Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Police brass caught in cop's disputed inheritance case

PORTSMOUTH — A lawyer who helped an elderly resident leave most of her $2.7 million estate to police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin, kept notes that say the deputy police chief shared information about the case with Goodwin’s defense attorney and that the police commissioners were told how to respond to media questions about the case.

The notes were written by attorney Gary Holmes and made public after his Oct. 16 deposition. Holmes wrote a last will and trust for the late Geraldine Webber, which is now disputed by multiple parties alleging Goodwin exerted undue influence over Webber, while she had dementia, to inherit most of her wealth.

More than 100 pages of Holmes’ handwritten notes about the case were obtained by the Herald and one of them, dated April 12, 2012, states Holmes learned from Goodwin’s attorney, Chuck Doleac, that a Herald reporter called Webber and that Deputy Police Chief Corey MacDonald “had off record conversations” with the reporter. The Herald did on that date have a 25-minute conversation with Webber, as well as an off-record discussion with MacDonald about the situation, in general terms, for background information.

Holmes’ notes dated Sept. 21, 2012, document a conversation he had with the Herald. He wrote he told the Herald there were “many sides” to the story and he was “sure” the Herald had heard “of other facts” that involved Portsmouth attorney James Ritzo, who wrote Webber’s 2009 will that did not name Goodwin as a beneficiary.

Holmes, who authored Webber’s last will and trust, made notes saying the Herald responded it had not heard the “other facts” about Ritzo, “in spite of (Holmes) being told by Chuck (Doleac) yesterday that Corey MacDonald had off-record conversation about Ritzo.” In other words, MacDonald told Goodwin’s lawyer he had an off-record discussion with the Herald about the controversy and somehow that was communicated to the lawyer who drafted Webber’s contested will the next day.

Attorney Paul McEachern, who is representing four of Webber’s former friends contesting her last will and trust, said Holmes’ notes, showing communications among MacDonald and lawyers for Goodwin and Webber’s estate, “support my original instinct that this is official corruption and they support it.”

MacDonald explained one of his jobs as deputy chief is to monitor ongoing litigation that could affect the Police Department. He said he contacted Doleac at that time “to gauge the status of” Goodwin’s case, “its impact on the department, and (Doleac’s) observations as to its impact on Aaron Goodwin, as he was under extreme stress by all accounts, and was serving as a police officer for the department.”

“During my conversation with attorney Doleac, I may have also included a statement that I provided the Herald an “off the record” perspective on the department’s take on the Goodwin-Webber matter at that time,” said the deputy chief. “My goal in providing the Herald that information was so that our newspaper would have a better understanding of what the department was doing and why, though I could not officially comment at that time. Though I have no recollection of it, I equally have no reason to believe I would not have mentioned to attorney Doleac that I had expressed the department’s position to the Herald as ‘background.’”

Chief Stephen DuBois said MacDonald has “above average” communication skills and for that reason, he interacted with Doleac, which “is exactly what this administration and prior administrations have expected of him.”

By letters dated Sept. 18, 2012, and sent by certified mail to the Police Commission and DuBois, the Herald first inquired about the allegations against Goodwin. According to his handwritten notes dated the following day, Holmes wrote that the Herald had written to the Police Commission for comment and that “police will respond — Aaron will not.” Holmes’ notes for that date also say, “the police commissioners have been told they support Aaron but no comment.”

Police Commission Chairman John Golumb denied the commissioners were told how to respond to the inquiry. “Nobody told us how to respond,” he said.

If someone had suggested how the Police Commission should answer a media inquiry, Golumb said,  the commission would acknowledge the suggestion politely, but then act on its own. “But I can make it clear that did not happen,” he said.

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StandUp said...

Sounds bad for the cop. We weren't there; we don't know; and we may never know all the details. But things aren't looking good for cop!

Anonymous said...

The Cop, Corey Macdonald, has since resigned his position and foregone his promotion to chief of police. He would have had a pension over $100,000 per year but he "quit" to practice law. He had also become a controversial participant in a divorce case where spurious charges were filed.
MacDonald had a meteoric rise within the department that was simultaneously receiving donations from his extended family's charity.