Man charged with assault claims county attorney bias — (The New Hampshire Union Leader)

SSRI Ed note: Man on "mental health medication" threatens to behead girlfriend with sword.

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The New Hampshire Union Leader

By RUSS CHOMA, New Hampshire Union Leader Correspondent

April 4, 2008

BRENTWOOD – A Salem man charged with threatening his girlfriend with a sword while out on a bail for allegedly hitting his 6-year old says he is not a danger to the community and is finding fault with the prosecutor who wants his bail revoked.

On Monday, Rockingham County Superior Court Judge John M. Lewis denied a request by prosecutors to revoke bail for David Vitello Jr., 26. Vitello is accused of threatening to cut his then-girlfriend’s head off with a sword in an incident in February, and then smashing the sword into a table in front of her. The incident allegedly happened while Vitello was out on bail on charges that he struck his six-year old son last June.

Despite arguments from prosecutors that the second incident clearly demonstrated Vitello is a danger to the community and should be locked up while awaiting trial, Lewis sided with Vitello’s attorney, who said Vitello has mental health issues, and during the four weeks he had already been in jail he hadn’t gotten the medication he needed. Vitello has admitted to having an anger management problem.

Lewis’ decision raised the ire of Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams, who said the decision “flies in the face of common sense.” Reams said Vitello’s bail ruling is part of a string of bail rulings by Lewis that Reams called “concerning.”

In an interview, Vitello said Reams has a vendetta against his family and was blowing the accusations out of proportion. Vitello said it stems from complaints made by his father, David Vitello Sr., in 2002, that Sandown police had violated the family’s civil rights. Based on a Federal Bureau of Investigations report, Reams found no “prosecutable criminal violation of any civil rights statutes,” but now the family believes Reams is striking back at the younger Vitello. The police chief at the time, Scott Currier, later lost a bid for re-election, which Vitello says is partially because of his family’s efforts.

“They’re trying to ruin my life because my parents fought with the police,” Vitello said yesterday. “They ousted a bad chief . . . and because of that the police are picking on me and coming after me, and lying about me. They’re making me out to be an evil person that I am not.”

Vitello is also claiming that Reams blocked the prosecution of a man he says stabbed him in Salem in 2004. The man was indicted in the stabbing of Vitello, but the charges were eventually placed on file without a finding. The prosecutor in that case, Brian Lavallee, is no longer with the county attorney’s office and did not return a call for comment on what happened.

According to court documents, a related case against the alleged stabbing victim’s girlfriend in Salem District Court fell apart because the state’s witnesses gave testimony that differed from what they told police. Reams said he had no knowledge of why the stabbing case was dropped, but denied any connection between the current case against Vitello — a second degree assault charge — and the elder Vitello’s feud with police. Reams pointed out that the U.S. Attorney’s office in Concord and the state Attorney General’s office were contacted about Vitello’s claims in Sandown, and there was no disagreement with his finding.

“There’s no connection between this and the other case,” Reams said.

Yesterday, Vitello spoke at length about the two incidents that led to him landing in court on Monday. According to Vitello, the underlying charge that he struck his son hard enough to give the boy a concussion is trumped up. Vitello admitted he struck the boy, but said it was “just a quick backhand” because the boy had spit juice at him twice.

“My dad had overreacted and called the police,” Vitello said. “I didn’t’ give him a concussion, there was no mark, I wasn’t trying to hurt him. And they blew this big story up. It’s not true, I love my son, I love my daughter.”

Vitello also admitted that he brandished a “ninja sword” at his girlfriend in the second incident and that he struck the kitchen table with a sword.

“They just ruined my life and now they’re trying to ruin my reputation,” he said.

A key part of Monday’s hearing appeared to be when Vitello’s attorney and his father told the judge that Vitello had suffered without his mental health medication in the four weeks he was in jail after the sword incident. Vitello’s attorney, Sarah Paris, also said that a psychiatrist who met with Vitello after his release from jail recommended he not go back.

Yesterday, Paris would not to comment on the case. Vitello said he had access to Zoloft, which he says he needs, but refused to take while in the county jail.

“I didn’t want to be on my medication because I was around predators, I wanted to be on my toes, I was around serious people,” Vitello said. “It was too dangerous, but since I’m out of jail I want to be back on my medication.”