NH Firefighter Spared Jail Time For Drug Theft

A New Hampshire fire lieutenant who was convicted in March of stealing EMS drugs, has been spared incarceration by a Superior Court judge.

Former Rochester Fire Department lieutenant, Donald Penney, 50, was found guilty on 16 of 25 charges against him stemming from the theft of post-transport replacement drugs from Frisbie Memorial Hospital. Penney is reported to have falsely claimed that he used fentanyl and hydromorphone on patients during transports, then accessed replacement drugs through the hospital’s vending machine system and kept them for himself. The incidents occurred between April 2012 and August 2013.

Penney could have been sentenced to 7 ½-15 years in prison and a $4,000 fine on each count. However, numerous firefighters testified on his behalf on June 1, 2016, characterizing him as an excellent firefighter and medic. Some recounted stories of the lives he saved.

Strafford County Superior Court, Judge Steven M. Houran, sentenced Penney to two consecutive 3 year sentences in New Hampshire State Prison. The judge suspended the sentences contingent on Penney remaining on good behavior.

Incidentally, drug theft is one of the 10 major disciplinary problem areas in the fire service. The two most common types of drug theft involve stealing from the EMS system (often taking drugs directly from the med boxes on apparatus), and theft from patients.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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