CONCORD — A state representative who was convicted of a felony for recklessly firing a gun during a party in 2010 has been removed from the House panel that deals with firearms and law enforcement issues.
House Speaker Shawn Jasper said late Friday that Rep. Albert “Max” Abramson, R-Seabrook, cannot continue to serve on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, “given the nature of his conviction” and will be reassigned to another standing committee.
The New Hampshire Journal was first to report on Abramson’s assignment to the committee on Tuesday.
The criminal justice panel deals with bills related to firearms, criminal sentencing and other law enforcement issues.
Abramson was found guilty in 2012 of one felony count of reckless conduct for shooting a firearm during a party at his home in 2010. He received a suspended jail sentence and was ordered to pay a fine and complete community service. The state Supreme Court rejected his appeal in 2013, choosing not to hear oral arguments in the case. He is now seeking to have the case re-opened in Superior Court due to, he said this week, new evidence.
Abramson has maintained his innocence, saying that when a fight broke out at a party in his apartment – a party he said was organized by a roommate – he fired his gun outside, away from the fight, in order to put a stop to it. He said a knife was shown during the fight.
Prosecutors, however, said Abramson should have called police when the fight broke out, rather than fire the weapon.
Jasper said that Abramson, after being elected in November, and sworn into office in December, requested and was placed on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. “But when a felony conviction was recently brought to the attention of House leadership, the decision was made to reassign the first term legislator,” the speaker’s office said in a statement.
Abramson t on Tuesday told the Journal he felt he should remain on the committee because, he said, “I have a lot of expertise in self-defense law and there is a need for a wide array of viewpoints on the issue.”
He also said, explaining his action in 2010, “In the event of a life and death emergency, you just don’t have time to go through all the complicated legal details and different definitions and figure out what you are allowed to do and not allowed to do. Self-defense cases are extremely complicated and subjective.”
Although the case was widely publicized at the time, Jasper said he was unaware of Abramson’s conviction until Tuesday morning.
In a statement Friday, Jasper said, “Once we did our due diligence and saw the facts, I felt that it was inappropriate for Rep. Abramson to serve on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee, given the nature of his conviction. Once I have had the opportunity to speak directly with Rep. Abramson, he will be reassigned to a different committee.”
Friday night, Abramson said he received no notice from the Speaker’s Office that he had been removed from the committee and learned of the move from a reporter.
In a statement, he addressed two bill he is introducing in the upcoming session.
“One is a House resolution asking the Department of Justice to look into the Chad Evans case,” he said.
Evans has been incarcerated since 2002 for killing 21-month-old Kassidy Bortner, the daughter of his then-girlfriend, in 2000. Evans and Abramson say Evans is innocent.
“The fight for justice is a long road, but we cannot stop fighting wrongful convictions and prosecutorial misconduct just because some politicians are in the back pockets of the prison industry and prosecutors,” Abramson said.
He said his second bill “would simplify the current two definitions of ‘deadly force’ down to one, ‘causing death or permanent disability.’ In a life and death emergency, emergency responders and private citizens don’t have time to figure out how a prosecutor will twist around facts and legal definitions.
“I’m not the only one wrongly convicted,” he said.