NH convict dies hours after conviction is upheld

Posted Dec. 28, 2011, at 9:35 p.m.
Kristin Ruggiero
AP
Kristin Ruggiero

CONCORD, N.H. — A New Hampshire convict died just hours after her conviction for fabricating evidence against her ex-husband was upheld by the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

Corrections officials say 36-year-old Kristin Ruggiero suffered a seizure at about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. She was transported from the women’s prison in Goffstown to Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, where she was pronounced dead.

The New Hampshire State Police and Corrections Investigation Bureau are investigating the circumstances surrounding her death.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court’s ruling upholding numerous convictions for fabricating evidence and making a false report to police was made public 90 minutes before her seizure was reported.

Ruggiero began serving a 7-14-year sentence on Aug. 19, 2010. She would not have been eligible for parole until January 2018, according to corrections officials.

Ruggiero was convicted of using a cellphone she registered to her ex-husband — Jeffrey Ruggiero — to send threatening messages to herself and then falsely reporting the threats to police. She sent the threatening messages after first obtaining a restraining order against him.

Jeffrey Ruggiero was convicted in April 2008 of threatening, sending obscene material and violating a protective order based on her fabrications. A Superior Court judge in September 2010 vindicated Jeffrey Ruggiero by annulling his convictions.

The jury that convicted Kristin Ruggiero found she had sent the messages to herself. Jeffrey Ruggiero, a Coast Guard petty officer, recorded other messages and texts that she had sent to him, which allowed officials to match up phone numbers used to send the fabricated threats.

In upholding Ruggiero’s conviction, the Supreme Court ruled for the first time that recordings made in a state that permits covert audio and videotaping by one party are admissible in New Hampshire, even though the same evidence would not be admissible if it were recorded in New Hampshire.

“None of the calls to Jeffrey originated in New Hampshire,” the court wrote. “Finally, the calls were legally intercepted in South Carolina, not New Hampshire.”

Mark Sisti, who represented Ruggiero on appeal, said the decision eviscerates protections provided by the state’s wiretapping laws. He spoke to The Associated Press before corrections officials announced Ruggiero’s death. He did not immediately return calls for comment on whether she had learned of the decision before she went into medical distress.

“It’s a severe blow to privacy rights and the privacy expectations of citizens in the state of New Hampshire who are involved in litigation in the court system,” Sisti said. He said litigants can simply go to a state that allows parties to record conversations with another without their knowledge in an effort to gain evidence against them.

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