A jury found Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Peter Kenyon not guilty of violation of condition of release Oct. 28.
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) placed Kenyon, 49, of Newcastle on paid administrative leave earlier this year.
The criminal complaint alleged that Kenyon was an accomplice to the crime of violation of condition of release committed by Melissa McClure.
McClure was arrested Feb. 9 and charged with domestic violence assault against her husband, Jeffrey Spinney.
Kenyon and Spinney are friends, according to the testimony of both men.
The following day, Kenyon escorted McClure to the Spinney residence to collect her belongings.
McClure’s bail conditions included, as is typical in such cases, no contact with Spinney.
The couple, with Kenyon present, sat down at the kitchen table to discuss McClure’s arrest and other issues.
The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Eric Walker, argued that McClure, with this contact, violated a condition of her release and Kenyon, by facilitating the contact, made himself an accomplice to her crime.
“What [Kenyon] did in this case went beyond what any law enforcement officer should have done,” Walker argued in his opening statement. “He may have been trying to do the right thing, but in doing so he facilitated the commission of a crime.”
Defense attorney William Avantaggio barely argued the facts of the case, relying instead on the existence of just cause for Kenyon’s actions. “The law is not as straightforward in this area as it is in some others,” Avantaggio said in his opening statement.
Avantaggio also argued that, in order to be an accomplice, a crime must be committed and, as the state did not prosecute McClure on the violation of condition of release charge, both remain innocent of the crime.
A week after her arrest, McClure, through her attorney, filed a motion to amend bail in order to receive permission to attend counseling with Spinney. The couple, who have a four-year-old child together, remain married and living together.
McClure pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault April 25. Following the completion of a period of counseling, the state dismissed the charge July 8.
During the trial, Deputy Brent Barter, a 15-year LCSO veteran, related his involvement in the case, beginning and ending with McClure’s arrest.
Barter, under cross examination by Avantaggio, answered a series of questions about escorts – the process law enforcement officers follow when the suspect in a domestic assault or other crime needs to collect personal items from a shared residence.
“We try to make it so that they’re not there at the same time, but if they are, we try to escort them so there’s no physical contact or arguing,” Barter said. He acknowledged that a minimal amount of verbal contact was acceptable at the officer’s discretion.
Replying to a question from Walker, however, Barter said he has never allowed a couple with a no contact provision to sit down and talk.
“It’s not my job,” Barter said. Instead, he directs couples who want to converse to the courts.
Kenyon, in his testimony and in a recording of an interview with an investigator from the Attorney General’s Office, admitted allowing the contact while attempting to justify his reasons for doing so.
Kenyon said he thought he was acting within the limits of officer discretion, comparing his decision to choosing to issue a warning instead of a ticket for a speeding violation.
The lawyers made their closing arguments shortly thereafter.
“In this case, Peter Kenyon far exceeded his discretion,” Walker said.
“He allowed this crime, not only to occur, he encouraged it,” Walker said. “That cannot be excused.”
Avantaggio continued to focus on his two-part argument – the lack of a crime for Kenyon to be an accomplice to and the existence of just cause for any violation that did occur.
“This isn’t a bad cop,” Avantaggio said, gesturing to Kenyon. Instead, he argued, Kenyon is “a man who acted out of compassion in permitting a husband and wife in a scary and confusing time to have one moment of clarity.”
The jury deliberated for about three hours before delivering the verdict.
“I’m thrilled that we had our day in court,” Kenyon said in a post-trial interview at Avantaggio’s Newcastle office. “I’m happy that we won and now I want to go back to work.”
The case has been a significant emotional and financial burden, Kenyon said.
Following his summons, Kenyon approached the union that represents LCSO employees, but the union declined to offer assistance. Kenyon subsequently left the union and paid his legal fees out of pocket, working a construction job to supplement his LCSO paycheck.
Detective Sgt. Jason Pease, the chairman of Local 1828, did not return a message left Nov. 1.
Kenyon said he doesn’t know what the next step is as far as his employment with the county is concerned. Sheriff Todd Brackett did not return a message left Nov. 1.
Sheridan Bond, the chairman of the Lincoln County Commissioners, said the commissioners met with Brackett behind closed doors Nov. 1 to discuss a personnel matter. He did not provide details.
Bond and fellow Commissioner Lynn Orne attended the trial.
Kenyon has no doubt about his future plans.
“I want to work,” the 11-year LCSO veteran said. “I want to go back on the road.”