Notorious Keene cop called for federal entrapment

By DAMIEN FISHER, InDepthNH.org

See the list here: http://indepthnh.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/partialEES.pdf

Notorious former Keene Police Detective James McLaughlin, who is said to be in contention for his placement on the state’s Laurie List, was caught sending child sex abuse footage to a suspect he would later stop, according to court records.

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“It was a trap, basically,” said Mark Sisti, Chichester’s defense lawyer in the case.

Vermont resident Lee Allaben, who ran a youth camp, was arrested and charged with federal distribution of child sexual abuse images in 1997 based on McLaughlin’s investigation. McLaughlin became famous for his sting operations that caught men looking for sex with children.

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In Allaben’s case, according to Sisti, McLaughlin pretended to be a 14-year-old boy interested in sex, but Allaben didn’t believe him. During the accusation, Sisti discovered a conversation between her client and McLaughlin on a computer in which Allaben feared that McLaughlin was really a cop and not a teenager. To allay those fears, McLaughlin sent Allaben a sexual image that clearly depicted two young children having sex, Sisti said.

“It was a very detailed and clear picture,” Sisti said.

Once McLaughlin sent Allaben the image, described as an illustration in court records, Allaben reportedly began sending his own images. He then allegedly arranged to meet the teenager/McLaughlin in Keene for sex, and it was there that he was arrested and charged with attempted coercion, interstate travel for a sex act with a minor and distribution of child sexual abuse images.

After it was discovered that McLaughlin had sent Allaben footage, U.S. District Court Judge Steven McAuliffe censured the officer in court, Sisti said. Court records have been archived in the case and are not immediately available, but references to McLaughlin’s censure in the Allaben case are found in other court records.

Allaben would continue to plead guilty to the first two counts, and the child sexual abuse imagery charge would be dismissed. He was sentenced to probation in this case and did not serve any prison time.

According to a copy of the Laurie List, now officially called the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule released by the Attorney General’s Office late last month, McLaughlin was listed on the schedule for tampering with evidence in 1985. The Attorney General did reversed a few hours later and was removed. McLaughlin from the public list, along with 15 other officers, citing ongoing legal challenges to their placement on the list.

The Exculpatory Evidence Annex is a secret list of police officers with known credibility issues. Defense attorneys are supposed to be notified when a listed officer is involved in a case, but Sisti said he was never told McLaughlin had a problem with Laurie during the Allaben prosecution. .

“Hell no. It was a surprise,” Sisti said.

If McLaughlin was indeed on the Laurie list, it should have been disclosed not just to Sisti and Allaben, but to the hundreds of other suspects he helped prosecute.

McLaughlin specialized in pretending to be a teenager online and getting men he met to engage in sexual discussions. The conversations often resulted in the men agreeing to travel to Keene to have sex with the teenager/McLaughlin. It was at Keene that the men would be arrested.

In 1998, a federal appeals court overturned the conviction of a Massachusetts man, Paul George Gamache, who had originally traveled to Keene to have sex with someone he thought was an adult woman. but turned out to be McLaughlin. During online discussions with McLaughlin, Gamache was offered and agreed to have sex with a minor. The Boston First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that McLaughlin framed Gamache.

“It was the government that first mentioned children as sex objects… It was the government that escalated the subject of sex with children,” the appeals court ruled.

In 2016, Adelbert Warner II and three other men, all prosecuted and imprisoned after being investigated by McLaughlin, filed a lawsuit claiming that McLaughlin altered the text of conversations used to help prosecute them. This lawsuit was ultimately dismissed on technical grounds, in part because it was filed beyond the applicable statute of limitations.

McLaughlin declined requests for comment on her Laurie List status. He rose to prominence in the 1990s and early 2000s for his use of covert internet investigations to make arrests for sex crimes, such as in the Allaben case.

McLaughlin investigated hundreds of cases in New Hampshire and continued to lecture other police departments on how to emulate his techniques. In 2016, McLaughlin received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Hampshire Police, Fire and EMS Foundation.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court’s Laurie decision in 1995 led to the creation of secret lists of police officers with credibility issues kept by county prosecutors. The Attorney General began maintaining a statewide master list in 2017.

A law that came into force on September 24, 2021 makes the names on the list public for the first time, although the agents on the list are given a grace period to fight their placement in court.

And the attorney general has removed 30 names from the list since 2017 using an internal protocol.

The New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism, which publishes InDepthNH.org, is continuing its lawsuit against the attorney general in favor of publishing the unredacted list in its entirety.


This story was originally published by InDepth NH.

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