PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire — Former police commissioner Brenna Cavanaugh waived a Thursday arraignment for felonies related to gunshots outside her home last summer and will defend against them during a trial, preceded by a jury viewing at the Summer Street scene.
Cavanaugh’s attorney, Michael Zaino, said he entered not guilty pleas on Cavanaugh’s behalf and waived the May 9 arraignment that was scheduled after revised indictments were brought by a grand jury last month.
Cavanaugh, 43, is a codefendent with Mark Gray, who was indicted for five charges related to the same shooting incident. The charges allege Gray, 44, fired shots at a pickup truck driven by a juvenile who had entered his and Cavanaugh’s shared home at 3:30 a.m.
Police said the teen mistakenly thought there was a party there and the shots were fired in Summer Street while the teen was fleeing. Cavanaugh previously said the teen was driving toward her and Gray when the shots were fired.
Cavanaugh is charged with a Class B felony count of “criminal solicitation to commit first degree assault” alleging she “requested Mark Gray to discharge a firearm in the direction of” the juvenile, who is identified in indictments by initials and a birth date. Zaino said a conviction on that charge carries the possibility of 3.5 to 7 years in prison.
Cavanaugh is also charged with a Class A felony count of “criminal solicitation to commit reckless conduct with a deadly weapon” alleging she “requested Mark Gray to discharge a firearm in the direction” of the juvenile. Zaino said a conviction on that charge carries the possibility of 7.5 to 15 years in prison.
Cavanaugh’s lawyer said the two felonies are “alternate theory” charges and a jury could convict for both, but a judge would likely only sentence for one.
Court records show county prosecutor Ryan Ollis filed a request for a jury view of the scene prior to trial and notified the court “of a longer than anticipated trial length.” Ollis could not immediately be reached for comment, but Zanio said the trial is expected to last six to seven days.
The trial is now scheduled to begin July 29 with jury selection, then the view at the scene. Zaino said witnesses are expected to include police officers and juveniles involved in the case. He said at this point in time, it appears there is a “100 percent chance” the case will go to trial.
Court records show Gray has pleaded not guilty, waived arraignment and is scheduled for a July 8 settlement conference. During a November court hearing, Gray’s lawyer Alan Cronheim said Gray feared the unknown intruder when he fired at his truck while it drove toward him. Cronheim said Gray and Cavanaugh both gave interviews to police, during which they expressed their fear of the home intruder early that morning. When they later learned the person was a friend of a relative, they were “even more shaken,” he said.
According to a Portsmouth police affidavit, the teen told police he received a text from another teen who lived at Cavanaugh and Gray’s home, inviting him to a party. Unaware the party was at another location, he mistakenly went to the couple’s home at 3:30 a.m., there were no lights on and he climbed stairs to the third floor where he heard someone say, “Someone’s here” and to get a gun, according to the affidavit.
Police say the teen ran from the home and was followed by Cavanaugh, then Gray who shot at the front of the truck before it backed up, hit a phone pole, then left the scene.