Frank Guinta, Republican Candidate In NH, Fled Scene Of Friend's Bar Brawl Reportedly Stepping Over Victim's Body On His Way Out The Door
Story written with Ryan Grim.
In the midst of a bid for New Hampshire's First District, Republican Frank Guinta is trying to explain his behavior during a shocking altercation at a private club in Manchester while he was mayor of the state's largest city.
Though any mention of a fight was omitted in the police dispatch report of the incident, transcripts of police interviews obtained by HuffPost show that a serious altercation took place. No action was ever taken and the victim declined to press charges.
Guinta was present for the entire event but claims he was too engrossed with his BlackBerry to look up. He left before the ambulance arrived, reportedly stepping over the victim's body on his way out the door.
On the night in question, June 18, 2009, Dan Mahoney, manager of the Fish and Game Social Club, received several calls from local alderman Mike Garrity, asking to speak with Tommy English, a longtime construction worker and carpenter who had fallen on hard times. Mahoney said he'd seen him at the bar.
"As soon as I hung up the phone, Tom came around the corner and started yelling at me," Mahoney told Manchester's News 9. "He was angry, saying, 'I said I wasn't here. Why are you answering the phone?'"
Guinta and Mike Garrity arrived at the Fish and Game Club around 10 p.m. with the stated intention of removing English from the bar. Mike Garrity's brother, State Rep. Patrick Garrity was already there, and both Guinta and the alderman ordered a drink.
Guinta, then serving as mayor of Manchester, would later tell the police that English had "a drug history" and "an alcohol problem" and that he and Mike Garrity went to the bar to help him.
Mike Garrity and English had been friends for over a decade. When English was out of work and short of money, Garrity and his wife agreed to take English in until he got back on his feet. But, Garrity said, he had told English there were rules he had to obey while staying with them, including coming home sober and at a reasonable hour.
But when Garrity tried to force English to leave the bar that night, a fight broke out. "I'm fuckin' 40 years old, and I have no rules," the bartender heard English say. Later, in interviews with the police, Garrity admitted he didn't ask English just once, he kept pushing him to leave.
"He's just one of those real pushy guys," English told the police of Garrity. "You know, he just -- he kept -- he'd come over to me, right, and he's trying to push me out the door and get me out of the Fish and Game Club. And I says, 'Listen, I just got done working. We're having a few beers."
Garrity had a different version.
"I went to get him out of the club, and in the process, I was attacked by him," Garrity told the Manchester Express shortly afterward.
That's not how English described it. "He was telling everybody that I grabbed him by the throat," English said. "And I says, 'Listen, I didn't grab you.' I grabbed him up here by the shirt -- like, kind of, get the hell away from me. We both grabbed at each other."
That's when Patrick Garrity stepped in to physically remove English from the bar. He said he believes English caught his foot on a small metal border around the rug in front of the door.
"All I heard," English said, "was my leg, I mean, it cracked. I think the whole place probably heard it."
English's leg was broken in multiple places and would require a three-hour surgery.
Mike Garrity and Guinta later gave the same story. Garrity said Guinta "was busy working with his BlackBerry phone during the incident and probably didn't see much of what happened." Guinta said that while Mike Garrity was trying to talk with English, "I was not part of that exchange. I was just sort of sitting doing some e-mails on my phone. And I actually didn't see the exchange that occurred between the two."
Pressed for details, Guinta told the police: "I wanted nothing to do with it. So I was purposely trying not to pay attention to their discussion, their conversation. At some point, when you hear a bit of a ruckus that gets your attention. And that's what did get my attention. But from the time that they started talking to the point that Tom was actually on the floor, I didn't see any of that. What I saw was Pat tending to him. I couldn't tell you how he broke his leg. I couldn't tell you if there was anything violent or if there was any kind of physical fight. I just I didn't see it. My back was toward, essentially, the whole thing."
"Once everything settled down," he added, "and that was to my satisfaction, the understanding of how it was going to be resolved, I left with Mike."
What Guinta considers to be a resolved situation sent English to the hospital for three days. They left before an ambulance arrived. The police were not called to the scene.
Later, English told the police the doctor said his leg was broken in seven places. "The tibia, the fibula, and around the knee there's fractures," said English.
"Did he tackle you?" the investigator asked.
"That, I don't know," said English. "It was just a big blur... the big white flash. And I just more or less blacked out."
An ambulance was not called for English until a full 15 minutes after he went down, according to William Foskin, the bartender on duty at the Fish and Game Club at the time of this incident.
The ambulance dispatch reads: ""Tripped over chair. Drinking. Man 40-years-old. Broken leg."
So why were the police not contacted?
Guinta claimed that English had asked that they not be called, a claim contradicted by many witnesses. For example William Cronin, who was in the bar when Mike Garrity and Guinta arrived, said he didn't recall hearing any conversation about calling the police.
Mike Garrity later admitted that one reason he and Guinta left was because he was "concerned with how it would look" and about "how the situation would be perceived."
Guinta refused to admit that he left to protect appearances. "There was no discussion about how this is going to look or how it's perceived," he told police. "Honestly... I wasn't thinking about politics or that I'm the mayor. I mean, that wasn't -- honestly, it didn't even enter in my mind."
HuffPost asked Patrick Garrity on Thursday whether he thought he was acting in self-defense.
"You look at the police report -- I didn't get arrested, so obviously it was self-defense," he told HuffPost. "I don't want to comment. There's a police report filed. You can get that. I'm sure you have access to that. So if you get that, it'll be your answer to what happened. Okay?"
HuffPost suggested perhaps the police report was incomplete.
"Sure the report's complete," he said. "It's 34 pages long. It's completely closed, it's completely closed."
English, for his part, has said he won't press charges.
"I'm not about ruining the guy's life," English told police. "I shouldn't have grabbed him. But, that's not the point, I guess. You know, he shouldn't have -- Pat shouldn't have done that to my leg. Just for grabbing him, is kind of the way I'm looking at it."
Guinta is offended by the notion that he was fleeing the scene.
"The idea that I would run out of a bar and try to -- it's just absolutely false," Guinta said. "I mean, it's not my personality or my nature to run away from a problem."