SEABROOK — A federal judge dismissed a police brutality victim's suit against the town this week, agreeing with a state court that the statute of limitations prevents the case from being heard.
Michael Bergeron, whose head was slammed into a wall by Seabrook officer Mark Richardson in 2009, filed his suit in New Hampshire's U.S. District Court last June seeking damages related to the incident, which he claims has left him disabled.
Judge Andrea Johnstone recommended in a Jan. 2 report that the suit be dismissed because the statute of limitations for Bergeron's claim is three years. Judge Joseph DiClerico Jr., approved the recommendation in an order the next day.
Bergeron was 19 the night of Nov. 11, 2009, when he was arrested by Seabrook police on a charge alleging drunken driving. The incident surfaced publicly in 2014 when Bergeron acquired and posted surveillance footage of the incident on YouTube. Richardson and another officer, Adam Laurent, who pepper-sprayed Bergeron during the incident, were fired. Richardson was convicted of simple assault by an on-duty law enforcement officer.
Bergeron, who moved from Seabrook to Sanbornville according to court records, filed a suit in Rockingham Superior Court in 2017 seeking $500 million from the town of Seabrook, but that case was also dismissed due to the statute of limitations.
Representing himself in federal court, he motioned for a hearing last July where he could present his case, claiming he had "100 percent proof against the defendants." His motion also called for "a stop to all the legal games being played," which he claimed included "back and forth motions and objections, the defendants trying to dictate my rights."
"I will not let these matters just go away as they have totally altered and taken from my life in many ways," Bergeron wrote in his filing.
Johnstone wrote in her recommendation that Bergeron's claim was asserted under a federal law that protects against violations of rights by those "acting under color of law," which includes law enforcement. She wrote that, even if the statute of limitations had not passed, lower federal courts cannot review and reverse prior state court judgments.
Town Manager Bill Manzi said Seabrook is grateful for the decision. Police officials have said the incident brought difficult times to their department. Former chief Lee Bitomske called the year that followed the video's posting "tumultuous."
"It does help to bring closure for the community," said Manzi. "We believe that the dismissal was the correct decision under the law."