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Criminally charged N.H. sheriff gets court-appointed attorney even as his paychecks keep coming

Sheriff Mark A. Brave, who faces theft and perjury charges, earns more than $76,000 per year from Strafford County and recently sold a home. Still, the public will be paying for his defense attorney.

Strafford County Sheriff Mark Brave appeared in court on Sept. 28 in Brentwood, N.H. Brave, who plead not guilty, is accused of using his county credit card to pay for travel to fictitious business meetings with multiple paramours and then lying about it to a grand jury.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

BRENTWOOD, N.H. — A sheriff who’s facing felony charges that he misused public funds and lied about it will be represented by a defense attorney at public expense, even though he’s continuing to receive his paycheck.

Strafford County Sheriff Mark A. Brave, who placed himself on paid administrative leave at the urging of fellow county officials after his arrest in August, filed a request on Thursday for a court-appointed attorney.

Brave told a judge that he sold his home in Dover and had intended to use the proceeds to cover his legal expenses, but a law firm requested a retainer significantly larger than the funds he had available.

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Judge Daniel I. St. Hilaire granted Brave’s request after reviewing a financial summary in his application and asking about other recurring expenses. Hilaire said Brave doesn’t have any assets and his salary doesn’t cover his current expenses.

Brave’s current base salary as sheriff is $76,700. His salary was $72,700 in 2022, but he also earned nearly $11,000 in overtime pay, according to Strafford County records. He has said that he and his wife are in the process of divorcing.

County officials have said they repeatedly urged Brave to place himself on paid leave while the investigation was pending, but he declined to do so until Strafford County’s three commissioners issued an ultimatum and threatened to initiate a process to remove him against his will. The county attorney and chief sheriff’s deputy said Brave’s leave of absence very narrowly averted an implosion in his office.

Brave is charged with theft by deception for allegedly using $19,000 in public funds to cover personal expenses, including travel-related costs for airfare, hotel stays, and dinners, some of which he shared with romantic partners. He’s accused of misrepresenting the expenses to make them seem like they were incurred for legitimate law enforcement business. The eight charges carry a total maximum potential sentence of 64 years in prison and fines of up to $32,000. He has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.

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Thursday’s hearing, which was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. to check the status of Brave’s efforts to secure legal representation, nearly resulted in more legal trouble for the embattled official. Brave walked into the courtroom at 9:13 a.m., well after the hearing began.

“You’re late,” Hilaire said sternly to Brave, who said he had been tending to a matter involving his daughter.

Hilaire said he had been contemplating issuing a warrant in light of Brave’s failure to appear.

Prosecutors raised an additional concern regarding Brave’s current residence. They said Brave provided an updated address to the court, but a person residing at that address had informed them that Brave doesn’t live there.

Brave told the court he has a residence with his soon-to-be ex-wife at an apartment in Dover but that he also has “a place” in Tewksbury, Mass., which is near his daughter’s private school in Lawrence, Mass.

The conditions of Brave’s pretrial release stipulate that he is prohibited from traveling outside New Hampshire, but he secured permission last month to leave the state for the limited purpose of transporting his daughter to school-related functions.

Brave and the prosecutors, Joe M. Fincham II and David M. Lovejoy, declined to comment.

Brave’s case was assigned to Judge Lisa M. English in Rockingham County to avoid conflicts of interest with Strafford County judges. The case was reassigned Oct. 12 from English to Hilaire in light of English’s current caseload in both Rockingham and Hillsborough counties, according to court records.

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The next hearing in Brave’s case is set for Dec. 12. Hilaire told Brave to show up on time.

This article has been updated with information about the sheriff’s current salary.


Steven Porter can be reached at steven.porter@globe.com. Follow him @reporterporter.