Superior Court found her guilty of making a false statement in a formal complaint against a Dixfield police officer.

Nikki Libby, 35, also pleaded no contest to a host of other charges in an unrelated case at her sentencing after the jury returned its verdict on Wednesday afternoon. The trial began Tuesday morning.

The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for about 45 minutes before returning a guilty verdict on the sole charge of unsworn falsification verdict. Libby broke into tears after the verdict was announced.

Libby filed a formal complaint against Dixfield officer Eric Bernier, accusing him of using excessive force when he arrested her on a warrant at her Mexico apartment on June 14, 2013. She said she told Bernier that the handcuffs he put on her were too tight and he was hurting her.

She asked for him to be terminated from employment in law enforcement for his actions.

In arguments to the jury, Assistant District Attorney Joseph O’Connor said Libby had knowingly made false statements in her formal complaint. The form Libby filled out, he noted, bears a warning notice citing the law about making false statements, he said.

“She wrote a bunch of allegations against a police officer and said she wanted his career ended,” O’Connor said. 

Libby also threatened the towns of Mexico and Dixfield with a $400,000 lawsuit for physical and emotional damages she sustained because of the incident, O’Connor said, referencing a registered letter sent to the towns in October.

An internal investigation into the complaint by Dixfield Lt. Jeffery Howe found that Libby’s accusations were unfounded. There was no indication Libby had sustained lasting damage from handcuffs, Howe said, citing a medical report.

In his closing arguments, Libby’s attorney, Ron Hoffman, said the testimony of police officers was inconsistent and they used selective medical reports to prove Libby was not injured. Libby also may have perceived the incident differently and did not believe she was making a false statement, Hoffman said.

O’Connor, in his closing arguments, said Libby intentionally made specific false statements out of “malice” against a police officer and a possible opportunity for financial gain.

In his testimony to the court, Bernier said he followed proper procedure when entering Libby’s apartment. Libby announced her intention to resist arrest even after he warned her not to, he said.

Responding to Hoffman’s the cross-examination, Bernier said he used proper procedure when applying cuffs on Libby, although he did not measure the gap between the cuffs and her wrist with his finger, saying that technique was not as commonly used by police as it once was.

Although he recalled Libby complaining about discomfort because of the cuffs, Bernier said it was not an uncommon reaction for people being arrested.

“They’re not designed to be comfortable,” Bernier said. “They’re designed to be restrictive.”

O’Connor showed members of the jury a video of the arrest shot from a camera Bernier was wearing at the time. Although the video’s sound quality was poor, it did not appear to show any evidence of the excessive force Libby described in her complaint.

The video shows Bernier briefly restraining Libby against a wall in order to put her in handcuffs, then lowering her into a kitchen chair and waiting while her roommate, Justin Clay, put a plastic air cast on her left foot before leading her slowly out of the apartment and down the stairs to his police cruiser.

In his testimony, Corrections Officer Anthony Elias said he did not observe any injuries on Libby when she was booked after her arrest, and Libby did not complain of pain, even when he rolled her individual fingertips with his hands to get her fingerprints.

Dr. Tamara Willoughby testified that she treated Libby on the day after her arrest and observed reddish marks on her wrist. Libby reported that she had been assaulted, Willoughby said.

She diagnosed Libby with ulnar collateral ligament, also known as “gamekeepers thumb” or “skiers thumb,” a strain to the lateral ligament of the thumb. She gave Libby a splint and told her to use ibuprofen to treat the swelling, Willoughby said.

Tina Thompson, a friend of Libby’s who bailed her out the day of her arrest, told the jury Libby was upset and crying when she picked her up, and Thompson noticed that her left hand was swollen. Libby complained about being in pain and cried during the entire ride home, Thompson said.

As part of her sentencing, Libby also pleaded no contest to two counts of false swearing, false public alarm or report, unsworn falsification, and falsifying physical evidence in an unrelated case.

She was sentenced two concurrent suspended 364-day jail sentences and two years of administrative release to begin after she completes her nine-month jail sentence. Libby was granted a stay of sentence until April 2.


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