BRENTWOOD, N.H. — Convicted Monday of felony reckless conduct, a member of Seabrook's Planning Board and Budget Committee will learn what his sentence will be within the next 60 days.
After a half-day of deliberations, Albert "Max" Abramson, 35, of 14 Charles Henry Way, Seabrook, was found guilty of one count of felony reckless conduct by the jury seated for his five-day trial at Rockingham Superior Court before Judge N. William Delker. The jury did not find Abramson guilty of the four other counts of felony reckless conduct.
Should he be sentenced to prison time, according to New Hampshire law, he would lose his right to vote and hold office during his incarceration.
The charges against Abramson stemmed from an incident that took place around 3 a.m. on Dec. 19, 2010. Prosecutors and Seabrook police said that's when Abramson fired his Glock 40-caliber handgun while people were at his home during a party, considered an act that put others in danger. A frantic, six-and-a-half minute 911 call made by a guest at the party reported gunfire and "blood everywhere," and police from Seabrook, Salisbury and the New Hampshire state police sped to the area. Seabrook officers approached Abramson's home with guns drawn to investigate what was described as a tense situation since they thought armed persons could still be present and people injured.
No one had been shot.
Abramson was taken into custody prior to police entering his home on Dec. 19, after he was found in his Jeep attempting to leave the area. Following an investigation, Abramson was charged by Seabrook police within a few days of the incident.
"We charged him with one count of felony reckless conduct," said Seabrook police spokesman Detective Scott Mendes. "It was the county attorney that brought the additional counts of felony reckless conduct."
Initially, Seabrook police also charged Abramson with one count each of unauthorized use of firearms and prohibited sales of alcohol to under-aged individuals, non-felony crimes. However, after a review of the case, prosecutors in the Rockingham County Attorney's office brought eight counts of felony reckless conduct, one for each individual believed to be present at the time of the gunfire.
Judge Delker would eventually dismiss three of the eight felony counts, instructing the jury to deliberate on the five remaining counts.
According to Mendes, Abramson was found guilty on a generic felony reckless conduct count, with the jury acquitting on the four related to individuals at the party.
"We're very pleased with the verdict," Mendes said yesterday. "The prosecutor, Assistant County Attorney Patricia Conway, did just a great job."
Reached at his home yesterday, Abramson said he feels terrible about the guilty verdict, adding that he plans to appeal. He believes the jury didn't understand that "the evidence presented wasn't enough to win a small-claims case."
"The theory presented by the prosecution was so farfetched," Abramson said. "The jury went into deliberation on the theory they were given by the prosecution, not by the law. By law, reckless conduct with a firearms means someone fires a gun in the direction of a person or a vehicle. The prosecution said it was reckless conduct because someone might have been out in the yard, not because there was a person there."
Abramson said the prosecution never proved anyone was in the backyard when he fired the gun. He said he didn't fire in the direction of a person or vehicle. He fired one shot while standing inside his home by the sliding-glass door, aiming the shot into the ground outside the door. Abramson said that such action does not amount to felony reckless conduct.
When he took the stand on Friday, Abramson told the jury he fired the shot to break up a drunken brawl between two men and a woman who was wielding a knife. He said the fight — between people he never invited into his home — was between Robert Rupkey and Paris Cormier. It began on the first floor and continued down the stairs into the basement as it grew more violent. Rupkey's broken nose and facial cuts caused the blood spatter on the floor.
"The truth is that, with years of formal and informal firearms training, I acted in defense of myself, my home, and those in it, in accordance with the law, hurting no one," Abramson said.
Abramson believes Cormier started the fight, thinking that Rupkey made a pass at his girlfriend, Amanda Wilson. Wilson came down with the knife and a broken beer bottle, threatening to kill anyone who "messes" with her boyfriend, Abramson said.
Both Wilson and Cormier have criminal histories, said Abramson, who acquired their records during the discovery phase of trial preparation.
Abramson acted as his own attorney He hired a private attorney initially, but that attorney withdrew from the case. Next, Abramson applied for and was appointed a New Hampshire public defender, who resigned from the public defenders' office prior to trial. Abramson said he had to commit to be his own attorney to acquire the discovery documents he requested from the prosecution.
Appointed by the court, attorney James Godbout, of the public defenders' office, served as standby counsel, but Abramson assumed the role of defense counsel for the entire trial.
Both Conway and Abramson were commended by Delker for their professionalism, who called their work "excellent." But during the trial, Delker told Abramson he could be at a disadvantage since an experienced trial attorney may have been able to respond to issues more quickly.
Mendes said that since Abramson is now a convicted felon, he may not own or carry a weapon.
The question of his ability to retain his town offices and keep his right to vote appears to depend on the sentence Delker hands down. According to New Hampshire law, a person sentenced for a felony may not vote or become a candidate for or hold public office during the time of his sentence until his final discharge, but he may vote during periods of sentence suspension or parole. According to the statute, a public office held at the time of the sentence is forfeited as of the date the sentence, after certification of the sentence from the court is filed with New Hampshire's secretary of state.
The appeal process does not change the forfeiture, unless the appeal is successful in reversing the conviction, at which time, the defendant's office shall be restored, according to the statute.