Hanover High student convicted

by Nick Swanson | 11/15/07 3:42am

Paul Formella, a Hanover High student involved in the school's recent cheating scandal was found guilty Wednesday for his involvement in the scheme.
by Jennie Post / The Dartmouth

In all, nine students are criminally implicated in the case, but 40 to 60 other students are said to have used the answers obtained from the stolen exams.

The Wednesday trial hinged on whether Paul Formella, after agreeing to serve as a lookout while other students stole the exams, actually did so. In his closing arguments, Philip Utter, Formella's attorney, argued that by leaving the school while the tests were being stolen, Formella did not commit a crime.

"In this case it is clear that Paul Formella terminated his involvement as an accomplice," Utter said.

Christopher O'Connor, who prosecuted the case for the state, cited the New Hampshire Supreme Court case State of New Hampshire v. Kevin Merritt to argue that the "defendant's presence may constitute aiding and abetting when it is shown to encourage the perpetrator or facilitate the perpetrator's unlawful deed."

Since the other students had not yet stolen the tests when Formella arrived at the school, his willingness to act as a lookout facilitated their crime, O'Connor said.

Hanover Police Department Captain Francis Moran, when called by the prosecution, recounted the events of the case, which transpired on June 13. Formella, according to Moran's testimony, said that after school he went to the library with two friends to study for his upcoming finals. Around 6 p.m., he returned to Hanover High with his friends to collect a book from his locker for one of his classes.

In the atrium area of the school, again according to Moran's tesitmony, Formella encountered a group of students who told him that they planned to steal math exams. One of these students solicited Formella to act as a lookout for the group. Formella was instructed to proceed to the second floor, where his locker was located and yell a warning if he encountered anyone. He was then instructed to wait there until students on the third floor, where the math exams were located, returned.

Formella agreed to act as a lookout for the group and proceeded to his locker. After collecting his book Formella said that he "didn't feel right remaining," and decided to return to the atrium, Moran testified. On the stairwell, Formella encountered two janitors, who advised him that it was late and that he needed to leave school.

After exiting the building, Formella went to the staff parking lot and waited for the other students.

Between five and ten minutes later, the students appeared and confirmed that they had stolen math exams. Formella then viewed the exam for Advanced Math Honors, which he was due to take that Friday.

Formella's testimony confirmed the turn of events related by Moran.

Judge Albert Cirone, Jr., in finding Formella "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," said that even though Formella was not required to give a verbal warning to the other students, this did not "negate that for a period of time he was also serving as a lookout for the others."

Formella was levied a fine of $750, of which $350 was suspended. He was also sentenced to 25 hours of community service and ordered to write an essay that reflected on his actions as well as letter of apology addressed to the teachers, school administrators and students of Hanover High School.

Cirone also told Formella to look up the word "lemming" in the encyclopedia.

"When you look it up, you'll understand why," he said.

Despite the sentence, Cirone commended Formella for being "forthright" and "honest." He also noted that the scheme involved "different levels of wrongdoing," and that Formella may have been less involved in the criminal action than other students.

In an earlier hearing Wednesday, a plea deal between another implicated student, John Arbogast, and the prosecution was rejected by the court, which found that the agreed punishment did not fit the severity of the crime.

The hearing for Nicholas Kenyon, a third student implicated in the scandal, was granted a continuance.

The trials for the other students charged in the case are scheduled to occur over the coming weeks.

**Editor's Note, Aug. 19, 2013: Formella's record was fully expunged in February 2011.*