Politico Who Faked Disappearance Re-Arrested

N.H. officials say Gary Dodds was 'rambling and disjointed' after arrest.

ByCHRIS FRANCESCANI <br> ABC News Law & Justice Unit

May 6, 2008 &#151; -- A former New Hampshire congressional candidate who staged one of the most bizarre election ploys in recent U.S. history is facing jail time after violating his parole on a conviction relating to faking his own disappearance in 2006.

Gary Dodds, 43, was arrested Tuesday morning after a judge revoked his bail and police were unable to locate him, briefly sparking fears he'd gone A.W.O.L. again.

Assistant Strafford County Attorney Thomas Velardi insinuated Tuesday that Dodds seemed emotionally disturbed during and after his arrest, noting that New Hampshire sheriff's deputies had to pry a cell phone from the hands of the former Democratic candidate and that Dodds initially moved to flee when he saw the deputies.

Dodds "made various voluntary statements that can be described as disjointed and rambling,'' Velardi said at a press conference in New Hampshire late Tuesday morning.

But Dodd's attorney, J.P. Nadeau, told ABC News' Law & Justice Unit that the arrest was an "overreaction by the prosecutor's office … to create some media attention to shed a film of justification for the prosecution in the first instance."

Nadeau was referring to Dodd's well-publicized trial last year on charges that he faked his own disappearance to drum up attention for his flagging political campaign.

Locals mostly shrugged off news of Dodds' most recent arrest.

"There's certainly no shock up here that [Dodds has] gotten himself into trouble again,'' said Scott Spradling, a New Hampshire political consultant and a former political director at ABC News affiliate WMUR in Manchester.

"One more bizarre act and he's going into the Rev. Wright file," Spradling said, referring to Barack Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

Dodds has "been the punchline of jokes in the political world up here for years now,'' Spradling added. "He does not have close ties to [political] leaders on either side of the aisle. He was hardly a household name before he disappeared … though, I guess he could now consider that a mission accomplished.'Missing'

Dodds had claimed he hit his head in a car crash, wandered off seeking help, and nearly drowned in a nearby river before being found 27 hours later.

The most damning testimony in the case came from two medical experts who showed Dodds had spent most of his time 'missing' soaking his feet in cold water to make it look like he'd crossed the icy Bellamy River, in April, 2006. As noted at trial, paramedics who treated Dodds noticed a clear demarcation line above his feet – the skin was wet and purple below the ankles and warm and pink above, Velardi told jurors.

Dodds continued to campaign after the charges were filed, and came in third in a four-way race.

Medical reports cited by the prosecution in the case reportedly showed that Dodds' feet were not frost-bitten but instead had 'immersion foot-related injury,' also known as trench foot. Velardi acknowledged in court that he has no idea where Dodds was during the time he was missing.

"This was supposed to be a hero's story,'' Velardi said in court. "Instead, when the state police began to pick it apart, it became a criminal investigation."

Nadeau flatly disputed that claim in court.

"This is a case about a man wrongfully accused in a situation so absurd even a genius couldn't conceive it,'' he said, according to the Portsmouth Herald's online edition.

Dodds was discovered about a mile from the crash scene, beneath a pile of leaves, apparently fading in and out of consciousness. He was missing a shoe. Alleged Assault

The latest twist in this bizarre New England political saga began when Dodd's wife called her hometown police in Rye, N.H. from a vacation home in Florida to claim that her husband had assaulted her during an argument and packed his bags and left. During the 1:14 a.m. call Sunday night, Cynthia Dodds asked police to check the couple's home "to make sure her home was safe to return to," Velardi said.

Velardi said that Cynthia Dodds told police in Rye that she had "grabbed his arm and tried to talk to him … and that he picked her up and threw her to the floor."

Cynthia Dodds did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Her husband is expected to remain in county jail in New Hampshire pending a May 12 bail hearing.

He was sentenced last month to a year behind bars, with all but 20 days suspended pending good behavior, after the sentencing judge called Dodd's tale of being lost in the snowy New England woods following a car crash a "fairy tale."

Nadeau has filed his intentions to appeal the verdict, claiming that two key medical experts were not qualified to testify, and the judge in the case had agreed to stay the sentence until all of Dodds' appeals were exhausted.

South of the Border

But that decision was called into question recently when federal officials informed the Stafford County District Attorney's office that Dodds had applied for a passport renewal, with the stated intention of traveling to Bolivia to do charity work with his local church group. No restrictions had been placed on his passport during the trial or after his conviction.

In response, prosecutors sought a change in his bail status.

Then, yesterday, they learned of the police report in Rye. In addition to the fact that Dodds had told Stafford prosecutors that he was traveling on a family vacation to New Orleans, Cynthia Dodd's call came from a home in Florida, according to Velardi.

Prosecutors went to a judge on Monday and sought to have Dodds' bail revoked. The judge initially denied that request, but "upon reflection'' changed his mind and issued the revocation late Monday. When law enforcement officials in New Hampshire could not locate Dodds at the home he had listed as his primary address in Rye, he officially became a fugitive.

He was arrested near Cutts Mansion, a building prosecutors said he owns.

Nadeau, Dodd's attorney, told ABC News that since his failed election bid, Dodds and his wife had been restoring and selling rental properties.

He disputed the judge's decision to revoke his client's bail, saying that "there is a difference between a crime and a family altercation."

In an appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America'' after his conviction, Dodds grew emotional when asked whether he'd ever run for congress again.

Choking up, he told Diane Sawyer that he didn't know, but seized the opportunity to take one last swipe at law enforcement officials in his home state.

"May God have mercy on their souls."

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