DERRY, N.H. (AP) — A judge has imposed a fine new Hampshire $620 after the publisher of a weekly community newspaper was found guilty of five misdemeanor charges after he ran advertisements for local races without properly marking them as political advertisements.
Judge acquits Londonderry Times publisher Debra Paul of sixth rape charge after a bench trial in November.
Paul initially faced a maximum of up to one year in prison and a $2,000 fine on each charge. But prosecutors did not ask for jail time. Instead, he requested a total fine of $3,720 and 100 hours of community service. Paul's attorney asked for a $500 fine – $100 for each charge – and said he already serves and volunteers in the community. The judge announced his sentence late Wednesday night.
Prosecutors said they warned her more than once that the ads did not contain the required language. He said that Paul ignored the warnings.
His attorney, Anthony Naro, said Paul, who has never had a speeding ticket and makes about $40,000 a year at the newspaper, simply made a mistake and corrected the practice. She also said that she has "dedicated her entire professional life to the community" and does volunteer work.
“She was not disobeying the law. He got it wrong,” Naro said.
New Hampshire Attorney General's Office Last year Paul was accusedSaying that she failed to identify the advertisements in proper language indicating that they were advertisements and failed to disclose who paid for them as required by state law.
The office said it warned him in 2019 and 2021. Last year, she received more complaints and reviewed the February and March issues of the newspaper. According to a police affidavit, two political ads prior to the local election in March did not contain "paid for" language and a third had no "political ad" designation.
immediately after his arrest"This is clearly a case of a small business that needs to defend itself against government overreach," the 64-year-old said in a statement.
Naro said in his lawsuit that Paul never intended to break the law and that he tried to follow instructions from the Attorney General's office.
Community members came to support him in court and others wrote letters on his behalf, including several newspaper publishers.
Brendan McQuaid, publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader, who has known Paul as a fellow member of the New Hampshire Press Association, wrote, "While Deb insists that she is trying to do the right thing So I trust him completely." He said many of the association's members were "unaware of the strict language requirements set forth in the statute."
State Rep. Christine Perez of Londonderry, a Republican, said in court that she has been friends with Paul for years. She said she is sponsoring a bipartisan bill this legislative session that would remove from law the requirement to use the "political advertising" notation in advertisements. He said he was unsure whether existing law "specifies who has responsibility for advertisements placed in news outlets."
Another supporter, Kevin Coyle, a lawyer, said he was reminded of the movie "It's a Wonderful Life", which had a main character who doesn't make a lot of money and serves his community.
"That's who Deb Paul is," he said. "She could have worked in business and made a lot more money, but she chose her passion, which is reporting."
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