Pipeline opponent files suit

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/17/2017 8:46:55 AM

New Ipswich resident Matthew Zinicola filed a lawsuit last month claiming surveyors, contractors and a New Ipswich police officer violated his constitutional rights when he was arrested for protesting the pipeline in 2015.

Zinicola, 43, was arrested on Oct. 2, 2015 on a charge of criminal threatening. He was alleged to have threatened a contractor surveying on behalf of the pipeline project, but the charge was dropped this spring. His suit claims that in the span between the charge and it being dropped, his right to free speech and peaceful protest were violated because of conditions of his bail.

He filed the suit in Nashua District Court in November, but it was moved to federal court on Dec. 21 because the allegations pertained to the U.S. Constitution. Named as defendants in the suit are David Shirley, the surveyor who complained against Zinicola; Mott MacDonald and Hatch, the companies that employed Shirley; Kinder Morgan Energy Partners; Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company; the Town of New Ipswich; and Lt. Sean Cavanaugh, the New Ipswich officer who executed the arrest.

The lawyer for the Town of New Ipswich filed documents last month denying all allegations, indicating that the arrest and bail were not malicious or unfair, as Zinicola argued.

“The Plaintiff was arrested based on a probable cause pursuant to an arrest warrant approved and issued by the presiding judge of the Circuit Court,” the Answer to Complaint, filed Dec. 22, says.

It also says that the department was aware of potential issues between protestors and employees contracted by the pipeline team. Groups of regional residents contacted the police to enforce trespass laws because surveyors may have entered private property, and Kinder Morgan advised police of protest groups so they could respond quickly if a situation were to escalate.

“They learned some Hillsborough County residents were attempting to document the conduct of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners which led to frequent, but not daily encounters between the two groups,” it says.

The local defendants are preparing for a jury trial. The other defendants – Shirley, Mott MacDonald, Hatch, Kinder Morgan and Tennessee Gas Pipeline – answered the complaints place to them of malicious prosecution, intentional emotional distress and defamation on Jan. 13, along with a motion to dismiss. The specific charges against the Town of New Ipswich and Cavanaugh are violation of the New Hampshire Constitution and violation of U.S. Code title 42, which assigns liability to anyone who deprives someone else of a legal right.

The suit stems from a confrontation between Shirley and Zinicola on Sept. 8, 2015, when Zinicola approached the surveyor on his neighbor’s public property while holding a pipeline protest sign. Zinicola was not armed but may have referenced getting his rifle.

New Ipswich and Cavanaugh are represented by New Ipswich’s attorney, Brian Cullen.

Kinder Morgan suspended its planning work in New Hampshire in April, right around the time Zinicola’s threatening charge was not carried forward.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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