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Key charge dropped in hunting fatality

Jury set to weigh negligence issue

NEWPORT, N.H. -- When a jury begins deliberating the fate of a former police officer who shot and killed a hunting partner last winter in Croydon, it won't have to consider the most serious charge in the case.

On Friday, after the state completed presenting its case, Sullivan County Superior Court Judge Arthur Brennan found Steven Laro not guilty of reckless conduct with a deadly weapon. Brennan agreed with Laro's defense that jurors would not be able to find Laro guilty of reckless conduct based on the evidence the state presented last week.

Laro shot and killed Robert Proulx Jan. 3 at Corbin Park, a private game preserve in Croydon. He still is charged with negligent homicide and felonious use of a firearm. The jury begins deliberations tomorrow.

The former Franklin, N.H., and Boxford, Mass., police officer said he believed he was shooting at a wild boar when he killed Proulx, a Manchester taxidermist.

Laro's lawyer, Paul Maggiotto, said the state would have to have to prove that his client "knew there was a substantial and unreasonable risk," when he fired his semi-automatic rifle, and that he ignored that risk.

County Attorney Marc Hathaway said there was plenty of evidence.

"He knows the importance -- as does every hunter -- of being able to identify his target. He was not ready to hunt. His scope was not adjusted. There is a litany of things that Mr. Laro was aware of," Hathaway told the judge.

Brennan disagreed, saying: "No reasonable juror could find the defendant guilty of reckless conduct." But he said it was reasonable for the state to bring the charge.

The reckless conduct charge carried a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Each of the remaining charges is punishable by three to seven years in prison.

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